Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Two MLB Teams Still Fighting Over $20 Million In Media Rights

The media war between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals reached the New York Supreme Court this week until Justice Lawrence Marks vacated an earlier arbitration decision regarding the TV rights dispute between the two teams. At issue is what would amount to $20 million in additional annual revenue for the Nationals from MASN, the regional TV network which televises both the Orioles and Nationals games within that combined market.

MASN has been paying about $40 million per season for the Nationals TV rights, with the arbitration decision to have been made as to whether or not this amount should increase to $60 million. The court ruling, however, does not mean that the Nationals cannot or will not receive the additional amount, instead meaning that the Supreme Court will not issue the ruling.

Sports team owners are, of course, expected to be disappointed with this decision, while MASN and other TV networks will react positively from this decision, which potentially saves them millions of dollars.

This is, at this stage, more of a positive for fans and for consumers. If the TV network needs to pay out an additional $20 million for one year, it sets up still another fee increase for carriers, which, of course, results in even higher monthly costs for consumers for their cable/satellite, whether they watch either team's games or not.

Ever since Washington got the Nationals prior to the 2005 season, the Nats and Orioles have had their share of disputes as the O's have fought to maintain their territorial rights. The Orioles own the majority of MASN, with the Nationals under an arrangement to eventually own 33%, but no more of the network. Even under those ownership circumstances, both teams were paid $40 million per season under the current arrangement.

From here, both teams generating the same revenue from the network seems justified, especially given the majority ownership of one of the teams.

While the World Series brought Fox Sports a nice ratings return, it's already back to "normal" this week. Now Fox Sports 1 brings us still another new show, starting next week (Mon. Nov. 9th). Technically Tuesday Nov. 10th, since the new show will air at Midnight ET. For some reason, FS1 will debut "TMZ Sports", a nightly half hour show spotlighting the "celebrity and lifestyles" of current and former sports personalities.

Oh well. At least Fox blessed us by putting all five World Series games on the main network and not on Fox Sports 1, allowing more fans be able to find the telecasts.

Even with Game 5 of the World Series on this past Sunday (11/1), NBC lucked out by having one of the NFL season's marquis games on against it when then unbeaten Green Bay took on unbeaten Denver. The 23,000,000 viewers of Sunday Night Football made this the highest ratings ever for a SNF game up against a World Series telecast.

Fox Sports acknowledged such on the air, as those already watching the finale between the Royals and Mets were given a sudden on-screen game recap, while Joe Buck said, "For those who watched the football game.......".

Yet, there is one curious part about that. I happened to have been watching the World Series telecast at that point, since the outcome of the football game had been established well before that. Most fans know that Joe Buck calls the lead NFL game for Fox (except during World Series time). However, Buck never mentioned which football game, or, more importantly, the final score. I'm certain I wasn't the only sports fan who, upon not being told the final score, was curious as to how the football game ended, and switched over to NBC to find out that score.

All Joe Buck had to do was say something like, "as Denver handed Green Bay its first loss of the season by a score of....." and he would have held more viewers. Granted, Buck could well have been under orders from the network not to do that, but this was the perfect time to promote upcoming NFL telecasts on Fox. Keep in mind that this coming Sunday (11/8), Buck and Troy Aikman will call the Green Bay at Carolina game (with Carolina coming in unbeaten) to the majority of the country, including Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, and Seattle, with are leading baseball and football markets. Still another missed opportunity by Fox Sports.

NBC also chose to flex schedule for its Nov. 22nd (Week 11) SNF telecast, understandably picking up the Cincinnati at Arizona game. As a result, CBS picked up the Chicago at St. Louis telecast as an early regional game on Nov. 15th, taking that one away from Fox. That will be a big ratings win for WBBM-TV Chicago for November, as the station will now have the Bears games on consecutive Sundays, as the Bears host Denver in a CBS early regional game the following week.

WASHINGTON D.C.: No more "Man Cave" for The Team, as WTEM ESPN 980 dropped its local morning show right in the middle of the Redskins' season, admitting the ratings were not strong enough. Although the station plans to include some specific local content during morning drive, it is back to airing Mike & Mike. The "Man Cave" just started early in 2015, with a quick check of the ratings showing some growth within the past three months in 25-54 males. It will be interesting to see if anyone else in the market picks up on (former) co-hosts Chris Paul and Jason Reid. This is a clear victory for WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan and it's "Sports Junkies" show, which is local.

DETROIT: WMGC 105.1 The Game, while getting crushed in the ratings by WXYT 97.1 The Ticket, is adjusting its weekday lineup in an effort to grow its audience. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press has joined Matt Dery to co-host the 3 to 7 PM spot. The Noon to 3 PM spot now has three co-hosts, Sean Baligian, Tom Mazawey, and Marc Fellhauer.

CHICAGO: Sorry to learn of the passing of long time Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Markus at the age of 81. Markus wrote for the Tribune from 1959 into 1996, and definitely fit into the "nice guy" category. My favorite memory of him was the time during the late 70's when he was asked to fill in as an analyst for a local college basketball telecast. Always one to thoroughly prepare for an assignment, he came up with some amazing insights during the first few minutes of the game, and then stated the obvious the rest of the way. After the game, he admitted that "I used up all of my notes in the first two minutes!".

KNOXVILLE: Russell Smith and Rich Daugherty quickly found a new radio home, taking over 3 to 6 PM on Fox Sports Knoxville 1340. Their show had been airing on 94.3 FM which changed format a couple weeks back.

JACKSONVILLE: WJSJ 105.3, which had been completely silent since April, has returned to the airwaves, becoming CBS Sports 105.3. However, this becomes the third sports station in the market, and it's not as if the Jaguars are the talk of the town this season. The market already has WFXJ SportsRadio 930 and WJXL 1010 and 92.5.

BEMIDJI MN: From this small market comes another classic radio management story. WBUN-FM 104.5 is new call letters and a new format as its music format has moved and the station is now all sports. At this point, the station is picking up KXFN The Fan from Minneapolis for the majority of its weekday programming. Why is this a "classic" story? Because Hubbard Broadcasting, which now owns the Bemidji station and made this decision, does not own KXFN Minneapolis. It does own Minneapolis station KSTP 1500, which airs (Are you ready for this?) all sports programming.

Adding to the fun is that Bemidji already has a local ESPN Radio outlet which airs on 1450 AM and 94.9 FM.

BENTON HARBOR MI: What a nice idea! WSJM 1400 Sports Radio aired its morning show this past Friday (10/30) live from Benton Harbor High School. The reason? To salute the school's football team prior to its playoff game.

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