Once again, YES tops regional spots network ratings list

For the ninth year in a row, the YES Network was the most-watched regional sports network in the country in terms of total day delivery in its home market. That’s a fancy way of saying more New Yorkers watched YES every day in 2011 than any other city watched its regional network(s). You can click through for all the stats, but I’ll save you time by saying they basically blew everyone out of the water. They were first overall by a wide margin.

And just for the record, we are taking full credit for that 52% increase in YESNetwork.com traffic. What’d you think that banner up there was for, aesthetics?

Biz Round-Up: Sweet Lou returns, MLB rule changes

Report: Lou Piniella set to join YES Network team

An old familiar face is getting ready to return to the Yankee family. One-time Yankee player and manager Lou Piniella will be rejoining the Yankees as a spring training instructor and YES Network analyst, Bob Raissman of The Daily News reported yesterday. Piniella, who served as a San Francisco Giants’ consultant last year, wanted to stay in baseball but also wanted to be close to his home in Tampa. The Yanks were the perfect fit.

According to Raissman’s report, Piniella will do “a limited number of appearances” on YES. The News scribe expects the former skipper to be in the booth come Opening Day in the Trop, and he’ll do a handful of other series throughout the season. The Piniella deal isn’t final yet, but a YES Network spokesperson confirmed to Bryan Hoch that the two sides were working toward a contract. It’ll be good to hear Sweet Lou, who served in the MSG broadcast booth in 1989, back on TV.

Rule tweaks dominate new MLB Basic Agreement

Later this week, the MLB Owners will ratify the new Major League Baseball Basic Agreement, and as the Players Association approved it today, it will become the law of the baseball land. We’ve heard a lot about the changes to the luxury tax, the amateur draft and international spending. Now, courtesy of the Associated Press, we learn about the myriad minor rule changes as well.

Many of these rule changes are common-sense. The Yankees, who should have played the Wild Card Rays this year in the playoffs but did not, would under a rule that allows teams from the same division to meet in the Division Series. MLB, as was reported earlier this fall, will expand instant replay to include “trapped” catches and some more fair/foul calls. The All Star Break will now be four days, and the game may move to Wednesday beginning in 2013 as well.

For players, MLB has banned tattoos with corporate logos and obscene nicknames written on equipment that may be visible to fans at the stadium or at home. Furthermore, David Ortiz will no longer be allowed to whine about his RBI total as players are banned from requesting scoring changes from the official scorer. Only MLB may hear an appeal now.

My favorite new rule change concerns uniforms though. Here’s how the AP describes it:

Quick uniform number switches will be a thing of the past. Players must tell the commissioner’s office by July 31 of the preceding year if they want a new jersey. That is, unless “the player (or someone on his behalf) purchases the existing finished goods inventory of apparel containing the player’s jersey number.” As in, every replica jersey, jacket, T-shirt, mug and anything else with a number that’s anywhere in stock.

How utterly vindictive.

Finally, one popular team practice has been eliminated as well: Clubs may no longer summon Minor Leaguers to the Majors without activating them. In other words, no more will top prospects be allowed to watch the rest of the regular season unfold in late September from the bench. The Yanks have done this in the past with their youngsters ranging from Derek Jeter to Jesus Montero and beyond. All told, though, these rule changes seem fairly reasonable to me.

YES, DirecTV stave off blackout for now

As YES and DirecTV continue to negotiate a renewal deal, the Yankees’ network will not pull its signal from DirecTV until at least Thursday, the YES Network announced this morning. While the package deal expired yesterday, the two sides have agreed to extend their negotiating deadline until Thursday, April 7. The YES Network, a RAB partner, said it granted the extension “in order to continue negotiating with the goal of reaching a new agreement.” Today’s game is on FOX but the next five games are on YES. We will continue to follow this story.

YES Network garners viewers, Emmy nods

The YES Network has done wonders for the Yankees’ bottom line, and it’s showing off the field as well. The Yanks’ TV station, the most watched regional sports network in the country last year, has garnered 46 Emmy nominations for its baseball, basketball and sports media programming. The network, a content partner of ours, has already won 49 Emmy’s in its short existence.

“This record number of nominations for YES is a testament to the hard work, tremendous energy and total team effort exhibited by everyone at YES,” John Filippelli, president of production and programming, said in a statement. “We are especially pleased with the breadth of programming and productions recognized by the Academy, along with the fact that the efforts of so many individuals – both on-camera and behind the scenes – have been validated.”

On the Yanks’ side of things, Paul O’Neill and John Flaherty were both nominated in the sports analyst category for on-air talent, and Bob Lorenz too garnered a nod as an anchor. Off the field, the network’s coverage of George Steinbrenner‘s death in July and HOPE Week as well as their Yankeeography episodes earned recognition as well. The YES Network’s new in-game graphics are up for an award, but unfortunately, our commercial is not.

In other YES news, the year-end ratings for 2010 came out, and they show a network still growing. The network is averaging 72,000 viewers per day in the primetime slot — more than MSG and SportsNet NY combined. Their Yankee broadcasts ranked number one in the New York area on 39 of 45 straight nights among the following demos: Men 18+, Men 18-49, Men 25-54, Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54. In lay terms, that’s great for ad rates.

The Yankees have a good thing going on with the YES Network right now, and if — or when — the team is ever put up for sale, YES will be a valuable part of that package.

Sherman: Cone to return to YES booth

Joel Sherman is at the BAT dinner tonight, and he ran into the Yanks’ old pal David Cone who shared some good news with The Post reporter. Coney will be returning to the YES booth for 25 games this season. We don’t yet know which member of the Yanks’ broadcast team Cone will be replacing, but my money’s on Tino taking his talents elsewhere. I’ve always enjoyed Cone’s contributions to the telecasts, and it’ll be good to hear him on the air again. I wonder if he’s finally figured out his dance yet.

YES to debut new in-game graphics

When the Yankees and the Red Sox face off in a few hours, those watching in the New York area will tune into the YES Network as the Yanks begin their title defense. Instead of the familiar YES graphics, however, we’ll see something new. For just the third time since its launch in 2002, the YES Network has overhauled its in-game graphics, and the network – RAB’s partner – gave us a sneak peak at the new look.

The new starting lineup graphic with an extrusion effect. (Click to enlarge)

Designed by the Venice, California-based design firm MFactor, the new graphics carry with them a more sophisticated look and incorporate 3-D effects. MFactor and YES worked together over the off-season to redesign the in-game presentation while retaining familiar elements, such as the Yanks’ colors, in the broadcasts. “We wanted to try to separate ourselves from the rest of the pack,” Jared Boshnack, a YES producer, told me.

The most obvious change in the interstitials will be the 3-D look. As the lineup at right shows, the names of highlighted players will now extrude as the announcers discuss these players. It’s a far cry from the two-dimensional focus of YES’ old graphics package. “The graphics,” Boshnack said, “essentially pop out at you.”

Another obvious change that viewers will notice right away are the changes to what those in the industry call the lower thirds. While the interstitials ? the lineup, the defense array, scouting reports ? are on the screen for 15-20 seconds, the lower thirds are either on the screen for much longer or just a few seconds, and as such, three-dimensional graphics would be both distracting and unnecessary. Instead, YES and MFactor have streamlined the score bar and batting line elements.

The image atop this post shows the new scaled-down score bar. Boshnack called it “totally sleek and much more efficient and streamlined.” It will no longer occupy the entire length of the non-HD broadcast and will instead be off to one side. It will also include a new “Pitches” category that will tally pitchers’ pitch counts after the tenth pitch. When the Yanks are up, the opposing team’s pitcher will have his count there; when the Yanks are in the field, the Bombers’ starter will be inch ever upward. As fans are more attuned to importance of pitch counts, this addition will enhance at-home viewing.

The hitter's stat line gets a new look. (Click to enlarge)

For the hitters, the batting line gets a refresh as well. It’s not nearly as drastic an overhaul as the score bar received, but it does offer a more condensed look. I’d like to see a players’ slugging percentage added to the line as well, but the presence of on-base percentage in TV broadcasts has been a step in the right direction.

Of course, as with any graphical overhaul, MFactor and YES, with Rick Deutschman managing the graphics team, considered the way sponsorships will be front and center in the look as well. Boshnack said the design teams asked, “How do we give them the exposure they’re looking for and integrate them into the look?” Such are the demands of baseball economics.

Overall, I think the graphics are an improvement. I’d love to see more information available during the broadcast, but I realize that I watch many games with the Internet at my fingertips. TV stations face a balancing act between a good look for their graphics and the right amount of information. After the jump, a few more screenshots. Click to enlarge. [Read more…]

YES, Time Warner reach in-market streaming deal

Those Yankee fans who are cursed with rely upon Time Warner for their YES Network access will now have the ability to purchase live streaming of all YES-broadcast Yankee games this year. The deal — announced this morning by MLB Advanced Media and the YES Network — now means that nearly every cable subscriber in the YES Network territory now has the option to purchase in-market streaming upgrades as well.

The Yankees offered up more details via a press release:

The Yankees on YES Live Game Streaming in-market package will launch in conjunction with YES’ Sunday, April 4, season-opening Yankees-Red Sox telecast (8 pm ET). YES Network will offer the package to eligible Time Warner Cable customers for $69.95 for the entire 2010 regular season, or $19.95 for any 30-day period this regular season. All games will be delivered in true high definition, the highest-quality live streaming as pioneered by Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

YES Network will allow eligible Time Warner Cable customers to purchase this package and use high-speed Internet access to watch YES’ Yankees telecasts live on their computers throughout the Yankees’ entire home broadcasting territory. They also will be able to watch YES’ Yankees telecasts live on laptops or other portable computers via WiFi. Time Warner Cable has reached an agreement with the YES Network to cooperate with Major League Baseball Advanced Media to ensure that only eligible Time Warner Cable customers may subscribe to the package.

As Maury Brown notes, with Time Warner now on board, the 127 games the YES Network airs are now available for streaming through all of the city’s major content providers. FiOS and Cablevision had signed deals with the Yankees last season, and millions of in-market fans can now purchase this live game streaming package.

For the future of online streaming of live baseball, this is clearly a deal big. The most popular team has made its games available online in the country’s biggest media market, and the revenue from this deal should be substantial. I have, however, a question: Will people purchase it? As far as I can tell, the streaming option is available only within the Yankees’ home broadcasting territory. Since the streams won’t work outside of that area, do people in New York — those who have access to YES via their standard cable subscriptions anyway — purchase this? In my view, until the requirement that only those who already have YES are eligible to purchase the streams are lifted, live in-market game streaming will not replace cable subscriptions.

And so a poll, if you will: