Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Another Sports Team To Provide Its Own Coverage

The Boston Celtics and the NBA made what seems to be a "small" announcement earlier this week, but it really continues the alarming trend of teams and leagues increasing their own sports media presence. That is not good for a couple of important reasons.

"Home Court Advantage" is the name of a 30-minute pre-game show to be available approximately one hour before the start of Celtics home games. This "show" promises player interviews, a look at team practices, and player features, but will be live and is also slated to include social media Q & A with fans.

What makes this show so different, and significant? Plenty. The show is being produced by the Celtics, who sold a sponsorship tie-in with a charge card company, and will be available on most smart phones via the team's free mobile app as well as streaming via Celtics.com.

As much as I like having a live pre-game show, and the fact that it will be available to those in attendance prior to the game, the fact remains that the team will be producing this show. Let's face it. If the Celtics are on a losing streak, or a particular player is struggling, how objective is this show really going to be? Do you think, for one second, that the team will allow negative questions via social media to be addressed?

In addition, because the team will be promoting this show, it could or will take away from the pre-game coverage of the radio and TV broadcasts of home games. The Celtics could command interviews from specific players and provide "team" information which even the official radio and TV station or network might not, considering the team has the players, coaches, and executives under contract.

This is a slap in the face to the radio and TV outlets, which are paying the team millions of dollars for broadcast rights. Now, the Celtics are directly competing for the SAME fan base, as well as for the advertising dollars they have secured by creating this program.

From the standpoint of the fans, they will now be getting "team biased" coverage instead of potentially objective coverage, while still paying higher monthly cable/satellite fees caused partially by the fees charged by the sports networks which show the games.

Pro teams are becoming media and marketing entities, instead of being focused on putting a winning team on the field, court, or ice. And now more and more teams are causing the media itself and the fans to pay for it.

On the NHL side, what a huge deal for Rogers Media in Canada, which has seemingly purchased the entire league for itself in Canada with the just announced reported $5.2 BILLION deal. Starting next season (2014-15), Rogers will have complete Canada rights to all Canadian telecasts (including some regional networks) in all languages, as well as mobile platforms, online streaming, and even Hockey Night In Canada telecasts.

The deal awaits approval by NHL owners during their upcoming December 9/10 meetings. It is hard to imagine that the owners would not jump at a multi-billion dollar offer that does not directly impact the U.S. rights to the majority of its teams. This deal, upon approval, will give Rogers the ability to re-sell certain telecasts to other networks and entities. One early report claims that Rogers will sell Hockey Night In Canada rights back to TSN, even though it might compete with those (previously exclusive) telecasts on some level in certain cities. Also expected to be included is Rogers taking over NHL Center Ice and NHL Game Center Live, and handling advertising sales across the board for NHL.com starting next season. This is reportedly a 12-year deal.

Keep in mind that Rogers also already owns regional rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs, among others, airing more than 200 games per year, as well as owning the Toronto Blue Jays.

TSN appears to be the big loser in this new deal, although that network, with more than 9 million paying subscribers, will continue to televise locally about 25 Maple Leafs games, 60 Winnipeg Jets games, and the majority of Montreal Canadiens games, all during the regular season.

The mid-October to mid-November radio ratings are starting to come out (as of press time), with the largest markets available. In New York, WFAN and WPEN remained the same overall, although WFAN finished tied for #10 overall in the market. In Chicago, both WSCR The Score 670 and WMVP ESPN 1000 rose by .2, with WSCR at #14 overall, one of its best ratings periods ever.

There is movement among the Dallas sports stations, with KRLD-FM now up more than 35% over the past three months. KTCK AM-FM also went up more than one-half of a ratings point, while KESN dropped .7 overall from just two months earlier. Philadelphia also has a very strong showing for sports radio in general, with WIP-FM now tied for #3 in overall audience and WPEN at #12. If those two stations' ratings were combined, they would be #1 in the market by a wide margin.

However, the sports radio rise is not across the board, at least based on what is announced so far. Houston's KILT remained at a respectable 2.1 rating, while KFNC and KBME each continue to flounder at under a 1 rating. In Los Angeles, the end of the Dodgers' post-season run meant a drop of .1 in the over all ratings, the same margin by which KSPN went up, but neither station is near the top 15 overall. And in Atlanta, WGZC-FM increased to a 1.3 rating (still not in the top 20 stations) while WQXI held steady at under half of the WGZC-FM audience.

In Washington, D.C., we will soon have media teaming up to provide additional coverage. In what is being called a "content sharing agreement", the Washington Times will begin using Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic Network's digital coverage within its print and online content. This announcement comes as rumors of Comcast looking to acquire Time Warner Cable have surfaced.

Quite interesting when you realize that CSN Houston is currently in court regarding a possible bankruptcy involving its failed Houston Astros deal. Yikes.

Thanks for the feedback from several of you regarding the Turner Sports decision to televise the same NCAA Final Four games three different ways. The majority of those who responded think this will be overkill and agree that Turner Sports might be better suited toward keeping all of their production eggs in one basket.

Meanwhile, sometimes my memory isn't what I think it is. ClassicSportsTV caught it last week when I refered back to Curt Gowdy bungling the names of the Kansas Jayhawks starters during the 1978 NCAA tournament he did play-by-play for on NBC-TV. The Kansas vs. UCLA game was not during the Final Four (as I mistakenly stated). It was during the regional finals of that tournament.

But I do remember to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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