The NFL is coming off most-watched program in U.S. TV history with the Super Bowl, and its just-released 2014 schedule arrives today with a couple key differences from last year – one of which is bound to make NBC execs smile. The league said that its “flex” scheduling for the Paeaock’s Sunday Night Football games can begin as early as Week 5, moving up from Week 11 in the past. That means the NFL can move any scheduled day game into primetime to air on what has been the No. 1 show in primetime viewership for four consecutive years and tops in the adults 18-49 demo for six straight. But there is a catch: The flex option can be exercised only twice between Weeks 5 and 10, which means Fox or CBS won’t have to give up their best matchups every week during that span. The flex-scheduling say-so remains with the league, which must make the call no fewer than 12 days ahead of time. (Regular Sunday night flex scheduling remains in play after Week 10.) Meanwhile, the NFL also is introducing a plan to “cross flex” Sunday day games on CBS and Fox, which have over-the-air rights to the AFC and NFC, respectively. In previous years, a game between two AFC teams had to be on CBS, but now the league can choose to move those games to Fox (and vice versa). This could help during weeks when one network happens to have the potentially biggest games.
Related: ESPN To Air Cable’s First NFL Playoff Game
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The NFL regular-season schedule comes out tomorrow, but we already know something big about the postseason. The league said today that ESPN will air a wild card game during the first weekend of the playoffs in early January. The … Read More »
In this week’s podcast, Deadline Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom preview what could be a very big day in the history of broadcasting and technology, as the Supreme Court hears legal arguments Monday about Aereo and its business model. The Davids talk about what’s at stake and how it might play out, where broadcasters might go if they lose and whether a win will turn the broadcasting business upside down. They also look over that very messy, and pricey Disney acquisition of online video powerhouse Maker Studios, and examine why ESPN, pay-TV’s most valuable brand, felt compelled to pitch investors that it’s just fine despite competition, cord-cutting and other existential challenges.
Listen to the podcast in your choice of audio formats here:
Deadline Big Media podcast 81 (.MP3 version)
Deadline Big Media podcast 81 (.M4A version)
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UPDATED: Following CEO Bob Iger’s lead, Disney CFO Jay Rasulo won’t break out financial numbers for ESPN. But he strongly hints that its financial prospects are rosy by offering a few projections for Disney’s cable networks, which are dominated by … Read More »
Recently departed Good Wife alum Josh Charles made an appearance last night on Keith Olbermann‘s ESPN show in character as one of his most beloved television alter egos. Surprise – it was Dan Rydell, the sports anchor Charles played 14 years ago … Read More »
It’s an awards ceremony that’s will see Ted Turner take home a Lifetime Achievement Award and ESPN hard pressed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With a lead almost double its nearest competitor, the cable channel scored … Read More »
President Obama, responding to a question about Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly’s criticism of his appearance on Funny or Die’s Between Two Ferns, said today that President Lincoln had a sense of humor. ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd asked Obama today about criticism that Abraham Lincoln would not have appeared on the web series hosted by Zach Galifianakis. (Obama did, last week, as part of a media tour to urge viewers and listeners to sign up for Obamacare before the March 31 deadline. The ESPN Radio interview was part of that campaign.)
Related: Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ Interview Boosts Healthcare.gov’s Traffic 40%: Video
“One of the hardest things about being president is being in this bubble that is artificial, and, unless you make a conscious effort, you start sounding like some Washington stiff,” Obama told Cowherd. “If you read back on Lincoln, he loved telling the occasional bawdy joke and, you know, being out among regular folks.”
Related: Dave Letterman, Bill O’Reilly Debate Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ Appearance
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The companies got into trouble after they ran ads for FilmDistrict‘s 2013 thriller Olympus Has Fallen that include the distinctive Emergency Alert System warning sounds, the FCC says today as it proposed what it calls the largest ever penalties for its misuse (watch the ad below). Viacom will be hit hardest with a $1.12M fine for airing the ad 108 times over five days on Spike, VH1, MTV, Comedy Central, MTV2, Centric, and BET. NBCUniversal will have to cough up $530,000 for running the ad 38 times over six days on Syfy, USA, and five regional sports networks. And ESPN follows with $280,000 for running the ad 13 times over four days on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNEWS. “The FCC has long prohibited the transmission of actual or simulated EAS Attention Signals or tones in circumstances other than a real alert or an authorized test of the EAS system,” the FCC says. The cable companies said that the rules don’t apply to them because they don’t participate in the EAS program, the FCC notice notes. Read More »
UPDATE, 2:07 PM: ESPN responded to a question asking what is the plan while Keith Olbermann is out sick with a statement from Olbermann: “I’m day to day. We’re all day to day.” We hear Quinn is filling in — at least tonight.
PREVIOUS, 11:50 AM: First Bob Costas was felled by pink eye – now Keith Olbermann has succumbed to shingles. Viewers who learned the ESPN host was out Wednesday night may have thought “here we go again” but Olbermann took to Twitter today to assure them he’s not engaged in another death match with his employer – he’s suffering from shingles, suggesting it was fate’s way of punishing him for falling out of the 25-54 demographic last week when he celebrated his 55th birthday. Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and that is itself caused by the chickenpox virus that stays in the body for years. In 2003, CBS late night star David Letterman was out for about a month with shingles.
Olbermann’s tweets: Read More »
The ESPN tennis analyst and Hall of Famer is expanding his role to include year-round, non-tennis appearances on television and radio. In addition to his work on tennis, John McEnroe will serve as an analyst on SportsCenter talking major … Read More »
UPDATE, 3:28 PM: Bob Iger continued to tubthump for the red-hot Studio Entertainment division during the company’s analyst call– and specifically Disney Animation’s runaway hit Frozen. While not going so far as to say that potential includes another feature film, the Disney CEO noted the pic, which is up for a pair of Oscars, has made $864.4M worldwide since its late November release, passing The Lion King as the company’s biggest animated hit ever — and that’s with China just opening and Japan to come in mid-March. “This has real franchise potential” across Disney’s businesses, Iger said, adding that in Disney’s parks “we will see Frozen in more places” along with Marvel properties including Iron Man. CFO Jay Rasulo said Frozen is the top-selling brand in Disney’s stores (followed by Disney Junior properties), which helped Consumer Products to gains in revenue and operating income.
Related: ‘Frozen’ Becomes Shining Star For Disney: Is Broadway Next?
Several analysts asked about Disney Interactive, a day after the unit said it would lay off about 200 employees. Iger touted the success of the Infinity business, which increased revenue and operating profit during the quarter, and said the next phase of Disney Interactive’s rollout will involve mining new iterations of characters. Iger said to look for more licensing deals as the division moves off more traditional platforms and zeroes into the mobile space “where the users are.” Rasulo said Q2 will see “downdraft” as there are no big names due out during the quarter.
PREVIOUS, 1:18 PM: The stock is up, CEO Bob Iger is talking up the fiscal Q1 numbers on CNBC — and at first glance it looks like there’s enough in the results to justify all of that enthusiasm. Disney reported net income of $1.8B, +33% vs the period last year, on revenues of $12.3B, +9%. Analysts thought that the top line would come in a little lower, $12.2B. Diluted earnings at $1.04 a share handily beat expectations for 92 cents. Unlike at most Big Media companies, the Studio Entertainment unit was the star for Disney’s year-end quarter. Revenues rose 23% to $1.9B, with operating income +75% to $409M, as Frozen and Thor: The Dark World hammered last year’s results with Wreck-It-Ralph. The studio also benefited from sales to overseas streaming services. Media Networks revenues increased 4% to $5.3B with operating income +20% to $1.5B. ESPN and Disney’s 50% stake in A&E helped to drive a $325M increase in operating income to $1.3B for the cable networks unit. But ABC struggled with revenues falling 2% to $1.5B and operating income down 32% to $178M. Ad sales were hurt by lower ratings. Read More »
One in a series of Deadline stories that look back on 2013 and ahead to 2014.
Some of 2014′s most important sporting events won’t take place on a grassy field or an indoor court. They’ll play out in board rooms as TV execs continue their struggle to balance the diverging interests of those who love sports, and others who don’t — but still have to subsidize the programming as part of the pay TV bundle. Sports accounts for about 33% of cable and satellite company programming costs, Barclays Equity Research’s Kannan Venkat estimates. That percentage will grow: Sports prices are rising about 10% a year while other channels rise about 7%. DirecTV CEO Mike White says consumer frustration could soon begin to boil. “There’s a point where you have to stand up for the 99% who are angry about their bills.”
Will 2014 be the year when distributors make a serious effort to slow their rising sports costs? It’s possible, especially in dealings with regional sports channels — particularly in Los Angeles. Time Warner Cable is about to introduce a service for Dodgers games, SportsNetLA, following its launch last year of SportsNet and Deportes which show Lakers games. The cable company is said to want other distributors to pay $5 per subscriber per month for the Dodgers, roughly the same price MSG charges for its regional service that offers the New York Knicks and Rangers. But so far other distributors have not stepped up to the plate. DirecTV could help everyone hold out; the No. 1 satellite company has led the charge against high-priced regional sports networks. It declined to carry the Pac-12 Network which is home to two schools (UCLA and USC) in the key LA market, the University of Texas’ Longhorn Network, and Comcast-owned sports services in Portland, Philadelphia and Houston. (The Houston network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September.)
Related: TWC Sued For Passing Lakers-Dodgers Costs On To Customers
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It’s been an interesting few years for Tim Tebow: two college football championships, a Heisman Trophy, a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, an unlikely winning streak as a starting quarterback, a surprise overtime playoff victory, a trade, a … Read More »
CBS may not be interested in having its former correspondent Dan Rather participate in its JFK assassination 50th anniversary plans, but ESPN is delighted to have him. The network said today that Rather will narrate Rozelle’s Decision-to-Play, one of its pieces planned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, set to air this Sunday at 8 AM on ESPN2 and 9 AM on ESPNEWS. The special will be re-aired throughout the week on SportsCenter and the network’s various NFL programming leading up to November 22nd.
Related: Dan Rather Hoped CBS News Would Include Him In Coverage Plans
President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed 50 years ago next Friday just a few miles from where the Dallas Cowboys were practicing. The decision to play games just two days after the assassination was left to 37-year-old Pete Rozelle, in just his fourth season as NFL Commissioner. Rather, who helped coordinate CBS’ coverage of Kennedy’s trip to Dallas and was the first reporter to confirm Kennedy’s death, narrates the story of Rozelle’s decision — one the late commissioner called the biggest regret of his career, ESPN says.
Among the recollections: Read More »
Veteran motorsports announcer Marty Reid has been axed from his post at ESPN, the network told the AP. Reid’s departure follows an on-air gaffe during the September 21 Nationwide Series Kentucky 300 race when he mistakenly … Read More »
2ND UPDATE, 10:46 AM: Looks like there will be some last-minute editing to PBS‘ two-hour Frontline special League Of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis. This morning the league announced a settlement worth $765M has been reached in Philadelphia federal court between the NFL and more than 4,500 former players. If approved by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, the deal would fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation and medical research. The proposed settlement comes after months of mediation between the sides and probably guarantees that the NFL wouldn’t be required to disclose internal files about what it knew about concussion issues and whether it hid findings of internal committees to protect the the league. The timing is right for an agreement: The NFL’s regular season starts in a week, and the Frontline special airs on PBS stations October 8. It previously had been scheduled to air in two parts over two weeks.
UPDATE, AUGUST 23 AM: PBS’ upcoming Frontline two-parter about head injuries sustained by NFL players appears to have hit the motherlode with the pullout of ESPN from the joint project. League Of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis exec producers announced last night on the program’s website that ESPN had withdrawn as a partner with Frontline on the docu. ESPN says it’s a “branding” issue. Anonymous sources tell The New York Times — you know it’s coming — that ESPN, which reportedly pays the NFL upwards of $1 billion a year for Monday Night Football rights, succumbed to pressure from the NFL. Not so, says the NFL. Viewer awareness of the upcoming docu, which debuts on PBS stations on October 8 and October 15, just went up 1,000%.
PREVIOUS, AUGUST 22 PM:ESPN has pulled out of its joint investigation with PBS’ Frontline into the NFL’s response to head injuries among players. “You may notice some changes to our League Of Denial and Concussion Watch websites,” the documentary producers said this evening in a statement on the Frontline website. From now on, at ESPN’s request, we will no longer use their logos and collaboration credit on these sites and on our upcoming film League Of Denial,” Frontline exec producer David Fanning and deputy exec producer Raney Aronson said in the statement.
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Last month, Keith Olbermann‘s bosses at ESPN and Disney said they were “blessed” to have him back — after very public stints at and exits from MSNBC and Current TV. Not to mention his nasty retreat from ESPN in 1997. (The network expunged any trace of Olbermann from its 25th anniversary SportsCenter “Reunion Week.”) So there was plenty of anticipation about how his new weeknightly ESPN2 show Olbermann would play. As it turned out, there was snark but no fury. The issues he touched on mostly were East Coast-specific and not really controversial. He didn’t get into any of the recent headline-making stories involving his new network (the NFL concussions documentary, a new rival in Fox Sports 1, Nate Silver’s hiring). There was a bare-bones set and no splashy graphics, hinting that the Worldwide Leader is content to put the focus solely on Olbermann. The results were, of all things, pretty dull. Read More »
ESPN President John Skipper told a report posted today that a promotional trailer for PBS‘ Frontline documentary investigating NFL concussions was the “catalyst” for ESPN‘s pulling out of its partnership with the project. The … Read More »