Monday, December 19, 2011

The High Cost of Sports Media

Sports media is supposed to be to serve and support the fans who follow their favorite teams and sports, yet as 2011 comes toward an end, it seems to be switching toward sports fans supporting the media, and I'm talking financially. That's not how it is supposed to be.

With all of the technology now available to sports fans which didn't exist 20 years ago, this should be a period of time during which the fans could rejoice at all of the coverage and information available to follow favorite leagues, teams, games, and even individual players for fantasy sports. Instead, we sports fans keep having to open our wallets further and further to have it. Without a vote.

The big "sports media" stories of these past couple of weeks show this. The NFL contracts to the TV networks figures to significantly raise the cost of cable/satellite bills over the next few months. Worse yet, even the millions of consumers who are not sports fans will wind up helping to pay for the new NFL package.

In the New York area, the bickering continues between Time Warner Cable and MSG Networks regarding the prices MSG Networks wants to charge Time Warner per subscriber starting January 1st. Time Warner is looking to play "hero" (as of press time on Monday 12/19) via its media release that it intends to continue to carry MSG Networks through the duration of the Knicks' and Rangers' current seasons while it negotiates.

What we have is MSG Networks raising the prices to watch coverage of teams which may not even be serious title contenders. Yet, it's difficult to be on the side of Time Warner, since it decides which channels and groups will be on which packages and what the prices will be - often whether its paying customers want them or not. TW, as with other cable and satellite providers, continue to demand that customers pay for channels for different languages, religions, and programming choices than what they necessarily want or use.

Not only are us "fans" put in this position, but we also have to watch telecasts cluttered with advertisements, network promotions, and other solicitations.

Now, it's more than TV and radio. With the NBA season now less than a week from starting, the NBA has announced that it has a new "official wireless service provider of the NBA". Complete with the press releases about what a great service this is for NBA fans who can get live game broadcasts and video on their phones. The NBA seems to overlook that consumers already pay extra for plans that allow them online and "radio" access via their phones. However, we now have Sprint paying the NBA for exclusive rights to offer this, after T-Mobile was the "official" carrier for the past six seasons. If the NBA truly wants to provide its fan base with phone access for the coming season (and after the lockout they should be bending over backwards to make this available) it should allow this access via all of the national wireless carriers.

The sports media has become more important to many consumers because it costs too much for many people to attend games due to huge ticket prices. The media is supposed to "cover" the sports events that fans are interested, and not be so worried about making money off every fan that is or isn't interested.

CBS is pleased after winning the battle (against NBC which tried to flex the telecast into prime time) to keep the New England vs. Denver telecast on Sunday (12/18). The telecast scored the highest regular season rating of the entire season thus far, and was CBS' highest rated regular season telecast since 2007.

BALTIMORE / D.C.: The Ravens have a new local radio & TV contract extension for five more seasons. WBAL-AM and 98 Rock-FM will continue to air the games, with Gerry Sandusky (who has to remind people that he is not 'that' Gerry Sandusky), Stan White, and Qadry Ismail handling the broadcasts. On the TV side, WBAL-TV Channel 11 will air the pre-season games not picked up by any of the national networks.

WTEM ESPN 980 (D.C.) will need a new co-host along with Doc Walker on its 2 - 4 PM weekday show. Former Georgetown University coach John Thompson, who has been co-hosting the show with Walker since 1999, is leaving the show. As of press time, Thompson only said "It's time to move on", and had not announced any intention of giving up any of his other current broadcast duties.

CINCINNATI: WQTR-AM 1160 will continue with sports talk programming from 5 to 7 PM weekdays, starting a new show "The Other Guys" with Fox Sports Ohio's Jeff Piecoro and Rick "The Brick" Wall. The "Guys" replace Andy Furman, who resigned on December 5th after two years of hosting on WQTR. Furman continues his Fox Sports Radio Sunday night show, while speculation is that he will have another Cincinnati media gig to announce within the next 60 days.

PITTSBURGH: WWCS 540 is ending its Spanish language programming to become "Fox Sports 540" by January 1st. However, its initial announcement shows all network and syndicated programming on both weekdays and weekends, at least to start. Fox Sports Radio had been dumped by WBGG 970 which is now Pittsburgh's ESPN Radio.

TAMPA: Congrats to Nel Solondz on being named as the Rays broadcasts pre and post-game host starting for the upcoming season. Solondz had been the voice of the Rays' AAA Durham Bulls for the previous 8 seasons, and had been used to fill in on some of the Rays' related programming.

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