MediaFile

ESPN’s John Skipper doesn’t see any benefits in new TV models – yet.

ESPN chief John Skipper is happy to talk to any of the so-called new over-the-top Web video players surfing around the fringes of the cable TV business. But he doesn’t see any major deals happening soon — if ever.

In a conversation with Reuters at this year’s cable show, Skipper was blunt about his skepticism over the idea his network –  the best paid in the business according to SNL Kagan data — could work with a new Web partner, a tie-up that may in some way threaten the cozy $100 billion a year cable programmer-distributor relationship which feeds the entire industry.

“We have a significant stake in maintaining the current model. There’s no advantage to us in new models that undercut what we have today,” said Skipper, speaking from the NCTA Cable Show in Boston.

ESPN pays tens of billions of dollars every year in sports rights fees to major sports and college leagues — much of which is live programming that doesn’t lend itself naturally to the subscription video-on-demand model popularized by the likes of Netflix and Amazon, he points out.

The Disney-owned sports network is the envy of the cable television business, and several major rivals, like News Corp and Comcast Corp’s NBC Universal, would love to replicate its model.

NBC Universal creates new sports marketing agency

It’s no secret that sports has been the brightest star of broadcast television lately. It pulls big audiences, and those viewers watch live — a combination that advertisers drool over.  So NBC Universal figured it was high time to make the most of its sports assets — soon to be coupled with those of Comcast – and today announced the creation of “NBC Sports Agency.”

The purpose of the group is to market NBC Sports, whether it’s their coverage of hockey, football, horse racing or the Olympics, and produce campaigns for advertisers or league partners like the NFL or the NHL. John Miller, credited for coming up with the “Must See TV” campaign for NBC’s primetime, will head up the effort. Many industry watchers had predicted that Comcast’s take over of NBC would see a push for more competition for sports rights with Disney’s ESPN powerhouse. Let the battle commence.

Here’s a video of Miller on his new role.

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Researchers use Intel chips to build better football helmets

 Football players infamously take a serious amount of punishment. Now, Intel is offering up a way to measure the extent of that pootential physical damage.

footballIntel is currently working with universities and a sports equipment maker to build an intelligent football helmet.

Researchers and helmet-maker Riddell are using clusters of computers powered by Intel chips to rapidly compute the risks and ways that a football player could be injured as he slams into a 220 lb linebacker and other typical head impacts.

Sports stadiums going green?

By Sarah McBride

Stadium owners dragging their heels on finding greener ways to power up their high-definition scoreboards and retractable roofs just got a kick in the pants from their league commissioners.

Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer have dished out letters to their teams and facilities asking them to embrace solar power. Fenway Park in Boston is one of the select few that have installed solar panels.

Fenway Park in Boston is one of the select few that have installed solar panels.

Time Warner Cable’s unique ESPN Web deal

Many media business journalists let out a collective sigh of relief at the news that Time Warner Cable had finally inked its deal WorldCupwith Walt Disney to keep carrying its programming, including ABC, Disney channels and various ESPN networks.  The programming fee negotiations had gone late into the night past their Wednesday midnight deadline and hacks, who had seen this movie before, were just starting to tire of waiting for another midnight watch.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the deal is that Time Warner Cable’s ESPN customers will now have access to ESPN3.com, a website ESPN uses to show more than 3,500 live events, including  matches from the World Cup this summer.

This is unlike other ESPN3 deals which have typically been tied to the cable operator’s Internet service provider. In those cases, ESPN3 would only be accessible to ISP customers of the cable operator.

No Super Bowl blues; expect big TV ratings

colts1The U.S. economy might be weak, but the Super Bowl still scores with consumers.

The CBS broadcast of the National Football League’s championship game on Feb. 7 between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints should draw strong TV ratings, possibly challenging viewer levels not seen since the late 1990s.

“We’re looking at a big rating,” said Neal Pilson, former CBS Sports president and head of his own sports consulting firm. “The fact that the two conference championships got better than usual ratings usually indicates that there’s a lot of public interest.”

The NFC Championship game between New Orleans and the Minnesota Vikings drew 57.9 million viewers, ranking it as the most watched conference championship game since the 1981 contest between Dallas and San Francisco that featured “The Catch.” It was also the most heavily watched TV program, excluding Super Bowls, since the 1998 “Seinfeld” finale.

from Summit Notebook:

ESPN: We all live in sports towns (And tell great jokes)

ESPN President George Bodenheimer has been at the business of TV sports, one way or another, for nearly three decades, starting in the mailroom and working his way up.

It's the classic media story -- and this one even involved a stint driving through nearly every little town in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi to sell this odd new 24-hour sports network to cable distributors.

Here's one thing he's learned: Every town thinks it's a sports town. Sort of like everybody thinks they have a good sense of humor.

Tuesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories about the media industry:

Amazon Patents Detail Kindle Advertising Model (Mediapost)
Laurie Sullivan writes: “The patents clearly note that Amazon would insert advertisements throughout the ebooks, from the beginning to the end, between chapters or following every 10 pages, as well as in the margins.”

> In-Book Ads Coming to the Amazon Kindle? (Fast Company)
> 6 Reasons Why Ads On The Kindle Don’t Work (Business Insider)

Deadline for Globe bids postponed (Boston Globe)
“The New York Times Co. has postponed tomorrow’s deadline for prospective buyers of The Boston Globe to submit preliminary bids for the newspaper, people briefed on the sales process said. No new date has been set for the bids,” writes Robert Weisman.

Fans still buying tickets, startup CEO says

So how’s the market for sports and concert tickets holding up, given the economic turmoil that has dominated the public imagination since last year? Better than you’d think, according to Mike Janes, the founder and CEO of FanSnap, a live-event ticket search engine that launched in March.

“People’s appetite for the shared experience of a game or show hasn’t changed. Their bank accounts may have changed, but not the desire,” Janes said.

The difficult economy has had the effect of bringing many ticket prices down, he said, meaning there are plenty of bargains out there. While there will always be insatiable demand for big-name performers or games (Springsteen; Yankees vs. Red Sox) keeping those ticket prices high, Janes said tix for your average major league baseball game can be had for below face value in some cases, as folks looking to resell tickets flood the market with supply. It’s a bit too early to see about NFL games, he said.

Football in 3D, coming to a theater near you

The first-ever 3D broadcast of an NFL game was rushed into movie theaters in three U.S. cities last night, kicking off what many hope could be a new way of generating revenue for theater operators.

We attended the event in Los Angeles, where a throng of football fans, reporters and Hollywood executives donned black plastic 3D glasses and crammed into a stadium-style theater for kickoff between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers.

In an interview the day before the game, Michael Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of 3D system provider RealD 3D, said of the experience: “You feel like you are really on the field in the middle of the action,” and called the event “the dawn of live events at your local theater.”