Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sports Media Report - August 27 update

The increased emphasis between pro sports and technology turned up another notch with last week's announcement that ESPN has signed a new digital rights agreement to run through 2013. Sunday Night Baseball is expected to stream on starting next season, with baseball content expected to be available on iTunes and Xbox Live. It is possible that ESPN telecasts of games on Monday and Wednesday nights will also be streamed, while will have rights to video highlights of games.

This comes as the MLB cable network debuts prior to the start of next season with an early promise of a 2-hour or more live studio update show available every night throughout the season.

Just one more weekend before the start of the NFL season that kicks off in full on Sept. 7th. Hard to believe that FOX-TV begins its 15th year of televising NFC road games, but that is now how long FOX has been on the map as a TV network. One new broadcast booth addition is former Ravens coach Brian Billick who will be a game analyst. He is expected to work as a third man in the booth with Dick Stockton and Brian Baldinger, except for a couple of games with just him and Thom Brennaman handling the calls.CBS-TV has brought back Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts for the analyst role he held with the network from 1988 to 1993. Fouts will no longer call college games for ABC-TV due to this move, which should be a very good addition for CBS.

Meanwhile, it would good to see Turner's launch a great innovation for golf fans this past weekend (Aug. 21). The "PGA Tour Shot Tracker" allows fans to follow specific players' shots including the path of the shot. This feature is expected to be available during the year's remaining PGA events. I especially like this because this is something you can't get on TV, and for that matter, even if you are at the tournament in person. I'd like to think that the NFL would be monitoring this feature. It would be fun to be able to watch defensive trends or follow what the star QB or running backs do on plays where they don't handle the ball.

The SEC continues to be big business as college football rolls out for 2008 and well into the future. In addition to its deal with CBS-TV, the Conference significantly expanded its deal with ESPN starting in one year and going through the 2023-24 seasons.ESPN will continue to show Saturday night football as well as at least 2 Thursday night games each season, along with the ability to syndicate regional telecasts of the remaining games not picked up by CBS-TV (as part of that huge deal). In addition, ESPNU will produce a weekly one hour show specific to the SEC. ESPN Classic will have the right to show an additional game in along with "classic" SEC games.For basketball, ESPN will increase its SEC presence with Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday games each week (when games are available), along with some regional syndication of games not shown on any of its networks. ESPN and ABC-TV will televise the Conference championship tournament. As with football, ESPN Classic will be able to show additional games and "classic" games.

That is not all that I was referring to when I said the SEC continues to be big business. While both the CBS-TV and ESPN contracts are each for huge money and long term, it doesn't stop there. The member schools retain the rights to make their own local media deals. Radio rights for schools such as Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky, are worth millions to the schools over the years with a large number of local stations successfully selling the time. This could wind up like the NFL, where so much revenue is derived from national and local TV, Radio, and media rights that it hardly matters if any fans buy a ticket for the games. Once upon a time, schools wanted to have a good football and basketball team so that students and alumni would buy tickets for the game. But unlike the NFL, college teams don't have $50,000,000+ payrolls.

The Big Ten Conference, with plenty of media packages of its own, managed to pick up some additional exposure as the Big Ten Network will be seen on Time Warner Cable in large parts of Ohio and Wisconsin in time for the upcoming football season. For this season, it will be a part of expanded basic, similar to the deal the BTN struck a few weeks ago with Comcast.

NEW YORK - Here we are only about 7 weeks away from the start of NBA training camps, but the New York Knicks have been quiet about whether or not they will have a new radio team for this season. The skeptics point out that the radio broadcasts might be the only decent "team" to talk about. Negotiations are reportedly continuing with Gus Johnson to return with play-by-play, but nothing official yet. Johnson has handled the duties for the past 5 years along with John Andariese, but was not used for MSG's summer league telecasts from Las Vegas last month where he was usually teamed with Walt Frazier.

While it is too early to know how Brett Favre will impact the TV and radio ratings for Jets games this season, his fans in Wisconsin will get every opportunity to follow his exploits. In addition to the Green Bay CBS-TV outlet, now WDJT-TV Milwaukee is looking to show the Jets games as much as possible. The Jets at Miami opener on Sept. 7th will be shown in both Milwaukee and Green Bay, with seven other Jets telecasts tentatively scheduled to be shown there as well.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The research data now available to sports teams about broadcasts and online will help most teams in terms of research and working with advertisers and sponsors, but I can't say the same about the Nationals. Being dead last in the National League standings is one thing. But ratings for their broadcasts so low that more people are at some games than are listening is another. While teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals struggle with radio signal issues for night games, the Nationals games are on powerful 1500 AM that reaches all over the southeast coast at night. Announcers Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler do a good job, but it goes unnoticed. To make matters worse, it is not like the local attention has turned to the nearby Baltimore Orioles, who have also fallen into last place in the American League East.

TAMPA - As the baseball world takes serious notice of the Rays and their tremendous regular season, fans are finally starting to notice broadcasting's latest family connection. Most fans know about the Caray family (although Chip is now the lone survivor with the passings of Skip and Harry), Marty and Thom Brennaman in Cincinnati, and Ernie Johnson and son in Atlanta.Going unnoticed until this season is Rays broadcaster Todd Kalas. Todd is in the running for a nomination for MLB's Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence, with fan voting starting on Labor Day to qualify. Todd is well on his way of carrying on the Kalas family tradition of excellent broadcasting started by his father Harry. Harry, of course, has been a voice of the Phillies going back to the 70's and of NFL Films for many years.

OREGON - Oregon State University began its "Beaver Sports Talk" this past Tuesday (Aug. 26) when the weekly one hour radio show made its season debut. The show is broadcast throughout the OSU Radio Network affiliates, and is live and open to the public at a local pub across the street from campus where fans are invited to watch. Host Mike Parker was joined by the school's Athletic Director Bob DeCarolis on the opening show. The show will be on Tuesday nights through September and move to Thursdays starting October 9th.

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