Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Pro Leagues Generate Even More Sports Media Revenue....

Following your favorite sport is going from "You can't tell the players without a scorecard" to "You can't follow via the media without a scorecard". As we approach the Super Bowl, there seems to be this huge concern about multiple ways that fans can access highlights and updates, overlooking the fact that practically every TV anywhere will be tuned to the game as it happens.

NBC is promoting "Super Stream Sunday", allowing fans to watch the live stream of the game on desktop, laptop, and tablet computers with no "log in". This is also scheduled to include the pre-game and immediate post-game coverage. What NBC doesn't tell you is that it does not have the rights to streaming via mobile phone devices, and that is almost certain to cause some confusion and frustration among those fans who are away from a TV.

The NFL itself has also launched its own YouTube Channel which will include "in-game" highlights and eventually more features to it. What makes this curious is that the NFL has a revenue share with YouTube directly in this deal even though the highlights it will share come from its rights holders (TV networks) which have paid the NFL millions of dollars to have. The NFL gets by this because the 'in game' feature has to promote where local team viewers can watch the game, and make it appear this is a promotional vehicle for the network/stations airing the game. This deal also includes YouTube getting more prominent positioning for the NFL via Google, as if the league needs any more major visibility.

Along the media rights line, the NBA is also beefing up the attack, but in this instance it is international. The NBA has a new multi-season deal with BT Sport, which takes effect next season (2015-16). Up to seven live games every week will be shown in the UK and Ireland including every game of both conference finals and the championship series.

These are both instances where the leagues themselves are increasing direct revenue from additional vehicles to show their games to fans, ignoring the networks which pay them a collective billions of dollars. While consumers get asked to pay increased fees to the TV providers to watch the telecasts whether they are fans or not.

Speaking of the NBA, a great job by NBA-TV earlier this week of stepping in and changing its live game schedule at the last minute. Not long after the big blizzard caused postponement of Monday's (1/26) scheduled game in Brooklyn, which was scheduled to be picked up on NBA-TV, the league was able to substitute. The Minnesota vs. OK City game, while less compelling, was selected and scheduled, with the NBA web site showing the change several hours in advance, while other media was not able to update the information.

The NBA did get hurt, as it turned out, by not scheduling enough games on Super Sunday this year. ESPN/ABC had originally scheduled the Lakers vs. Knicks game for this coming Sunday (2/1). However, the awful seasons both teams are experiencing would indicate that just having L.A. and New York in the spotlight would not be enough to pull in viewers, and the national telecast has been canceled. Since there were no other worthwhile matchups on the NBA schedule for Sunday (clearing the path for the Super Bowl), the network will instead show a, get this, celebrity bowling event instead. Yikes.

And then, TNT followed suit and announced it has pulled the Knicks vs. Pacers matchup it had originally scheduled for this Thursday night (1/29) and replaced it with Denver vs. Memphis. The Denver vs. Memphis matchup is clearly a more appealing matchup for the fans, but it seems like a date worthy of historical significance since a Memphis game replaces a Knicks game on national TV and no one is complaining.

Elsewhere, a most interesting research report from SNL Kagan, a national research agency, regarding the increased cost of sports viewing. Although we are not able to provide the entire report, it bears out our expressed concerns over recent months about fans possibly becoming priced out of watching sports at home.

The report shows that the TV sports networks, including more than $6 per month per subscriber for the ESPN Networks, average collecting about $1.03 per month per subscriber. By comparison, movie channels average about 81 cents. The report also shows sports network costs rising at an annual clip of more than 5%.

Worse yet, these figures are from prior to Time Warner Cable's recent addition of a $2.75 per month "sports surcharge". In the Los Angeles market, where TWC runs the Dodgers Network and is part owner of SportsNet LA (with the Lakers games), the combined cost per subscriber (again, that is per individual subscriber) is now at $12.50 per month.

NEW YORK CITY: The Yankees and Mets will share the "over-the-air" local TV station this season, as WPIX Channel 11 has signed on to air about 20 Yankees games this season, as produced by YES Network. This marks a return to the station, which aired the Yankees from 1951 through the 1998 season. WPIX continues its deal to air 25 Mets games this year, as well as through the 2017 season (as of now). A similar situation exists in Chicago, where WGN-TV will again show a share of Cubs and White Sox telecasts during the upcoming season.

Len Berman has returned to the local airwaves, but now it is morning radio. Berman has been named, as of this week, co-host of WOR 710's morning show, along with Todd Schnitt.

CHICAGO: It's another adventure in the "nobody cares what's on the air" side of radio, but this one comes from a CBS station in Chicago. WSCR 670 The Score went off the air for nine minutes this past Saturday (1/24) morning while airing a live interview via a remote from the White Sox "Sox Fest" festival at a downtown Chicago hotel. During the early part of a live interview, the station went dead. There was nothing but dead air for just over nine full minutes.

However, when the station suddenly came back on the air, the interview was still in progress, and, in fact, was just wrapping up. I can certainly understand that technical difficulties happen. But it came off to listeners (those who stuck around) as if no one cared.

There was ZERO mention of having been off the air or any sort of technical difficulties. We still don't know if the remote feed was lost (in which case someone from the studio should have come on the air and said that) or if the entire station went down. But then they just went on with the remote as if nothing ever happened. Nothing about a recap or replay of the segment which was missed. I listened for another 20 minutes and heard nothing about any problems. Again, this is a 50,000 watt Chicago AM station owned by CBS. I'd like to think that someone would have a clue of how to handle the loss of air time.

ATLANTA: The amazing start by the NBA Hawks is making a difference on the TV side. The ratings for the team's local telecasts for the first half of the current season show a more than 60% increase in total viewers.

SAN DIEGO: The Padres radio broadcasts will remain on XEPRS 1090 through at least the 2016 season, keeping the team on the same station it has been with since 2004 season.

MILWAUKEE: It is both unfortunate and understandable that Bob Uecker is cutting back even more on his broadcast schedule of Brewers games for the coming season on WTMJ and the Brewers Network. The team has hired Jeff Levering to handle play-by-play for the road games Uecker will not travel to this season. Levering comes to Milwaukee from having been the voice of the minor league Pawtucket Red Sox.

INDIANAPOLIS: As much as The Broadcast Booth doesn't pay attention to the December (holiday period) radio ratings, skewed by holiday music stations and vacations by major personalities, the Indy situation is hard to overlook for sports radio. The December ratings showed WFNI The Fan 1070 dropping again (now 1/2 ratings point lower than October), with a bigger drop showing for the HD Radio feed on WIBC-FM's signal. At the same time, the already dismal ratings of WNDE fell to a lowly 0.2 overall, but still beat out WXNT 1430 which came in, believe it or not, even lower. Yet, December was during the Indianapolis Colts' run to the playoffs and early enough in the Pacers' season to have some meaningful games.

LOUISVILLE: Even with no pro teams, the market now has WLCL 93.9 starting this week as "93.9 The Ville" added as a sports station, including some of the ESPN Radio day time lineup. As if WHBE 680 and 105.7 isn't already enough. The Ville will air play-by-play of (Are you ready for this/) University of Louisville women's basketball and baseball. I checked to make sure this is a true story.

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