Sports TV News
Deitsch Reveals What NFL Games Networks Wanted Most
Richard Deitsch has used his latest “Media Circus” column over at The Athletic to prepare football fans for the upcoming NFL season. The two part column was posted yesterday and today.
One of the most interesting pieces of information Deitsch revealed was how the NFL’s four broadcast partners prioritized individual teams and games. He asked the network programmers what they specifically told the NFL that they wanted. Some were more forthcoming than others.
CBS: CBS Sports president Sean McManus passed along the following games that his network really wanted: Patriots at Steelers (Dec. 16); Patriots at Jaguars (Sept. 16); Steelers at Broncos (Nov. 25); Cowboys at Redskins (Oct. 21); Jaguars at Cowboys (Oct. 14); and Steelers at Saints (Dec. 23). “We got most of our top games we requested knowing some of the marquee AFC games are going to go to the primetime package,” McManus said. “We understood that.”
FOX: The network’s president, Eric Shanks, was hesitant to give up his network’s strategy or a specific game ask (his network, of course, once aired The X-Files, which had the slogan “Trust No One”) but Fox specifically asked the league to take some of their quality Sunday afternoon games that aired in the 4:25 p.m. ET window and put them on its new Thursday Night Football package. The major goal for Fox was to improve the Thursday Night schedule (which they did) and to make sure they could protect the 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday window as the most-watched window on television.
ESPN: Burke Magnus, the network’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling and point person with the NFL on schedules, said he was overjoyed when he learned that his network had landed the season opener for the Oakland Raiders. ESPN made the specific request to have the Raiders home opener in the late game Week 1. Magnus said no specific opponent was specified. “The Raiders were a pretty good team two seasons ago. We believe they have the core of a very competitive team, and Jon Gruden obviously was a big part of our family for a long time,” Magnus said. “The game had several angles to it. There is a curiosity factor to Jon’s return to football after so many years, it’s a good team, it’s a really good opponent. There are many reasons to watch.”
NBC: Given the primetime game on Sunday night is the league’s marquee night game, NBC knows it is going to get the league’s best schedule, but network officials really wanted Green Bay at New England on Nov. 4. “This is a fantastic and rare matchup of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady and the Packers and Patriots,” said NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus. “That was a game we requested and lobbied for. We make requests around a variety of games. (NFL vice president and scheduling czar) Howard Katz does a great job of taking care of us and letting us all down gently.”
What stands out the most here is how important ESPN thought it was that they air Jon Gruden’s first regular season game back on the Oakland sidelines. It ends up that the NFL gave Oakland a pretty good opponent for week 1, but given the respective trajectories of the Raiders and Rams, it is hard to believe ESPN is going to get a very good game for the second part of its Monday Night double header.
Also interesting is Fox’s insistence that the NFL beef up the Thursday Night Football slate. Since it’s debut as a full season package, the Thursday night games have been routinely mocked for terrible matchups bolstered by cheap gimmicks like the Color Rush series.
You can read Deitsch’s full NFL season primer here.
Sports TV News
Eli Manning: ‘People Enjoy’ When ManningCast Has to Apologize for Language
“We get a lot of curse words, some from Peyton, some from guests.”
The ManningCast on ESPN has become appointment viewing for select Monday Night Football games. Eli Manning loves the fun, laid-back nature of the show he and brother Peyton put on for fans.
But with live TV, sometimes unpredictable things happen, and sometimes people use profanity. Eli, speaking on Tuesday at the 4se sports and entertainment event in New York City, said viewers get a kick out of when the two let occasional profanities slip and have to scramble to say sorry.
“We get a lot of curse words, some from Peyton, some from guests,” he said. “I feel like we’re apologizing for a lot of things on the show, but I guess people enjoy that part.”
Manning has said previously that the goal is for viewers to get the sense that Peyton and Eli are right there with them on their couch watching the game. Eli said it’s been fun getting to show some authenticity now that he’s retired.
“When I was playing, there was a conscious effort; I didn’t want either my fans or coaches to think I had a life outside of football,” he said. “Once I retired, I realized I didn’t have to hold back.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
Sports TV News
JJ Redick: ESPN Sells The NBA As ‘Only 5 or 6 Teams Matter’
“To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ elimination from the NBA Playoffs, the matchup between the Association’s two most accomplished clubs – the Lakers and Boston Celtics – is no longer a possibility. On Tuesday morning’s edition of First Take on ESPN, JJ Redick suggested how it would be a seminal occurrence for the NBA to have teams from smaller media markets square off for the championship, familiarizing basketball and sports fans at large with new teams and players.
“We somehow have sold the NBA as a league where only five or six teams matter and a league where only five or six players matter,” Redick said on the program. “To me, this could be a watershed moment for the NBA. To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Redick pointed out how after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the talking points were focused on the Lakers and what the team needed to do to have a legitimate chance to win the series. He reminded people that Nuggets center and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić had his third consecutive triple-double, posting an unparalleled statline of 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
“We don’t do a good job of selling what the NBA is, which is 30 teams, 450 players [and] multiple superstars,” Redick said. “The fact that people are now being like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize Nikola Jokić was good’…. Well, let’s put him on TV more!”
Stephen A. Smith told Redick that the NBA has not established its games akin to “events” as much as the National Football League. Smith expressed how he has seen pastors change the time of their Sunday sermons in order to ensure they were home to watch professional football games. While football is very much a team sport, Smith offered Redick his perspective that basketball is “built on superstars.”
“The NBA became what it is because it gravitated to individuality,” Smith said. “Even though the Boston Celtics were a great team and the Lakers ultimately were a great team, they sold Magic and Bird. Michael Jordan comes along – they sold Michael Jordan, and obviously, all the names that we don’t need to get into followed. They sold the individual.”
Smith addressed Redick and accentuated the incredible feats of Jokić, but part of what has made him one of sports media’s most prominent personalities is by having a shrewd perception of his audience. ESPN and other major sports networks are fully aware that Los Angeles supersedes Denver in terms of media consumers, and that the Lakers are recognized as an international brand.
“I’m not where I am today if it were not for the NBA,” Smith said. “Basketball has done wonders for my life, and I’m incredibly grateful and thankful, and the NBA will always be promoted on this show. Please understand in the same breath, we also have to pay attention to what the audience wants to hear too.”
Sports TV News
Diamond Sports Group In Danger of Losing Padres TV Rights
“The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30.”
Diamond Sports Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March after failing to make a scheduled debt payment to its creditors. At the time, the company had more than $8 billion in debt and was commencing a process of restructuring. Yet the company stated its Ballys-branded regional sports networks would continue to operate as usual. Major League Baseball decided to take action though and establish a plan to broadcast games locally if the company missed a rights payment.
Now, it is looking that is exactly what will happen. Diamond missed a payment to the San Diego Padres last week, meaning the team’s media rights could soon be the property of Major League Baseball. The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30. If it were to miss the payment, it would mark the first time it will relinquish a contract in this way.
“Despite Diamond’s economic situation, there is every expectation that they will continue televising all games they are committed to during the bankruptcy process,” Major League Baseball said in a statement. “Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute games to fans in their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with our club.”
The company’s current contract with the San Diego Padres has nine years and approximately $540 million remaining with an escalator clause built into the deal. This means that the final year of the deal would cost Diamond Sports Group more than $70 million in rights fees, and while the team is in the top five for television deliveries, the entity perhaps may not view it as sustainable. The momentum headed in this direction was first reported by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
The company has also pushed Major League Baseball teams to agree to deals to stream the games in order to recoup lost cable revenue. By being granted the rights to stream games directly to consumers, Diamond Sports Group has vowed to pay the rights fees it owes to nine MLB teams. The company currently has the streaming rights for just five of the 14 major league clubs on its regional sports networks.
Some industry experts believe Diamond Sports Group is utilizing this stalemate to be able to exit media rights deals that are losing the company money. For example, the Diamondbacks’ media rights contract garners an annual payment of about $68 million while amassing the second-lowest local television ratings of any Major League Baseball team.
On May 31, a bankruptcy judge will establish how much money Diamond Sports Group owes its clubs for media rights fees while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and whether it can continue broadcasting games at this time. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins filed emergency motions urging the judge to coerce Diamond Sports Group to make their payments. If the company is unable to distribute payments, the emergency motion calls for teams to issue default notices to the regional sports networks, which could permit the termination of media rights contracts.