Sports media makes headlines on Tuesday with the announcement that Time Warner Cable has an upcoming 20-year agreement to air every Los Angeles Lakers game it can (other than national TV exclusives) starting in less than 2 years. This gives the team only the remainder of the current season and all of next on KCAL-TV and Fox Sports West.
The deal is expected to total as much as $3 billion. That's billion. There is a lot to this deal. This will not be just one network, as there will be both an English and Spanish version. The cable company has the rights to the complete Lakers TV territory, which in addition to much of Southern California also includes portions of Nevada as well as Hawaii. Pre-season games as well as early round playoff games (as allowed) will also be included.
The Lakers obviously benefit from this deal, and Time Warner Cable has the potential for regional and local ad revenue, plus revenue for distribution to other cable and satellite systems. But what about the fans?
Face it, this will cost sports fans, and for that matter those who are not sports fans. This doesn't exactly mean that Time Warner costs will be dropping anytime soon, and everyone will have to pony up whether they like the Lakers or not. Then there is the matter of distribution to other cable and satellite systems. Those systems will, of course, have to pay Time Warner for these games. Don't think that price increase won't get passed along. And don't think that Fox Sports West, even with the loss of Lakers basketball, is going to lower their costs accordingly either.
A positive for sports radio last week when the major story broke in Salt Lake that Jerry Sloan had resigned as coach of the Jazz, ending the longest head coach or manager tenure in pro sports. THE FAN Radio got right on it, and by the end of that dramatic afternoon brought their listeners live interviews with Sloan and with Deron Williams of the Jazz. (Reports indicated that incidents between Sloan and Williams played a big role in Sloan's decision to suddenly resign.) While both Sloan and Williams denied any serious rift between the two, it made for compelling radio, and let the listeners hear it for themselves. That's how it should be, with the sports station getting the reaction from those involved, and THEN getting some fan reaction.
We'll see how this Sunday (2/20) and the NHL spectacular do in the ratings. After the NBC-TV doubleheader, Versus takes over with its live prime-time coverge of the Montreal vs. Calgary game, to be played outdoors at the University of Calgary's football stadium.
Thus, a live NHL triple-header complete with studio updates and cut-ins to other games. We shall see.
Looking ahead to baseball, Fox Sports was so pleased with their 2 nights of Saturday prime-time telecasts that they have decided to go with 3 for the coming season. Whereas last season the 2 Saturday night games were over a month apart, this year they will be for 3 consecutive Saturdays in May. Why? Ask the New York decision makers. The May 14th schedule includes Yankees vs. Red Sox and May 21st Yankees vs. Mets. On May 28th, which is during Memorial Day weekend and thus not a heavy viewing night, there will be as many as 6 regional games featured. No word, yet, as to whether or not more prime time games might be added later in the season. This could be a step toward doing a prime-time game on a weekly basis, based on the ratings generated by the NFL and NBA of late.
ESPN will air 10 spring training games this season, starting in just 2 weeks on Thursday afternoon March 3 with Detroit vs. Atlanta. Somehow the Braves rate being on 3 of the telecasts, putting them right up with the 3 telecasts involving the Yankees (surprised?) and Red Sox. The one prime time game is on Monday March 14 with the Yankees vs. the Red Sox. Nine of the ten telecasts will be on weekdays, with Sat. March 26 Texas vs. Chicago Cubs telecast being the exception.
Barry Larkin is the newest addition to the ESPN roster for Baseball Tonight and possible analyst assignments. Larkin leaves MLB Network to take on this new role.
ESPNU is adding more college baseball to its lineup, announcing a Thursday night national game from the SEC from April 7th through May 19th. The Big Ten Network will televise between 25 and 30 games, including the conference tourney (the reason for the uncertain number). In addition, BTN hopes to stream at least 50 other baseball games involving Conference teams on BigTenNetwork.com.
Nice innovation for NBA-TV, which is enhancing the upcoming All-Star Weekend with more coverage surrounding TNT's programming. Included on the schedule is showing Commissioner David Stern's press conference this Saturday (2/19) at 7 PM ET. This probably won't be the typical goody-goody session, as reporters are sure to ask Stern about the potential labor dispute. If this is not brought up, there will be reason for suspicion.
College football TV schedules are in the works. ESPN has announced a Labor Day prime time game (Monday Sept. 5) with Miami at Maryland. The Thursday night games will include five other telecasts also involving at least one ACC team. The coming season will be the first of that 12-year agreement between ESPN and the ACC including all conference "controlled" football and basketball games.
Although it has been covered over the past few days, the NCAA Tournament next month should draw even better as this season begins every game being shown live nationally. CBS, TNT, TBS, and Tru-TV will handle the entire schedule, including games airing at times not used in the past due to CBS local news and programming allotments. The surprise is Tru-TV already being scheduled in for several of the early tournament games, even though it is not carried in as many households as TNT and TBS.
NEW YORK: It's almost as if media rights news is getting to be like player contact news. At least to the N.Y. Daily News. The paper published an in-depth speculation last week about the Yankees beginning the final season of the current radio contract with WCBS-AM. The story just happened to point out that the Red Sox radio rights are generating approximately $5 million more for the Red Sox this coming season than the WCBS contract will for the Yankees.
BALTIMORE/D.C.: The Orioles will be like the Red Sox and Yankees in one respect this season. On a big-time AM radio station. The O's have returned to WBAL 1090 after 4 seasons on WJZ-FM 105.7. In D.C., the Orioles games will air on ESPN 980 and SportsTalk 570. The Washington Nationals games will again air on at least one of three local stations, lacking priority over the Wizards and Capitals games early in their season. Ouch.
LOS ANGELES: In addition to the Time Warner and Lakers deal, KABC 790 and the Dodgers have named Joe Block as a co-host on DodgerTalk, which surrounds the radio broadcasts during spring training and the season. Block was studio host surrounding New Orleans Hornets broadcasts for four seasons. He will co-host with Josh Suchon, and replaces Ken Levine who left to join the Seattle Mariners' play-by-play lineup.
CHICAGO: WGN-TV has a 5-year extension of its Blackhawks contract, keeping the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the fold through the 2015-16 season. Now just over half way through the third season of telecasts, ratings have increased more than 85%. Due to NHL restrictions, each of the 20 regular season telecasts will only be local to Chicago.
As of press time on Tuesday evening, WGN Radio had still not announced a partner for Pat Hughes for its Cubs radio broadcasts, which begin in less than 2 weeks. The position opened up due to the unfortunate passing of Ron Santo in December. However, word is that another former Cubs player will be brought in more for analysis, meaning that Pat Hughes would continue to do as many as 8 innings of each game on radio. Hard to believe that one announcer would again have to carry such a heavy load in Chicago and for WGN.
Local NASCAR fans lost their primary radio outlet of the past few years last week. WUSN US99 FM decided to drop the NASCAR package after 5 years, and it is effective immediately. Thus, there might not be a local radio outlet for the Daytona 500. Neither of the sports radio stations is expected to pick up any of the auto racing. WSCR carries local college basketball and soon begins White Sox broadcasts, while WMVP ESPN 1000 is highly unlikely to move ESPN Radio play-by-play such as the NBA for racing.
INDIANAPOLIS: Speaking of auto racing, sorry to learn of the death of Tom Carnegie. Locally he was known from his 32 years on WRTV-TV sports, but to auto race fans everywhere he was the voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1946.
He called the Indy 500 some 61 times, along with 12 Brickyard 400's and 6 Grand Prix races.
PHOENIX: KBMB 710 will carry all 162 Diamondbacks games this season in Spanish, replacing KSUN 1400 and adding the rest of the schedule. Oscar Soria, Miguel Quintana, and Richard Seanz remain as the Spanish broadcast team.
St. LOUIS: We can definitely say that long time sportscaster Howard Balzer has kept himself current. Balzer, known nationally from his days of representing The Sporting News on radio, has left his early afternoon show on KSLG 1380 to join WXOS 101.1. But his new role is running the station's web site. Not quite what Howard envisioned more than 20 years ago, I'm sure. Local sports writer Rob Rains and his son B.J. began in the 1 to 3 PM spot on KSLG on Monday (2/14).
HOUSTON: Rice University baseball coach Wayne Graham will host a weekly show on KGOW 1560 beginning in March, which may include some non-sports topics.
SHEBOYGAN WI: WCLB 950 has completed its switch from ESPN to Fox Sports. The only local show is now from 3 to 5 PM on weekdays.