Monday, March 2, 2015

What The Fox (Sports)?

Fox Sports 1 is struggling enough to gain an audience, and now appears to be adding to its woes by suddenly seeking to increase the cost to providers and, of course, ultimately to the consumers. How dare they?

AT&T U-verse, which has an estimated six million subscribers nationally, has taken a stance against Fox Sports which is designed to put the blame on Fox, and it is effective immediately.
FS1 is, most of the time, starved for quality content which would attract a decent sized audience.

What little quality "big league" content they do offer is buried with minimal publicity, as has been noted by The Broadcast Booth over the past couple of years. The network has been making a better effort of late, acquiring a series of NASCAR races, several USGA golf tournaments, MLS soccer, and has been televising some Big East Basketball games.

However, Fox Sports is reportedly asking "extra costs" from cable/satellite providers because of the NASCAR, USGA, and Big East events effective immediately. This is an outrage. Neither the fans, consumers forced to pay rising cable/satellite monthly costs, or the providers asked Fox Sports to spend the additional millions of dollars to secure these events. Fox Sports should have done so at its own risk.

In response to this, AT&T, which provides U-Verse (an estimated six million subscribers nationally), issued an official statement about this on Friday (2/27):

“Fox Sports 1 is asking AT&T to pay additional fees for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Big East Basketball Games, as well as U.S. Golf Association tournaments. While it’s important to us that we provide our customers with the content they want, we don’t believe that it is reasonable to pass on the added costs of carrying this programming to our customer. Our strategy has always been to carry the sports our customers want most, but only through fair deals for our customers and our business. We won’t agree to a deal that would cause our customers to pay unreasonable rates.”

Fox Sports did not have the full rights to these events at the time the current deal with AT&T U-Verse was agreed to. However, we would think that NASCAR, the USGA, and The Big East Conference took the multi-million dollar offer from Fox Sports based on expecting the coverage which Fox Sports had.

As much as I like AT&T taking this stance, it is still the consumer that loses out. This means that even though AT&T continues to charge its subscribers a certain amount for "24 hour service" of Fox Sports 1, its blacking out of these events means that consumers will actually be receiving incomplete service. We have yet to see AT&T reducing its monthly cost to consumers because of this.

Back to this issue. With losing millions of subscribers "lost" for these events, FS1 would stand to lose potential advertiser revenue, since those advertisers would not be reaching the intended audience. At the same time, Fox Sports loses some rare opportunities to grow to toward having a respectable audience. However, NASCAR, the USGA, and the Big East also lose out on the live TV exposure even though they take in the millions of dollars.

Reports indicate that the negotiations between Fox Sports and AT&T are continuing. Sorry, Fox Sports, but there should not be any negotiation whatsoever. It is not AT&T's fault, nor is it the consumers' fault, that they bid too much for these rights.

There is still another media story which is a cause for concern making news this week. The announcement of a "multi-year official marketing partnership" between INDYCAR and USA Today. The publication plans to develop "special sections" within selected editions specific to INDYCAR racing.

While this additional "coverage" will not cost racing fans anything extra, it raises the question about what might happen to the USA Today coverage in the event of a negative incident happening specific to an INDYCAR event or participant.

Elsewhere, on a positive note, the NBA allowing fans to vote for their pick of most Tuesday night NBA TV telecasts is paying dividends for the hardcore fans. For this Tuesday (3/3), the fans voted in the matchup between the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks. Most fans realize this is clearly the headline game of the night. Yet, despite Atlanta leading the Eastern Conference for much of this season, the team has been practically invisible on the national telecasts, even recently when ESPN and TNT have been flexing their telecast schedules.

This also comes after ABC/ESPN ignored the NBA on the previous Sunday (2/22) with no telecasts (for no reason) going up against the NHL doubleheader which NBC showed that same afternoon. Some local markets benefitted that day, such as Cleveland. The FS Ohio telecast of the Cavaliers afternoon win finished as one of the three highest 'non prime-time' telecasts in the history of that network. This is even more significant considering that the win was over the lowly Knicks as opposed to being a prime matchup.

On this past Sunday (3/1), ABC/ESPN carried a live tripleheader, including the Cav's overtime loss to Houston, while NBC returned the favor by not airing even a single national NHL telecast. The "argument" that NBC aired the Rangers vs. Flyers game in prime time on Saturday (2/28) instead does not fly here. The prime time telecast would have been an ideal promotion for one or two more games the following afternoon.

In both instances, it hurts because there are many casual fans who think to tune in on a Sunday and do not always find a telecast, so they find something else to watch.

Meanwhile, sorry to report the loss of three members of the sports media over the past few days.

Former minor league baseball play-by-play voice Dale McConachie died last week following an auto accident in the Portland OR area at the age of 55. McConachie was the voice of the Portland Beavers in the 90's, after having called games for the AA Albany Patroons (managed by Buck Showalter in the late 80's).

The former sports editor of the Kent-Ravenna (OH) Record-Courier of 37 years, Pershing Rohrer, died at the age of 96. Rohrer had retired as the full-time Sports Editor in 1989 (after taking the job in 1952), but continued to work part-time in the sports department until the very end.

Earl Williams, the former voice of North Dakota State football and basketball from 1966 through 1981, passed away in Fargo at age 79. Williams was also co-host of WDAY-AM's "The Earl and Don Show" in morning drive, and had also worked at KVOX-AM.

LOS ANGELES: The local TV ratings for the NHL vary quite a bit in this market. Oddly, the Kings vs. Ottawa telecast on Fox Sports West last week (2/24) somehow wound up as the highest rated Kings telecast of this entire season to date. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues as playoff time nears.

Even though SportsNet LA is still not available to the majority of cable/satellite subscribers in Southern California as the Dodgers begin spring training games on Wednesday, the network is televising every exhibition game as planned. Ironically, MLB Network is picking up several of the Dodgers telecasts for its national audience (although most will be blacked out in the L.A. area anyway), including the first two games. The Dodgers opener will air on delay in prime time on Wednesday, while the second game will air live on Thursday (3/5) on MLB Network at 3 PM ET. It is too bad, but understandable, that Vin Scully will not be calling these games, as he will not join the broadcast team until the final week of spring training.

PORTLAND: In a market with only one pro sports team but four sports radio stations, KPOJ 620 is adding a local morning drive sports show beginning next Monday (3/9). "Rip City Mornings With Bunker & Danforth" will air from 6 to 9 AM, including Taylor Danforth, who was midday host on KFXX until one month ago (2/4).

Andy Bunker comes to Portland by way of KIRO Seattle. KFXX, meanwhile, has yet to replace Danforth on its Noon to 3 PM show, which now has two hosts (instead of three), Andy Johnson and Brandon Sprague. KPOJ is the flagship station of the Trailblazers.

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