Monday, July 14, 2008

Sports Media Report - July 14th update

The financial "battle" for fans to be able to see their favorite team via their local cable system without having to keep on spending seems to continue even after some cable systems have worked things out.

Without any movement from Bright House Networks, an Orlando FL area cable TV provider, the Orlando Sentinel has published an editorial complaining on behalf of Magic fans. As things stand right now, FSN Florida remains on an "optional" (and of course, extra cost) sports tier, meaning that nearly half (35) of the Magic's games will not be seen by subscribers with only a basic cable package. The editorial urges FSN Florida and Bright House to get a deal together. I'll go one step further and put some blame on the Magic as well. The team approved this deal, and as it stands now, approved their games going to a much reduced audience. And if I had to pony up even more bucks for a cable sports package, it would come out of any money spent toward attending games in person. Even if it is not the Magic's fault that I'd be forced to pay several dollars each month to the cable company for religious, foreign language, and other cable channels I am forced to pay for and have zero interest in. (Nothing against those channels - but I don't know of anyone who practices multiple religions and multiple languages simultaneously.)

Yet, if I was in charge of the radio station which broadcasts all of the Magic games on "free" radio, I'd be sure to do some significant ticket giveaways during the broadcasts this season. Let the fans benefit financially (saving the hefty ticket prices) as a result of listening to the games instead of trying to find them or paying more for them on TV.

Speaking of "outside" dollars and sports, it is already time to wonder if or to what extent the international purchase of Busch will have on Budweiser's significant sports sponsorships. Bud is literally the local level sponsor of more than half of the big 4 pro sports broadcasts (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) around the country. If the new owners cut back on these, that would be a big pinch for radio and TV local telecasts everywhere before the next round of negotiations.

Meanwhile, after weeks of an anticipated announcement that the SEC would form its own TV network similar to the Big Ten, this possibility appears to have gone backward instead of forward. Fox Sun Sports has signed a $1 million+ per year deal with the University of Florida.

This is termed a "media rights" deal with the school, which has very recent football and basketball championships to run with into the upcoming seasons.

This deal will include football, including the Sunday morning replay of the previous day's (or most recent) game, men's and women's hoops, and baseball. Sun Sports already reaches over 6,000,000 Florida homes. When you consider that Tennessee, LSU, and Kentucky also generate significant local TV revenue, this Florida deal could be a temporary or even long-term set back for the SEC. Compared with the Orlando Magic story, this is somewhat of a "victory" for regional sports fans, who already have Sun Sports as opposed to now being asked to pay up. The SEC is now expected to announce new partnerships with CBS-TV and the ESPN Networks which will add to the increased Conference revenue. Word is that the new ESPN package would include rights to games previously used for game syndication. If that comes to pass, a SEC Network would then be highly unlikely.

No word yet about the extension of "Media Rights" such as how programs, stadium signage, and more, will be integrated for advertisers.

As we have been pointing out of late, the trend for pro teams to step in and work directly with large advertisers and sponsors continued again since our last writing. Now the NFL Indianapolis Colts, about to open their brand new stadium in a few weeks, have secured AdJuggler to use on the team's official web sites and to provide software to provide the team with additional reporting statistics used in conjunction with advertisers. Another team with one less weapon for radio sales concepts.

Speaking of pro teams and radio, The Cincinnati Enquirer confirmed in a report that the Reds have taken steps to slightly delay their Reds broadcasts in order to synchornize their play-by-play with the telecasts. The report says that the sponsors are happy with this, since it allows more fans to enjoy popular Reds broadcasters Marty and Thom Brennaman (father and son) while watching the picture. The Reds are not the only team to have this situation. There are other cities with radio broadcasts far more popular than TV, such as the Chicago White Sox where the TV voice Ken Harrelson is not popular.

However, fans at Reds home games, one of the few baseball parks where fans still bring a radio to listen, are disappointed when they see a play unfold to THEN hear the description after the fact.

As I have also been pointing out for months, here is another example of how HD Radio could be utilized and become attractive to the public. In this instance, WLW could air the game truly live on its main channel, with an HD Channel to carry the game synched up with each telecast, and make everyone happy. And, of course, it could then rebroadcast the games on that HD Channel, enabling shift workers and others to hear the games (and the commercials!) at their convenience while not distracting from current programming.

NEW YORK - Talk about putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to sports! Got to give credit to Greg Marotta. The 52 year-old Marotta has, as of this week, purchased 10 hours of air time, from 3 - 5 PM Monday through Friday, to literally do his own sports show on WVNJ 1160. The signal is known to cover NYC and into New Jersey, along with west Long Island and Westchester and Rockland. His purchase also includes steaming on Long ago, Marotta played football at Memphis State (now Memphis). He is not believed to be related to long time Los Angeles sportscaster Rich Marotta.

ALASKA - College hoops fans who have enjoyed the Great Alaska Shootout tourney each November may be stuck without it on the tube for the first time since 1985. The University of Alaska Anchorage Athletic Director has acknowledged that since ESPN has created a separate tourney on the same dates the Great Alaska Shootout has been shot out of the ESPN fold. The school may not have enough time to arrange for another national package in time for this year's tourney. So still another 20+ year sports tradition goes by the wayside. Kind of makes you wish ESPN would stay in the TV business rather than a creative one.

BOISE - Let me add one more set of congrats. After last week's announcement that Bob Behler becomes the new Idaho State play-by-play voice comes word that Jadon Dailey joins the crew as analyst. Dailey was a started in BSU's recent 2006-07 Fiesta Bowl bound team.

FRESNO - It's not exactly a Nebraska or Florida type package, but Fresno State University has extended its contract with KMJ Radio through 2013. The school reported chose to renew instead of going with a reportedly higher competitor offer based on KMJ's 50,000 watt signal and regional impact.

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