ESPN programming executive Juan José Alfonso has been named VP Drama Development for ABC Studios. He will report to SVP Drama Development Michael McDonald. Alfonso comes from sister Disney company ESPN, where he was VP of Program Development, overseeing all international original content, including documentaries, scripted series, studio shows and web content. This included El Diez, ESPN International’s first-ever scripted series, as well as a number of documentary series, including Capitales del Fútbol, Heroics and La Liga Confidencial.
If ESPN did bid $500 million per season and win media rights to the entire new college football playoff system, that would bring the network’s total commitment to the sport to $7.3 billion over 12 years beginning in 2014, according to the Sports Business Journal. ESPN already has a $215 million deal to air the Rose, Orange and the newly minted Sugar bowls and would have the rights all to itself. The report stresses there are details still being worked out during ESPN’s exclusive negotiating window, which it secured via its $495 million BCS rights deal four years ago. The total output would put the value of the college football playoffs on par with the rights deal for college basketball’s playoff, March Madness. That deal between CBS and Turner pays an average of $771 million a year for 14 years.
Theme parks and media networks delivered for Disney, but filmed entertainment wasn’t as helpful for the quarter that ended in September. The company reported net income of $1.39B, +11.1% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $10.78B, +3.4%. The revenue figure missed the Street’s expected $10.92B. But earnings per share, not including one-time items, came in at 68 cents, right where analysts anticipated. The Media Networks operation delivered $4.88B in revenues (+2%) and $1.57B in operating income (+7%). Disney’s cable channels led the charge, mostly due to rising ad sales and affiliates fees for ESPN. But the ABC broadcasting unit was flat due to weak ad sales — lower ratings offset the higher rates — and equity losses at Hulu. Parks and Resorts benefited from improved results at Tokyo Disney Resort (which was temporarily closed last year following the country’s earthquake and tsunami) and Disney California Adventure’s new “Cars Land” attraction. The operation had revenues of $3.43B (+9%) and operating income of $497M (+18%). But revenues at the Studio Entertainment unit fell 4% to $1.4B, with operating income down 32% to $80M.
Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
ESPN revealed plans for its 30 For 30 Shorts, an offshoot of its 30 For 30 documentary series, at today’s TCA panels. The short films, ranging from 3 to 12 minutes, will be produced in collaboration with Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com. The shorts will first be presented on the website beginning September 26 and later will be featured on all of ESPN’s digital platforms, said Connor Schell, vice president, ESPN Films.
And on the panel was the subject of the first installment, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first short focuses on the former California governor’s teenage years with the Austrian Army.
Just before the panel featuring Schwarzenegger and Michael Zimbalist, co-director of the short, ESPN presented a panel on 30 For 30 Volume II, featuring directors of the next crop of 30 documentaries on sports figures that begins in October and continues through 2014. Included on the list was Billy Corben, director of Broke, a documentary about athletes who squander their fortunes. He joked that his appearance was just a “screensaver” until Schwarzenegger arrived. (The other “screensavers” were Coodi Simmons, co-director of Benji and Michael Bonfiglio, director of You Don’t Know Bo).
Marcotti has inked a multiyear deal to create soccer content on multiple ESPN media, the sports media company announced today. He will serve as a writer/analyst for ESPN’s TV soccer coverage and write for ESPNFC online, the company’s new multi-language, multi-country brand for soccer fans. ESPN says Marcotti’s writing will range from news and insight to comment and opinion and will cover soccer leagues and competitions worldwide. In the coming weeks, the company says ESPNFC will bring together all of ESPN’s soccer properties and house them under one universally recognized name, ensuring coverage of all news and developments 24/7 of all leagues globally.
Sportscaster Erin Andrews, who exited ESPN last week as co-host of College GameDay, has joined Fox Sports as speculated, where she’ll host the network’s new primetime college football pregame show as well as have a …
The long-controversial BCS format that has crowned college football’s national champion since 1998 is being replaced by a four-team playoff beginning in 2014. That plan was approved today by …
Disney CEO Bob Iger had to know that he’d face the ESPN question this morning at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. The Wall Street firm has led the pack in warning that sports programming contributes to rising pay TV prices — and that could become a big turn-off for consumers in a stagnant economy. ESPN is seen as a culprit because the network and its offshoot channels account for more than 26% of pay TV programming fees, but just 5% of the ratings. But Iger stood firm, taking a page from Franklin Roosevelt by saying in effect that the industry has little to fear but fear itself. Pay TV subscribers “generally are pleased with the variety of programming that they get.” He attributed the growing complaints about sports costs to the fact that “it has been a rough economy over the last few years.” He adds that ESPN has been careful about its price increases to compensate for its aggressive investments in programming including rights for major sports matches. “We’re not trying to kill the golden goose.” Indeed, the pay TV providers who criticize ESPN may be doing more to upset the status quo when they complain about costs instead of “selling the value to the consumers.” If they want to complain about sports costs, they should train their fire on regional sports networks. “If you look at the cost of those channels vs the ratings they deliver, it’s not even close ” to ESPN, he says. But at the end of the day he isn’t concerned that ESPN — Disney’s cash cow — will be whacked as pay TV providers begin to offer low priced services without sports. In a few cases where it’s been tried (for example, Time Warner Cable offers a $40 a month package without sports) “adoption is not particularly high.”
PHILADELPHIA and NEW YORK – May 8, 2012 – Comcast and The Walt Disney Company today announced that Xfinity TV customers can now access ESPN live streaming content via the award-winning WatchESPN app, WatchESPN.com and soon on Comcast’s XfinityTV.com at home or on-the-go. In time for the NBA post season, MLB’s regular season, Euro 2012 and the Tennis Grand Slams, customers who receive ESPN’s linear networks as part of their Xfinity video subscription can now stream these events and associated coverage live from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and ESPNU from the convenience of their iPads, iPhones and iPod touch devices, as well as online. Also, ESPN Goal Line and Buzzer Beater are available through WatchESPN and XfinityTV.com when those channels are in season. With the addition of Comcast’s Xfinity TV customers, WatchESPN is now available to 40 million subscribers.