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FOX Interested in Thursday Night Football

Jason Barrett

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According to a Bloomberg report, FOX is attempting to acquire the broadcast rights to Thursday Night Football.

Some expected FOX, who retained their broadcast network along with national cable channels FS1 and FS2, to invest in sports programming following the sale of its regional networks to Disney. FOX submitted a bid to the NFL offering both its broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 as a potential home for Thursday Night Football according to Bloomberg.

In November, Fox CEO James Murdoch, speaking at the Paley International Council Summit, alluded to the NFL possibly oversaturating its product. “I do think the proliferation of Thursday availability, and the proliferation of football generally, does mean that you’re asking a lot from customers to watch Thursday. And then they watch a lot more college football games on Saturdays, and then on Sundays, and then on Monday Night Football, etc. It’s a lot. So I do think that preserving the scarcity value of those events and that audience is something that is worth thinking about,” said Murdoch.

If Murdoch believes Thursday Night Football is bad for the NFL, it would be an interesting about face to see FOX invest in the product.

Earlier in the week it was reported Disney was making a play for Thursday Night Football which could see the NFL return to ABC for the first time since 2005. The NFL is also accepting bids from digital companies who could potentially stream Thursday Night Football exclusively online. Tech giants such as Facebook and Amazon have shown a desire to invest in live sports content and have the money to do so.

“The league is going to make a watershed decision on whether to go for money or for distribution,” said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports via the Bloomberg report. “With conventional networks like NBC or CBS you’re talking about distribution that’s reasonably guaranteed.”

Amazon paid the NFL $50 million to live stream 11 games this season, drawing a small percentage of the audience CBS and NBC did, which spent $45 million per game to broadcast Thursday Night Football. If the higher bid comes from a digital company, the NFL might be willing to sacrifice viewership for a larger dollar amount.

While the league’s television ratings decline remains a concern, the Thursday Night Football package (the least appealing primetime package) garnering as much interest as it has from broadcast networks and digital media companies is a sign that the NFL’s future is healthy.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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ESPN Sees Larger Than Average Audience For Big City Greens Classic

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ESPN aired Tuesday night’s New York Rangers and Washington Capitals game. DisneyXD and Disney Channel aired an alternate broadcast that included players being 3D animated to resemble the cast of Disney Channel’s popular cartoon Big City Greens. It turned into a ratings win for the networks.

The alternate broadcast featured players animated in real time to mimic what was happening on the Madison Square Garden ice. Players were equipped with special chips in the padding to aid the animation, and special pucks were used to ensure a smooth transition from video to computer-animated graphics.

An average of 589,000 viewers tuned into the game on ESPN. Meanwhile, nearly 175,000 watched the broadcast between Disney Channel and DisneyXD.

The figure for ESPN represents its largest NHL broadcast since a November 1st broadcast featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins.

The combined total for the broadcast — 765,000 — outdrew the World Baseball Classic broadcasts but did not top the NCAA Tournament’s First Four round that was broadcast on truTV.

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Sports TV News

Greg Gumbel: I’m Lucky That I’ve Never Been Fired

“I worked for some people who didn’t like me, I’ve worked for some people I didn’t like. It’s a strange business, there’s no doubt.”

Ricky Keeler

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Greg Gumbel

This week, it was announced that Greg Gumbel will no longer be a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on CBS after working on CBS’s NFL coverage every year since 1998. Gumbel has had an illustrious career and he takes pride in the fact that one thing has never happened to him.

Gumbel was a guest on the Tell Me A Story I Don’t Know podcast with George Ofman (Part 2 from an interview back in September) and he told Ofman that while he has never been fired before, but he doesn’t think broadcasters should be embarrassed when they get fired because of what the business is.

“It’s the nature of the business. I honestly think I’ve been extremely fortunate in that I’ve never been fired in a business that is known for firings. Being fired in this business is no shame, no embarrassment because it’s a subjective business. Because this guy at this network likes my work, it doesn’t mean that this guy at that network does. It’s extremely subjective and if you can buy that and understand it the way it is, then it shouldn’t bother you at all.

“It’s never happened to me. If it had, it would not have surprised me. I worked for some people who didn’t like me, I’ve worked for some people I didn’t like. It’s a strange business, there’s no doubt.”

Gumbel has been the host of CBS’s NCAA Tournament coverage for the last 25 years and he knows it’s a job that he is very grateful to have.

“I know there are people who would give their right arm to be sitting there next to Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis on Selection Sunday or sitting next to Kellogg, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley when the tournament begins to talk about what we’ve just seen or what we are going to see. I am never, ever going to take for granted the fact that I have been very fortunate to be able to do that.”

One thing Gumbel tries to avoid whenever he is on air is the mispronunciation of someone’s name because he knows how it feels to have his name distorted accidentally by some people.

“Pronunciations are important to me. There’s been a lifetime of people who may not completely mispronounce my name, but distorting it a little bit from time to time. I never want to do that to an athlete. If I ever mispronounce an athlete’s name, I hear it from his family, I hear it from the school or the team and I apologize for it as soon as I can. I don’t think that is something light or should be taken for granted.”

Toward the end of the interview, Gumbel was asked by Ofman when he will know it will be time to end his career.

“Other people have given it more thought than I have. I think when that time comes around, it will hit me over the head more than I will think about it. There are people who ask me why I still do what I do. The very bottom line is I love it, I enjoy it.”

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Diamond Sports Group Misses Arizona Diamondbacks Rights Payment

It is believed that the missed rights payment by Bally Sports Arizona triggers a clause in the contract that reverts the television rights back to the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball.

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Last week, Diamond Sports Group — operator of the Bally Sports-branded regional sports networks — claimed it had paid every rights fee it was contractually obligated, except for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

At the time, the company said it had a grace period until it needed to make a payment. That payment was due by Thursday, March 16th at 11:59 PM. That time has come and gone, and the company failed to deliver its fee.

It is believed that the missed rights payment by Bally Sports Arizona triggers a clause in the contract that reverts the television rights back to the Diamondbacks and Major League Baseball.

The Diamondbacks are not the only team affected by the situation. Bally Sports — which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this week — has also reportedly entered a grace period with the San Diego Padres. According to a report from Sports Business Journal, that grace period ends on March 30th, baseball’s Opening Day.

Previous reporting claims that contract is one the network hopes to get out from under. The company loses a reported $20 million per season on its television deal with the Padres. The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians are the other two baseball franchises the network holds the rights to that it hopes to terminate deals for.

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