Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sports Media Report - November 12th update

The Business Week story about the University of Texas planning to launch its own TV sports network is making me worry about long term impact, and the idea hasn't even started yet.

To me, this shapes up as still another instance where sports elements, the ones that got so many of us hooked as sports fans early in life, are spreading to more places off the field than on it. We enjoy the competition, but I thought it was supposed to remain on the field and adapted to our daily living in some form.

The story is that U. of Texas officials are working with IMG Worldwide to negotiate time on the cable systems within Texas and perhaps some bordering regions to place "The Longhorn Sports Network".

Let the competition begin. After 3 years of reading and writing about the struggles of The NFL Network and the Big Ten Network and their "negotiation" with cable providers, now a major University is looking to enter the fray. One more source to "compete" for channels on the various cable systems.

Sorry, but the U. of Texas is not exactly the only school in the state. As it currently works with cable systems, the cost of added channels gets passed along to us consumers (I don't live in Texas, but am making a point on behalf of many who do.). If I am a fan of Baylor, Rice, Texas Tech, Texas A & M, El Paso, or several others, why should I have to pay extra and have some of my money go toward the U. of Texas when I didn't ask to see their "extra" games? What if my cable system still hasn't put The NFL Network on - but I can get the U. of Texas games?

Personally, my solution to all of this (the sports and cable networks trying to force their way on to cable systems and make consumers who don't even want their channel help pay for it) is to have these networks pay the cable systems for the time and NOT charge us consumers at all. If they can get the advertising support and break even or turn a profit, that's great. If not, then lose money to get the games out there or pull the plug on the project.

In this instance, it also bothers me that a University is next in line to force consumers to ultimately pay the freight so they can have additional games on television. And don't think this will only be a Texas matter. IMG also handles the rights to the U. of Michigan games, among other schools.

At this rate, we'll be reading about Business majors being "recruited" every spring by major schools to help bring in revenue from around the state each respective school is located in - instead of which high school linebackers are being courted by the big schools.

Meanwhile, the cable network we most welcome, MLB-TV, continues preparations for its Jan. 1st debut. Former pitcher Al Leiter, who has worked for the Yankees on YES for the past 3 years, and with Fox and ESPN prior, has been signed as a studio analyst, joining Harold Reynolds in a similar role.

The network plans to begin it's "Hot Stove" show at 7:00 PM ET in January leading up to its incredible and comprehensive studio and live coverage starting with the regular season. It's too bad that MLB-TV isn't receiving the publicity it deserves, based on the extensive coverage they promise, but I can understand how and why other sports media feel threatened and will attempt to minimize this.

The Phillies regular season opener against Atlanta has been moved to Sunday night April 5 and will be the Sunday Night Baseball opener on ESPN 2. Here's hoping that a tradition is born of having the defending World Series champs host the regular season opener each year. No word yet as to the status of the remaining 2 games of that series, now scheduled for April 8 and 9, but that could change. I find it hard to believe the teams would play one game followed by TWO open dates.

I'm not sure how many Marlins fans want to remember this past season, but Fox Sports Florida is planning to show 8 of the Marlins games from the 2008 season in a Wednesday afternoon series starting Nov. 26th at Noon ET. Then again, what else is there to show at Noon on a Wednesday during the winter?

Ratings are up a bit for NHL telecasts through the season's first month. Even Versus shows a 5% increase as it is possible fans are starting to discover that channel actually exists and carries the NHL. Hockey Night in Canada ratings on TSN are up 12%, and 21 of the 30 NHL teams are similar or higher in the ratings game than last season. The Chicago Blackhawks, televising all home games for the first time in franchise history, are among the teams with the most significant increase.

Election night ratings had its share of winners and losers. In San Jose, the Nov. 4th Sharks vs. Minnesota telecast matched the team's highest ratings of the young season. In Dallas, the Mavericks telecast on election night drew roughly half the audience for a 2nd week telecast when compared with recent years.

Back to football, the Dallas Cowboys probably wish they could do as well on the field this season as they do with the TV decision makers. Fox has scheduled Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, their #1 NFL crew, to handle the Cowboys vs. San Francisco on Nov. 23rd. If this were still the 80's or the 90's, this would be matter of fact. But possibly two last place teams having the top crew?
Wonder who Fox will schedule for the Giants vs. Arizona and Philly at Baltimore games that same day.

Back to college sports, ESPN has chosen the Mississippi State at Alabama game for this Saturday (Nov. 15), moving the kickoff time to 6:45 PM. In this time of the year where football and basketball shall meet, it means that State's season opening basketball game has been moved to 2:00 PM.

SEATTLE - Look for a big announcement on Thursday (Nov. 13) from KIRO 710 AM. Word is that the station will not only welcome the Mariners back this coming spring, but will go ahead begin an all sports format on April 1st. The KIRO news/talk format, currently simulcast on FM, would remain as is on the FM side. This arrangement would be similar to what WIBC Indianapolis started several months ago, moving news/talk to 93.1 FM and making 1070 AM into WFNI "The Fan" with sports talk.

LOS ANGELES - So far so good for sportscaster Rory Markas who has reportedly returned hom following surgery last week to remove a blood clot. It is not yet known how soon Markas will be able to return to his play-by-play for USC. This coming Saturday (Nov. 15), KSPN 710 will have Steve Physioc (who teams with Markas on select Angels broadcasts) handle the USC vs. UC Irvine basketball broadcast at 12:30 PM prior to Pete Arbogast handling the USC vs. Stanford football broadcast at 4:00 PM. The 2 will share the duties, based on availability, until Markas returns.

RALEIGH: This idea will create a "Buzz" whether it works or not. Sports 850 "The Buzz" is recruiting listeners to give on-air pre and post-game "reports" surrounding Carolina Hurricanes broadcasts, to the point of giving insights about matchups. If some of the fans wind up being right more than the professional reporters, the "Buzz" will be loud and clear.

No comments: