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Sports Media Digest- May 8, 2012

NBA TV has Playoff Double Header Tonight-  NBA TV will be producing two more NBA Playoff games for their viewers tonight.  At 7:00p.m. ET Ian Eagle, Steve Smith and Stephanie Ready will call game 5 of the first round series between the  Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers.  At 10:00p.m. ET NBA TV will have the Philadelphia 76’ers at the Chicago Bulls in game 5 of that series.  Kevin Calabro, Greg Anthony and Cheryl Miller will be on the call.

Upcoming Stanley Cup Playoff Schedule on NBC Sports-  The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) tomorrow and Thursday.  On Wednesday at 7:30p.m. ET NBCSN will have coverage of game 6 between the Rangers and Capitals from Washington.  Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will be on the call.  Thursday at 7:30p.m. ET Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will call game 6 between the Flyers and Devils in New Jersey.

Kentucky Derby on NBC Third Most Watched in 23 Years-  NBC Sports reports that Saturday’s Kentucky Derby drew 14.8 million viewers, the third most-watched Kentucky Derby in 23 years, and up two percent from last year’s Derby.  The race’s rating of 9.0 is six percent better than 2011.  As to be expected, Louisville had the highest rating of the local markets at 31.7.  Cincinnati was second with a local rating of 18.3.

ESPN Expands Its Roster of Baseball Analysts-  ESPN today announced that Jose Cruz, Jr. has been hired as a basball analyst for the network.  Cruz will make his debut on Baseball Tonight on May 16. In addition to appearing on Baseball Tonight throughout the season, Cruz will also contribute to Beisbol Esta Noche on ESPN Deportes.

Comcast Xfinity Customers Get WatchESPN-  ESPN and Comcast have announced an agreement which will allow the network to provide its WatchESPN online product to Xfinity TV subscribers.  As of now Xfinity TV subscribers can watch ESPN programming online through the WatchESPN.com.  Soon the service will also be available as part of Comcast’s XfinityTV.com platform.  As is the case with other cable subscribers with the WatchESPN app, Comcast sunscribers will need to enter their Comcast Xfinity credentials to access their favorite ESPN content on their device.

CBS Sports Spectacular Returns Sunday-  CBS Sports will provide three hours of action on this weekend’s edition of the CBS Sports Spectacular.  It all begins Sunday at 3:00p.m. ET with part two of the NCAA Winter Championships Highlight Show.  Tracey Wolfson serves as host.  At 4:00p.m. ET it’s off to Boise, Idaho for the PBR 15/15 Bucking Battle, latest event on the Pro Bull Riders Tour.  Craig Hummer, Ty Murray and Leah Garcia call all the action. Finally at 5:00p.m. ET  Ken Stout, Cameron Steele, Jeremy McGrath, Rob Klepper and Erin Bates will be on hand at the Lucas Oil Off Road Pro2 and Pro4 races from Arizona.

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ESPN Part of Distribution Deal Between Walt Disney and Comcast

The country’s largest cable provided, Comcast, has reached an comprehensive distribution agreement with the Walt Disney Company to provide Comcast Xfinity customers with quality sports, news and entertainment content into the next decade on television, online, on tablets and handheld devices.

In terms of the sports content, Comcast will be airing the following ESPN Networks: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN 3D, ESPN GamePlan, ESPN FullCourt and ESPN3.  Xfinity TV customers will receive broad access online to existing authenticated products like WatchESPN.

“Given the scope of assets Comcast and Disney/ABC/ESPN are making available to consumers, this agreement is unprecedented in our industry.” said George Bodenheimer, Executive Chairman, ESPN, Inc., “It reinforces the value of the multichannel subscription and takes full advantage of new technologies, which serve all of our viewers.”

NBCUniversal Acquires Rights to 2014, 2016, 2018, & 2020 Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced that NBCUniversal has won the right to telecast the Olympic Games in 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020.  NBCUniversal will pay the IOC 4.38 billion dollars for those rights.

“We are honored to continue as the U.S. Olympic broadcaster for the remainder of this decade.”  said Brian Roberts, President & CEO of Comcast in a press release. “The vision for our new Comcast-NBCUniversal was to create new platforms and technologies to distribute the very best content. Every two years the Olympic Games provides iconic content for us to deliver on all platforms.”

“We are delighted to have reached an agreement with our longstanding partner NBC,” said IOC President Jacque Rogge, “We received three excellent bids and would like to thank each broadcaster for their presentations. In the end we were most impressed with NBC, which not only has a track record for broadcasting the Games that speaks for itself, but also has a clear and innovative vision of where it wants to take the broadcast of the Games between now and 2020. We look forward to continuing to build on our already strong relationship beginning in London next year.”

At the end of this deal NBC would have telecast a total of 17 Olympic Games, 11 consecutively.

Both ESPN and Fox submitted bids for the rights to the games.  Here is the reaction from ESPN:

“We made a disciplined bid that would have brought tremendous value to the Olympics and would have been profitable for our company. To go any further would not have made good business sense for us. We wish to congratulate the IOC on a fair and transparent process, and we offer our best wishes to Comcast/NBC. We put our best foot forward with a compelling offer that included the enthusiastic participation of all of The Walt Disney Company’s considerable assets.”

Sports Media Weekly Podcast #9- Joel Feld, NESN

Sports Media WeeklyHere we find ourselves with the latest edtition of the Sports Media Weekly Podcast…

In today’s episode, Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites and I discuss the opening of the NFL Network slate of games beginning tomorrow night, the issue as to whether anyone can compete with ESPN in the short term, and the latest ESPN “30 for 30” documentary film on Jimmy “The Greek”.

Our guest this week is Joel Feld, Vice President of Programming and Executive Produce at the New England Sports Network.  We ask Joel about how he programs NESN, it’s news gathering and web presence in a burgeoning Boston sports media market, and his plans for the immediate future of the network…

Sports Media Weekly Podcast #3- Chad Finn, Boston Globe

Time for our weekly look at what’s making news in sports media through our Sports Media Weekly podcast.  I am once again joined by Ken Fang from Fang’s Bites

We also have a guest on this week’s show as we are joined by Chad Finn, sports media columnist and editor at the Boston Globe and Boston.com.  Chad and I spend our time talking about the sports media climate in Beantown.

Also on the plate this week…Comcast’s potential bid to purchase NBC, the rights fees for the upcoming 2016 Olympics, the Versus/DirectTV dispute, and the announcing teams for TBS for the baseball Division Series…

News from ESPN for U

ESPNU, the college sports channel that has been suffering from lack of wide distribution, could soon be seen by a lot more people. ESPN and Comcast today announced a deal to put the U on the digital basic tier of most of its systems in time for college football season. In addition, DirecTV is putting ESPNU in its Choice package (and moving ESPN Classic into a sports tier) on July 1.

The combined moves will put ESPNU in 46 million homes, more than 50 percent of the households that have either cable or satellite. ESPN itself is in well over 90 percent of those homes.

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ESPN Radio’s Tirico & Van Pelt Show will become just The Scott Van Pelt Show on July 6. Van Pelt will also get a  new co-host, Ryen Russillo, who apparently won’t make the program’s title because of how he spells his first name. The last hour of the Van Pelt show, which runs 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern, will be simulcast on ESPN2.

Tirico won’t be disappearing from ESPN Radio. He’ll host a weekly, in-season football show on Friday nights from 7 to 9. However, it appears the network has decided to cut back on the schedule of its major play-by-play voice (Monday Night Football, NBA).

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The busy ESPN people also announced — this flurry comes as part of its “up-front” presentation to advertisers in New York — the launch of SportsNation on July 6 on ESPN2. The one-hour show will air weekdays at 4 p.m., hosted by ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd and New York radio/TV sportscaster Michelle Beadle. The program is described as “a live sports television show born from the Internet, fueled by fan interaction and focused on fun.”

In a news release, Cowherd said: “We want to make it as if we’re just goofing off while there happens to be a camera in the room.”

Isn’t that MTV’s Real World?

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Comcast and the NFL today announced the deal — reported first by SportsBusiness Journal — to put the NFL Network on the digital basic channel lineup. The NFL Network is scheduled to go on Comcast systems by Aug. 1.

Oh, and they’ll stop suing each other.

Comcast, NFL Network near deal

OK, now we can move on to settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The NFL and Comcast are close to an agreement that will end their long-running battle that has kept the NFL Network off the basic channel lineup, SportsBusiness Journal reported. The Journal said the NFL reduced its 70 cents per subscriber per month fee — the fourth-highest among all cable channels — and Comcast agreed to put NFL Network into digital basic service, rather than the extra-fee sports tier where it has lived.

Not only is this a big deal for the eyes Comcast will add for the NFL Network, but, as the Journal reported, other cable carriers also can be expected to make the same move, putting replays of 3-year-old playoff games and multiple airings of NFL Films’ “Football Follies” within reach across the country.

Actually, this is a good deal for the fan, unless it somehow ends up costing you more in your cable bill. Maybe you will only watch NFL Network during its eight-game regular-season package, but the more options, the better. Though I’m not so sure the more Deion Sanders, the better.