- California vs. No. 24 Texas (Holiday Bowl), Dec. 28 (8 p.m., ESPN)
- Florida State vs. Notre Dame (Champs Sports Bowl), Dec. 29 (5:30 p.m., ESPN)
- No. 19 Houston vs. No. 22 Penn State (TicketCity Bowl), Jan. 2 (Noon, ESPNU)
- No. 17 Michigan State vs. No. 16 Georgia (Capital One Bowl), Jan. 2 (1 p.m. ESPN)
- No. 13 Michigan vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech (Sugar Bowl), Jan. 3 (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
That’s not going to be the case for a while, though. All those segments on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show” and even "Saturday Night Live," along with entire programs dedicated to the topic by “Anderson” and “Rock Center,” among many others, might continue for a while.
Sure, it hurts to hear the charges, to realize the impact on Penn State and to share the pain of alumni all over the world, but if the truth eventually comes out and anyone who harmed children is punished it will be worth the temporary pain.
Certainly there have been media missteps -- maybe more than missteps -- during coverage of the story, but there have been standouts as well. Because most of my exposure to the situation has come from ESPN, a partial listing includes:
“Mike and Mike in the Morning” on ESPN Radio: Hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic have a good show, and their perspective and questions have helped shape some reaction nationally. They’ve been inquisitive, honest and mostly measured.
Tom Rinaldi: One of ESPN’s best, he was on campus from the start and found the correct sources. He was tough, but revealed an understanding of the community, especially after the candlelight vigil, and showed compassion when appropriate.
Roger Cossack: It’s always good to hear him share insights on legal matters on ESPN. When he’s talking about you, your program or your team, though, that’s not a good thing. He’s informative and almost always has interesting insights.
John Ritchie: A former Cumberland Valley standout recruited by Penn State, specifically Jerry Sandusky, Ritchie revealed his conflict between who he knew and the allegations. He said his mom had considered retiring and working for The Second Mile. He was conflicted, as are many close to the situation. It was honest, good TV.
Bob Costas: A strong interview from him was not a surprise. Best of all, though, in his segment-ending banter Monday night with “Rock Center” host Brian Williams, Costas did not throw all of Nittany Nation under the bus, giving good insight to the conflicting emotions the situation has prompted.
One thumbs-down (amid many possibilities) to Armen Keteyian and CBS News.
The oversell on their supposed interview with Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary earlier this week was inexcusable, and Keteyian's defense to a Washington, D.C., radio station that any other network would've done the same does not make it any better. The interview -- a brief exchange in a doorway -- did nothing to further the story, but it probably did drive some viewers to the "CBS Evening News" for a few moments.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Now they know what a media circus looks like. Three students in my ethics class told me they saw reporters trying to incite the crowd that gathered in Beaver Canyon on Wednesday night. One raised and lowered his arms, the way football players do when they want the crowd to make more noise. One complained that what he was seeing wasn't a riot, and urged the students around him do better. One told the students he interviewed what he wanted them to say."
Monday, November 7, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Said ESPN: "The driving force on realignment lies with the conferences and universities. The Big 12 determined in 2010 to grant each of its schools the ability to create their own networks. As a result, the Big 12 stayed together and University of Texas made the decision to launch its network. ESPN subsequently won a competitive bid to become its media partner. We have since seen Kansas State and Missouri create opportunities while Oklahoma is exploring its media options. The concept of LHN remains the same as it was 15 months ago."
Friday, September 16, 2011
With a tip if the hat to ESPN tradition and an old-school "SportsCenter" look, as well as some state-of-the-art skills, the final result provides an engaging and informative look at TV ratings.
In addition, JESS3 crafted a nice behind-the-scenes video about the final product. Good work all around.
Friday, September 9, 2011
For so long, sports writers were not able or not interested in covering sports business issues and while that has changed in recent years, the topic has often been a sideline to other sports stories.
That changes (hopefully) with the debut of "CNBC Sports Biz: Game On." Here's a preview of the weekly show from its host, one of the originators of sport business coverage, Darren Rovell.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Fans watching games produced by the all-sports network on any of its outlets (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU ...) invariably get their game coverage some of the best in the business when it comes to play-by-play, color commentary and studio work.
This weekend again shows the depth of the network's talent and the oh-so-slim margin between the top broadcast teams. That's because while the No. 1 team gets a typical primetime assignment, the No. 2 team gets the week's only matchup of two Top 25 teams.
1. Brent Musburger/Kirk Herbstreit
2. Brad Nessler/Todd Blackledge
3. Sean McDonough/Matt Millen
My personal top three would be almost identical, except for a possible flip-flop of the first two.
Still, it would be easy to argue that what ESPN considers its No. 1 TV team deservedly hold that spot -- if only by the slimmest of margins as the result of some self-inflicted challenges.
It's clear Musburger/Herbstreit (who have Notre Dame-Michigan this week) deserve their perch because of Musburger's experience and talent, and because Herbstreit is one of the best in the business as a color commentator.
Their work almost invariably meets the level of the game their covering, and the team's only weak points come (albeit with regularity) because of Musburger's insistence on hype and pontification. After just one game this year, he has already anointed a Heisman Trophy favorite and proclaimed one team as national championship favorite. Sometimes that's just too much, and if he could simply describe the action, provide some context and work back-and-forth with Herbie they would be even better.
That knocking-on-the-door No. 2 comes in the form of Nessler/Blackledge. They're informative and steady, with Blackledge especially able to get his finger on the pulse of a game and related adjustments. Best of all, they know the show is not about them -- even with the Todd's Taste of the Town segments when Blackledge visits diners and restaurants near the home team's campus each week.
They get No. 3 Alabama at No. 23 Penn State this week and they're worthy of the assignment as well.
The tandem faces a big challenge later this season, though, because Nessler also picks up Thursday night play-by-play duties on the NFL Network. That could cut into prep time for Saturday games and Nessler has always seemed more like a college than a pro guy.
The top three concludes with often overlooked but professional Sean McDonough and Matt Millen, but their hold on that spot is not firm. It's not the play-by-play guy's problem, either. McDonough capably calls anything and he has a good approach to college football -- balanced, informative and rarely missing a call.
Some criticize Millen because of his flopped tenure as general manager of the Detroit Lions, but that's unfair. He's decent, but he honestly has not reached the level he was at when working NFL games for Fox Sports before he became an executive. Plus, he splits work on college and the NFL as well, and that sometimes seems to impact the depth of his perspective on certain games. His work lacks (when it does) more because of that than because he was not a good GM in pro football.
Here's another area where ESPN has it right, as two standouts lead much of what the network does in regard to college football -- or at least in regard to what it does well.
Hosts Chris Fowler and Rece Davis provide a wonderful one-two punch as traffic cops in studio. They guide viewers through programs, encourage banter among participants and enable the shows to deftly touch on topics that range from entertaining to emotional.
Nobody has filled such as role as well as Fowler -- and that's in any sport on any network -- but Davis is not far behind.
While "College GameDay" with Fowler, Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and emerging David Pollack capably combines entertainment and information, the middle ground and nuances sometimes gets lost with Holtz and May. That's a shame, too, because they both have potentially great information to share, but the shtick gets in the way.
Still, ESPN's biggest problem regarding college football remains Craig James, to whom they have been overly fair and loyal.
At some point they need to watch from the front and listen.
He's OK, but he has limited himself. For example, how can he capably be able to talk about anything related to the Big 12 Conference? And did anyone at ESPN watch "Pony Excess," the SMU "30 for 30" film when he was included and seemed anything but regretful or remorseful about his part (of course the film was all about others who were paid so maybe he was the only one who was not) in what happened?
Maybe many of us who are watching are missing some obvious positives with James, but it just seems like he's accumulated so much baggage that at some point that would outweigh the fact that he's just not spectacular.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
With a couple of important deal (one moreso than the other), the announcement of some potentially strong programming and the return of legendary Dick Ebersol as an adviser to NBC Sports in general, the soon-to-be re-branded network, the latest all-sports hopeful to someday challenge ESPN, has gained some important traction.
Here's a look at the moves, act-and-react style, in order of importance:
Act: NBC Sports Network signs three-year deal with MLS (beginning in 2012), which complements an existing 10-year agreement with NHL.
React: A decent and necessary move to gain some programming and live game action, something any sports network needs. And they are professional leagues, so it's something. Still, it's hockey and soccer. Think of them as rungs on the sporting step ladder. If something better existed, and a deal could be made, NBC Sports Network would step up if it could. Maybe someday it will. For now, it's a programming and a consistent home network for fans of those sports.
Act: Versus to debut original programing next week.
React: Every network needs some homegrown staples, and it seems like every cable network has at least one such series -- from "Jersey Shore" on MTV to "Pawn Stars" on History Channel and many, many more. A couple of sports-talk/studio shows might not reach that level, but with "NBC SportsTalk" (6 p.m. weeknights) and especially "CNBC Sports Biz: Game On" (7 p.m Fridays) the network might have something worth watching. The NFL show promises Mike Florio and Peter King on Friday nights. Best of all, the sports business show, with Darren Rovell could emerge quickly as must-see sports TV. Rovell ranks as the Evel Knievel or sports business coverage because he basically invented the genre and continually sets the standard. He's aggressive, connected and entertaining enough to make a half-hour show seem short. And, he'll do a good job harnessing social media to add another layer for the show and keep it relevant with certain demographics without, hopefully, alienating others.
Act: NBC Sports announces Dick Ebersol has been retained as a "senior adviser."
React: So much for a divorce or long hiatus. After a separation that started in May over a disagreement with Comcast Corp., which purchased NBC, the legendary sports television executive has returned just in time for the start of the NFL season. He'll work on the big network's "Sunday Night Football" package (including next week's Thursday night opener featuring the New Orleans Saints and Greeen Bay Packers) and will be in London next summer for the "all live" Olympic coverage promised by the network. Maybe it's a bad thing for whoever hoped to emerge from his shadow, but with so much of sports TV business and success based on relationships, it's a huge return for NBC. More importantly, as NBC Sports Network grows and seeks to land the better programming (the NFL) having Ebersol around will certainly help.
Act: Versus/NBC Sports Network reaches agreement with NFL and NFL Films to air weekly "Turning Point" program beginning Sept. 15.
React: Now this is bigger than a deal with the MLS -- by miles. It's even more important than Ebersol's return. That's because the deal gives the all-sports network an presence as an NFL partner. At this point, it's just one show a week, a highlights-based look ahead at the coming week's game on NBC (so it's valuable as cross-promotion, too), but it could certainly set the groundwork for a bigger relationship in the future. With the NFL expected to open bidding on another piece of its TV package, something on cable during the week, that's a property that would attract interest from a channel like NBC Sports Network. So if things go smoothly with "Turning Point" and the talk shows mentioned earlier, that could position the network to get its hands on the most important property in sports television -- the NFL. Weekly shows will air at 10 p.m. Thursdays, and be produced by NFL Films, which means the network will get a high-quality show as well.
Friday, August 26, 2011
As the show begins its 25th season, a new series of commercials will hit the air beginning Monday. Some of the spots are already online, though -- including one that celebrates the quirks of LSU coach Les Miles and another that pokes fun at the sideline signing system used by Oregon coach Chip Kelly and his staff.
Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener was the creative agency for the campaign.
Future spots will feature Oklahoma's Sooner Schooner and Oregon State's Benny Beaver. As usual, though, veteran analyst Lee Corso inevitably finds a way to shine and all of the on-air talent plays their roles perfectly -- just as they do with news and analysis most Saturdays.
Here's a look at the first two commercials ...
LSU and Les Miles
Oregon's Chip Kelly
Friday, August 19, 2011
With scandals at Ohio State and Miami still fresh in the minds of sports fans -- and still months from being settled -- ESPN has a timely backdrop for its "College Football Blueprint for Change," which airs for a half hour beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday on ESPN in the typical spot for "Outside the Lines."
Segments of the session have aired on "SportsCenter" and "College Football Live" this week and an hour-long version of the show is scheduled to air at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU. Re-airs are scheduled at 5 p.m. Monday and at 11 a.m. Aug. 27 on ESPN.
The show, which was edited into a "series" for the nightly shows, features panelists discussing topical issues such as pay-for-play, the postseason, and recruiting and enforcement rules.
Along with host Rece Davis, those involved include: ESPN college football analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Urban Meyer, Mark May, Mike Bellotti, Robert Smith and Rod Gilmore; ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas; current college football coaches Nick Saban (Alabama) and Bob Stoops (Oklahoma); former Big East Conference commissioner Mike Tranghese; and current Tennessee athletic director Joan Cronan.
It's a generally good show and not a bad start in terms of addressing issues. It remains just a start, though.
ESPN can, and should, do more -- and in a more visible fashion. Half an hour on Sunday morning? An hour (sure, several times) on ESPNU? Not enough.
In many ways, ESPN and the media are just as complicit as those breaking the rules for the way they've changed intercollegiate athletics. If change is to come, such topical shows do provide a blueprint, but a structure and more substance must follow.
More regular issue-oriented shows would be nice, perhaps on a regular basis (quarterly?) with different guests, and guests that wield the influence necessary to move toward change.
Again, it's a start (see excerpt below) -- but the topic, and viewers, deserve more.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Then again, maybe he's just honestly happy and sincere. Take a look:
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
A competitive advantage for UT? Certainly.
How could it be overlooked? Impossible to believe.
In fairness, ESPN and UT were blinded by the money and the potential windfall from a network that airs only Longhorn sports and university-related programming. It's another brand and another revenue stream.
For other Big 12 Conference members, the possibilities were clearly never considered. After all, the channel came about when the conference was about do dissolve and UT was flexing its muscle to keep things alive after the departure of Nebraska for the Big Ten Conference.
Texas is the bell cow for the Big 12, and the other members that were suckling it to remain alive and together were no doubt happy to have a reason for the Longhorns to remain. So they hardly questioned the network when it was proposed.
In theory -- and eventually in reality -- it's not a bad idea.
We've seen the success of a conference channel (with the Big Ten Network) so it only made sense that some big, powerful school would attempt to anchor its own channel. Few schools have the following to make such a channel possible, but Texas is in that limited group and BYU believes it can do the same.
However, compared to the Big Ten Network, which does a good job of balancing hours of programming dedicated to specific schools and sports, the Longhorn Network would be all UT all the time. That's not the major problem in some aspects, though, because the Longhorns' opponents in games that air on the network would get exposure as well. Even if games would only be a small portion of the programming, it could be argued that all parties could benefit from the network's existence.
Beyond that, UT would get huge benefits in terms of exposure with coaches shows and other programs. That's something other schools could not match.
In addition, the Longhorn Network had planned to air high school football games, something that would clearly benefit UT in terms of perception and recruiting. That's the network's biggest problem, and it's good the games have been put on hold.
The potential has even prompted the NCAA to order a confab with those involved in all existing and potential conference and team channels. That "summit" will take place Aug. 22 in Indianapolis, and it's a necessary meeting.
Although the NCAA often reacts to changes without providing guidance and leadership, this reaction makes sense. Hopefully some direction and leadership will emerge from the meeting.
It's clear that Texas and its people are not prepared to bring leadership and perspective to the situation. After all, UT football coach Mack Brown has vocally dismissed the network as creating any possible recruiting advantage for his program, and to make that argument he has to either be clueless or immensely ill-informed.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
For the 62-year-old country music superstar (and make no mistake, he's so well known in part because of the success of those "MNF" promos), the annual sessions provide a reason to be excited. Especially because what was supposed to be a one-year deal in 1989 has earned an anticipated spot in U.S. sports culture.
A generation of fans know "MNF" only with Hank Jr. kicking off the action, and his role in the weekly telecasts has lasted longer than almost any other talent associated with the show.
The season's game-opening segments were taped during a long day at on campus at Full Sail University, an award-winning school for entertainment media, and included dozens of faculty and students from the school as well as a couple hundred extras.
And, while NBC has tried its own musical opening with Faith Hill, it's OK but just not the same. The Peacock Network should have stuck with its original female singer -- Pink. Because if you're going to be different -- different, entertaining and strong are good.
ACT: Hope Solo tells Dana Jacobson the U.S. women's soccer team did not choke. Video
REACT: Some people, including ESPN analyst Tommy Smyth, disagree because they believe the U.S. team could've done a better job protecting the lead. Twice. Still, it's good to have a bit of analysis and a sports-talk feel in the aftermath of the Women's World Cup. Otherwise, it's not a sporting event. It's just some cultural experience. Still, the dynamic of the questioning by Jacobson, and Solo's response, was polite and subdued compared to other such situations with other sports. If you listen/watch closely, though, you see that Solo takes the typical jock, people-do-not-understand-the-sport defense as at least part of her response.
ACT: HBO's Ross Greeenburg decides not to renew contract and leaves the company.
REACT: A potentially impactful loss for sports on TV. Hopefully HBO has enough of a culture established to withstand his departure, but he's been that good and that much of a driving force. Boxing on HBO never waned (despite the sport's problems) under his leadership. Plus, he created "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" and the "Hard Knocks" series. During his tenure, HBO earned 51 Sports Emmy Awards.
ACT: Shaq joins TNT as a basketball analyst.
REACT: A wise decision by the Big Analyst. They'll find a better role for him and he'll make the same amount of money and work less (over many fewer platforms) than he would have at ESPN. Plus, he'll still get all kinds of media attention.
ACT: Poynter Project reviews Bruce Feldman, ESPN situation. Link
REACT: So, he was not suspended, just asked not to do some work for a while. Sure, that's believable. It was just a poorly handled situation all the way around. Honestly, communications companies may communicate more poorly than any kind of business. In the end, it's not ESPN but Feldman who takes the bigger hit, and that's a shame because he's good and deserves to be in a better situation.
ACT: K-Swiss unveils long-form, online commercial. Video
REACT: It's supposed to be irreverent and naughty, something that could garner buzz and gain traction online. It's a nice premise, but it's just OK -- a little much to much. It's too long. Plus, dropping all the f-bombs happens just because they can and becomes self-serving.
Friday, July 15, 2011
It's not just compelling action and exceptional athletes, it's something more, some window into a bigger cultural or sports issue. And that's a shame, because it detracts from what's happening on the field. (OK, the pitch in this case.)
It's NOT about Title IX, and it's NOT about the acceptance or growth of women's sports internationally. Sure, those things happen as a result of the tournament, but that's not what it's about.
It's about the competition, the competitors and the games. It's about winning. (Cue the Charlie Sheen sound bite.)
Making the ancillary or aftermath things the story actually detracts from the effort and performance of those playing the games.
People in the United States rally around the Women's World Cup -- Sunday's game (2 p.m., ESPN) could draw one of the largest TV ratings ever for a women's soccer game and interest has prompted ESPN to boost its production bells and whistles for the championship game -- because:
1) it requires minimal investment, you only need to pay attention for one week every four years;
2) because of nationalistic pride, a lot of people like to wrap themselves in the flag, or any red, white and blue apparel;
3) because we're winning, and people love to jump bandwagons and put their pointer finger in the air; and
4) because they've been programmed to care by a consistent media onslaught led by ESPN and supported by outlets of almost all types across the country.
That's all a good thing. Shared sports experiences are special, and this particular team seems determined, gritty, successful and talented -- all good things.
That does not mean women's professinal soccer has a future in the United Sates, because it has proven it probably does not. Nor does it mean more consistent coverage of women's college soccer in the future, because that's not the case either.
Still, the Women's World Cup is fun. It's good sports action, and it's really good TV -- thanks in large part to Ian Darke.
Yes, I'm sure its empowering and reaffirming for some, too. That's just not THE story. This is not 1973 with Billy Jean King in some made-for-TV tennis mismatch against circus barker/over-the-hill loudmouth Bobby Riggs.
No, this is 2011, with a women's soccer team worth watching because they're that good and nothing more. Let's just enjoy it for that and nothing more.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Sure, the Home Run Derby (8 p.m. Monday, ESPN) has changed -- with "team captains" picking the participants and some promised alterations this year. Those things are overdue, though, and it would be nice if they could work because the made-for-TV event has become too long and lost much of its cache in recent years.
Plus, there are only so many times before Chris Berman can offer "back, back, back" and it not be tiresome. (We will have reached that point before the first pitch this year.)
The made-for-TV derby should be good, but it has seemed to lumber along in recent years. Sponsor State Farm has provided some emotional and fun tie-ins at times. Those types of things -- with contest winners getting some big prize depending on the outcome of the contest -- have helped and made the event special at times.
Still, the derby needs help. Hopefully it'll come this year. If not, it'll just be more of the same -- the kind of TV event that baseball is lucky to have happen during the summer because it would be pummeled in the ratings were it to fall during the full-fledged TV season.
A mid-summer schedule has not really helped ratings for the derby (down 22 percent last year from the year before) or even the All-Star Game, though.
The game itself has been on a downward ratings trend for years -- hampered by the interleague schedule, players who skip the game, multiple pitching changes and the remaining vestiges of that silly tie years ago.
Sure, they're playing for something (home field advantage in the World Series for the winning league), but the All-Star Game (8 p.m. Tuesday, Fox) still seems a far cry from its heydey. Of course, that heydey came during the time of limited TV selections and, as an older fan, my memories are ties to seemingly wonderful incarnations of the exhibition in the 1970s and early 1980s.
In fairness, the game remains -- in many ways -- the best of any professional all-star contest. It's much better than what the NBA and NFL offer in terms of competition for their all-star games. Still, it just seems like it needs rescued from itself. It no longer seems special. Instead, it's just OK.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
An offer for a Coach K visit to Happy Valley came five years ago.
Ideas about this specific show were then nurtured on the respective campuses (and with input from ESPN) for months. Finding a date, some single time when the two coaches did not have commitments for their respective sports or conflicts with charity and family activities, added more time.
Then, on the day of the taping (June 20) people in the live audience at Penn State discovered that a 90-minute TV show actually takes more than two hours to tape. And that came after three days of on-site preparation at the venue.
Still, all the time will prove worthwhile when the show makes its debut at 8 p.m. on ESPN. It continues at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Energetic, informative efforts by the coaches provide the centerpiece of the show. A solid hosting effort by Rece Davis moves the program along. And a strong commitment by the ESPN production team shows in pre-packaged pieces and the overall format of the program that make "Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski" and fast-moving and satisfying program.
Abundant effort and time were the key. ESPN's behind-the-scenes team --led by senior coordinating producer Ed Placey, senior coordinating director Linda Wilhite, producer Jonathan Labovich and director Tom Lucas -- capably met the many challenges associated with the program because of ample planning and preparation. While the show was different for all involved (a studio-type show not in a typical studio, conducted in a venue that rarely host TV shows), all those who worked outside their typical level of comfort did so with a greater purpose in mind.
They knew what "Difference Makers" could be, and their tireless efforts will help it be just that. While viewers will not see all the hard work, they will see the final product.
It's a good TV program. And it's different. It's talking, but without arguing and self-aggrandizing. It's informative, without being preachy. It's old-school (with an 84-year-old coach and a 64-year-old coach it has to be), but it seems state-of-the-art.
It's just good sports TV, the kind of thing that rarely occurs and probably not cannot be repeated (at least with the gravitas these two coaches provide).
All of that makes it worth watching.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
DirecTV provides it -- thanks to the Manning family -- with its online series, "Football Cops." Here's the show's site, and the first season trailer.
Monday, June 27, 2011
After all, what were once eye-opening, slightly surprising and even set-for-life deals seemingly get surpassed the next time another conference reaches an agreement with a broadcast partner. Being first simply sets the standard that others use as a reference point. And that point rarely represents a negotiating ceiling for those that follow.
That's why the Southeastern Conference -- just three years into its deals with ESPN/ABC and CBS -- has made noise recently about talking with its partners about altering or updating its broadcast agreements. While SEC officials have said that they're comfortable with the escalator clauses in the deals, the news that the growing Pac-12 Conference had landed a big deal with ESPN and Fox did not play as well in the South as it did on the West Coast.
Also, unlike the Pac-12 and Big Ten Conference, the SEC remains without the ability to create its own channel, which would provide another revenue stream for the conference.
That's a revenue stream the University of Texas, with its Longhorn Network, hopes to tap exclusively starting this fall. With the help of ESPN, the UT-specific channel hopes to get as much as 40 cents per subscriber per month from cable operators who would carry the channel.
Like the Big Ten Network, which draws some of its revenue from that approach, that dual revenue stream changes the game for college sports on TV.
That's part of the reason the Big Ten Network remains the biggest cash cow in college sports TV. It's deals -- with ESPN/ABC, CBS and as majority owner of the BTN (51 percent, compared with Fox's 49 percent) -- generate more than $250 million annually, according to Sports Business Journal.
-- the Pac-12 ($250M through deals with ESPN/ABC and Fox);
-- the SEC ($205M with ESPN/ABC and CBS;
-- the Atlantic Coast Conference ($155M with ESPN/ABC); and
-- The Big 12 Conference ($150M with ESPN/ABC and Fox).
That's the end of the cash cows, though. After those major conferences, TV revenues drop off significantly. The Big East Conference collects an average of $36 million each year from ESPN/ABC while CBS College Sports pays less than $16 million and more than $11.7 million to Conference USA and the Mountain West, respectively.
Friday, June 24, 2011
As always, it's about TV revenue.
Credit Peter King of Sports Illustrated for pointing out some important facts in a recent "Monday Morning Quarterback" column online. Specifically, King referenced the NFL's 11 nationally televised preseason games, which each include 60 advertising buys at 30 seconds apiece.
That's 660 potential ads, and the corresponding revenue -- combined with ticket sales and other income -- means the preseason usually produces around $700 million for the league.
Without a preseason, that money would be lost to all parties involved.
Lost money, and who can survive the longest without an income stream the longest, always rests at the core of any labor dispute. In that respect, the NFL, it's owners and players are no different.
They are different, though, because they have a sure-fire solution to regain revenue.
They just need to play the games, which are scheduled to begin Aug. 7 with the Hall of Fame Game featruing the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams on NBC.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Every year -- in a different location every week as "College GameDay" treks across the country for appreciative on-site audiences and ESPN viewers during college football season -- Fowler sets a standard few can match.
He's the perfect foil/traffic cop/voice of reason on a show that often includes a wide range of voices, most notably analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit.
While an older generation of NFL fans grew up with Brent Musburger telling us "You are looking live ..." and helping a show with Phyllis George and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder move along reasonably, Fowler remains better. At the same time, Bob Costas did steady studio work for NBC. Still, Fowler is better.
My belief was that Fowler stood head and shoulders above those before him -- and even among the current crop of TV sports hosts. Turns out I was a little wrong.
Fowler has company in the form of his ESPN colleague Rece Davis, who handles "GameDay" duties for college basketball.
This week, during a taping for an ESPN show with Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski ("Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski" will air at 8 p.m. June 30 on ESPN and 9 p.m. on ESPNU), Davis flashed his skill and talent repeatedly.
He artfully interrupted the coaches and helped make points when necessary. He balanced all the challenges of a taping before a live audience well. He helped create an enjoyable atmosphere and evoke information while doing so with a deft touch. He was pitch perfect from start to finish, even mixing in some jabs at "GameDay" partner Jay Bilas who was working the show as well.
While Davis's performance was not enough to nudge Fowler from the top of my studio-host list, he did more than enough to show that Fowler has company. And, in the case of this taped show, that's before any editing, which means Davis's performance should come off as even more polished and professional.
Friday, June 10, 2011
The award-winning "Outside the Lines," which airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on ESPN, offers more information about former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor earning money for his autographs this week.
As part of an investigation, Tom Farrey found a source who revealed details about regular payments (multiple times each week) of at least $500 to Pryor for signing his autograph.
Friday, June 3, 2011
According to some, chauvinism, partying and sex were common. Some called it a fraternity culture.
The book reveals some of those things, just as it hits most of the highs and lows of the growth of the fledgling cable channel to the "worldwide leader," but it's reading between the lines that provided two of the more striking insights.
First, and least important, were references to Brad Nessler's failed stint as ESPN's lead NBA play-by-play announcer, including the admission from executives that having him in that role was a mistake. That cannot be good news for the NFL Network, which plans (if the season happens this fall) to use Nessler as its lead play-by-play man.
Sure, NFL viewers might flock to games and be less turned off by an announcer than their NBA counterparts (and Nessler certainly has more strength with football than basketball), but his failed stint has to be a cautionary tale.
Most striking, and least surprising, from the ESPN book was the fact that ESPN original Chris "Boomer" Berman, would be portrayed so universally poorly. In the words of others -- and the book is all an oral history, which makes it at times fabulous and at times laborious -- Berman comes off as self-centered, uncooperative and vain.
Those might be requirements for a talented, on-air TV type, but he's not also referred to as talented, which would seem to be a requirement. Instead, Berman is portrayed as a shill -- especially in regard to the NFL.
While he rates as an top-tier star for the ESPN, a network that for a long time tried to prevent its anchors from being stars, you get a sense that others in the business (everyone except Tom Jackson) endure rather than enjoy him and his work.
While time has proven that ESPN and TV need stars, they draw viewers, especially in a loyal niche market, Berman in many ways has "jumped the shark." And the fact that he was consistently referred to in that manner in the book might be the most striking element of the big tome.
Monday, May 23, 2011
That prompts the debut of "Act and React," a potentially regular feature as opposed to a make-up game. Here goes ...
ACT: Dick Ebersol leaves NBC Sports.
REACT: Wow. And the move comes with less than a month before Olympic negotiations. While those left at NBC insist the network remains interested in the Olympics, the move cannot enhance the likelihood that the Peacock Network, now owned by Comcast, will retain the rights. Then again, after striking out on recent college football deals, Comcast/NBC might want the Olympics worse than before. Ebersol's inability to come to a contract agreement for himself and remain with the company does not mean an end to his career. He's still motivated (maybe more than ever) and young. At the end of June he'll be the biggest free agent in sports. Period.
ACT: Gus Johson to Fox Sports.
REACT: A loss for the first few rounds of the NCAA Tournament, but he was unlikely to ever get a shot at the Final Four. Probably a good financial move for him, and he'll become the major college basketball and football voice for the Pac-12 Conference and probably still work Big Ten Conference games as well.
ACT: Marv Albert might be working on a deal for him to do NFL games for CBS Sports -- a more likely possibility with the departure of Gus Johnson to Fox Sports.
ACT: Miami Heat take series lead in Eastern Conference finals.
REACT: More fans might show up at start of games to prevent shots of those silly empty seats draped in white -- reminiscent of fake snow used for by NHL on 50-degree day for Winter Classic in Pittsburgh in January.
ACT: ESPN shares research that TV sports ratings are up 21 percent over the last five years, compared to a 6 percent increase for TV viewing overall.
REACT: And that's exactly why rights fees for college conferences, and all televised sports, have gone up so significantly as the most recent deals have been announced. People are watching more than ever before. Although audiences might be splintering a bit, the numbers are still more than solid -- making sports worth spending on for TV types.