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CBS Hopes To Extend NFL Deal

Jason Barrett

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When CBS began carrying “Thursday Night Football” in September, the network did not expect one blowout after another during the first four weeks. It had promoted its new prime-time package throughout the CBS empire and moved a durable ratings hit, “The Big Bang Theory,” to Monday nights. For its efforts and a $275 million rights fee, CBS was getting this?

The Baltimore Ravens beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by 20 points, three days after graphic video surfaced showing Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée.

The Atlanta Falcons trounced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 42. The Giants overwhelmed the Washington Redskins by 31. And the Green Bay Packers wrecked the Minnesota Vikings by 32.

“No question, we were pulling our hair out,” said Leslie Moonves, the president and chief executive of the CBS Corporation. “We’d spent a lot of money promoting these games, and you’re watching one game after another tank.”

More competitive contests might have increased viewership of those games, but the next four (three on Thursday and one on Saturday) featured only one lopsided contest and did not produce bigger audiences. Indeed, the first four games and the last four games averaged just over 16 million viewers on CBS and NFL Network, which simulcast them.

For CBS, the games had done their job by helping it promote new programs, build up its Monday programming and show fewer repeats.

“As a network, we’re much stronger with ‘Thursday Night Football’ than without it,” said Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports.

An N.F.L. game has value beyond a half-hour sitcom, even one as valuable as “Big Bang,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president for research at Horizon Media.

“First, the game is live, for three hours, and ‘Big Bang’ is one of the most heavily time-shifted shows on television, so there’s a concern about whether its ads are being seen,” he said.

According to Advertising Week, advertisers paid $483,333 for 30-second ads during Thursday night games last season. CBS executives said that price had risen by below 10 percent this season.

Kantar Media calculated that CBS had sold $254.8 million in advertising that capitalized on the desire of film studios, carmakers and retailers to prime buyers for weekend purchases.

“You wouldn’t want to sell against it,” said Jo Ann Ross, the president of network sales for the CBS Television Network, referring to the Thursday night games.

CBS, which will carry Super Bowl 50 in February, is the only network that owns two N.F.L. packages, an enviable position despite the league’s woes from concussion litigation, the mishandling of domestic violence cases and the deflated-football controversy that could keep New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady off the field for the first four games of the season.

From their inception in 2006, Thursday night games were the league’s lesser television offspring. Players and coaches were not thrilled by the short week of preparation. But the league — hoping to stretch its influence beyond Sundays and Mondays — viewed Thursday as another prime-time opportunity. Its channel, NFL Network, carried the games exclusively through 2013.

But the league gradually shifted its thinking, coming to believe that Thursday could truly be an appointment night for the N.F.L., as it had for college football.

In CBS, the league saw the most-viewed broadcast network in prime time and put the Thursday night franchise in its hands. Eight games were placed on CBS (and simulcast on NFL Network). The remaining eight were carried by NFL Network and broadcast stations in the markets of the teams playing.

CBS agreed to produce all the games and gave an added assignment to its No. 1 Sunday afternoon broadcast team, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.

But the league has decided not to make a long-term deal with CBS. Last season’s one-year contract was followed by a similar one, at $300 million, for 2015. Take it or leave it.

“Is that frustrating?” said Moonves, who paused before responding. “Would we have liked more? Absolutely.”

Asked if he will remain patient if the league seeks another one-year deal for 2016, McManus said, “I’m not sure what the alternative is.” He added, “We weren’t shy about proposing a long-term deal.”

The N.F.L. is reluctant to agree to a contract longer than a year because of the changing media landscape. People are untethering themselves from cable and satellite subscriptions in which they pay for channels they do not want and are choosing Internet-based services instead. Whether the league wants to align Thursday night games with old or new media is a question it seems unready to answer. At what point will it be time to stream “Thursday Night Football” directly to consumers rather than distribute it by traditional means, where a long-term deal could yield a billion dollars or more?

“I think it’s fair to say everything’s on the table,” said Brian Rolapp, the league’s executive vice president for media. “We know we have a really good thing with CBS, and we’re focusing on this year. Thursday is the only package that isn’t long term, and we think a little differently about it. In this day and age, to lock into one model isn’t the smartest thing anymore.”

The future of Thursday night games, as a possible digital property, could become a bit clearer after Yahoo globally streams the Oct. 25 game in London between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But CBS executives accept that the league is undecided — or is at least keeping its lucrative options open.

For now, Thursday night games will resume on CBS on Sept. 17, with the Denver Broncos playing the Kansas City Chiefs, followed by reprises of three matchups from last season — Redskins-Giants, Baltimore-Pittsburgh and Indianapolis-Houston. And CBS, happy to let the games enhance its prime-time power, will hope to keep them in 2016 and beyond.

Credit to the NY Times who originally published this article

Sports TV News

NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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Sports TV News

CBS Tried ‘Intervention’ With Tony Romo

“They knew, they anticipated this. That’s a credit to them, the people in charge there. But it has not gotten better.”

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After his performance during the 2022 season, many have questioned why CBS Sports NFL analyst Tony Romo has seemed off his game after seeing high praise during the early stages of his broadcasting career.

A recent nugget from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post claims CBS executives attempted an “intervention” with Romo before the season.

“Tony Romo needs to study more,” Marchand said during The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. “He needs to be better prepared. As you move away from the sidelines, you need to do more work. I know CBS is aware of this. They tried an intervention last offseason. They knew, they anticipated this. That’s a credit to them, the people in charge there. But it has not gotten better.”

Marchand also argued that it appears as if Romo’s partner — Jim Nantz — is content to let the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback struggle.

“This was the narrative out of CBS when Romo was getting all of the publicity: you heard from Nantz’ side and people from CBS that Nantz was the one creating Romo,” quipped Marchand. “The issue now is, why isn’t Nantz helping Romo get to this next level?”

Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS in 2020 — addressed his critics in an interview with Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post, saying he’s simply trying new things.

“I mean, some changes are good, some you’re like, ‘Ah, I shouldn’t do that’. But I always trial and error a bunch and sometimes it works.”

The 42-year-old Romo appeared to push back on the insinuation that he doesn’t prepare for broadcasts like he used to during the interview.

“You’re going to fail all the time, but at the same time, you succeed because of that, as long as you think about it and try to understand how to improve and then go about the process to make that happen, which is work ethic and commitment. But you got to have a plan for it before.”

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Sports TV News

Jason Benetti: Negotiations With Chicago White Sox ‘Kind of A Pain’

“I just thought it would be easier. But just because it wasn’t easier doesn’t mean it didn’t get done.”

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Jason Benetti

Jason Benetti and Steve Stone recently saw their contracts renewed by NBC Sports Chicago to team once more as the television voices of the Chicago White Sox. Benetti says the talks about a renewal weren’t without their hiccups.

In a profile with Chicago Sun-Times writer Jeff Agrest, Benetti said the talks about the situation weren’t exactly what he envisioned.

“The really good news is we got somewhere good,” Benetti said. “It was kind of a pain, really. There were some things that we had to get through that I thought were silly, and I’m sure they thought some of the stuff that I was talking about might’ve been silly. But we got there in the end.”

Agrest reported the Atlanta Braves were watching the situation with bated breath. Their television play-by-play announcer, Chip Caray, recently departed for the same position with the St. Louis Cardinals.

One of the sticking points in the negotiations between the White Sox and Benetti was how many regular season contests he would miss due to his work with FOX Sports. Benetti is announcing MLB and college football games for the network in 2023 and did his first NFL work for FOX Sports this season. Benetti admitted that were points of frustration along the way.

“I think the work has been strong and I appreciate the heck out of the fans and I have loved the Sox for all my life. I just thought it would be easier. But just because it wasn’t easier doesn’t mean it didn’t get done. Where I have put myself, totally honestly, the place I am is we got it done, and that means something. It means both sides wanted it to happen.”

Chicago White Sox Senior Vice President of Revenue and Marketing Brooks Boyer told Agrest he didn’t see any complications in the negotiations.

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