I figure it’s time make some sports media predictions for 2009.
The NHL Returns to ESPN – This has been speculated for so long that whenever a writer or blogger has discussed this topic, I have either turned the page or hit “back” on my browser. But I feel that NHL Czar Gary Bettman will finally listen to the NHL Players Association and put the league back on ESPN. He’ll agree to put games on ESPN2, urge NHL2nite to return and place Games 1 & 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals back on the mothership. To appease Versus, Bettman will give the network exclusive rights to one NHL Conference Championship series. ESPN and NBC will share the other series.
MLB Network Will Announce a Second Night of Live Baseball Games – As it currently stands, MLB Network will carry 26 Thursday night games, but after seeing ratings success in 2009, it will announce that it will add a second night of games, either on Tuesday or Saturday for the 2010 season. ESPN will grit its teeth and say nothing.
Ad rates will drop for Super Bowl XLIV on CBS – Due to the tough economy in 2009 and difficulties in selling ads, CBS will actually offer time on Super Bowl XLIV at a discounted rate, below the $3 million that NBC was selling for SBXLIII.
NFL.com will offer NFL Network games online for free - To expand the audience for Thursday and Saturday night games, NFL.com will stream them for free. It will become the second primetime NFL package to go online. Because Big Cable will again refuse to pick up the NFL Network, there will be no complaints from the pay providers.
Tennis Network offers all of its Grand Slam Tournaments online – Just as it did for the French Open, Tennis Network will provide online streaming for all of its Grand Slam coverage, not just from the outer courts as it currently does for the French Open, but Tennis Network will stream its on-air coverage on its website.
The 2016 Olympics are awarded to…. – Chicago. In October, the International Olympic Committee will honor the appearance of President Barack Obama at the 2016 selection by awarding the 2016 Summer Games to the Windy City. In turn, the IOC will open the bidding for the US TV rights and receive a record amount.
CBS and CBS College Sports Win the ACC Football rights – Coming off a weak season, ESPN will let its exclusive negotiating window lapse and this allows CBS to come in to snatch the ACC TV rights away from ESPN. The ACC will not get the money it was looking for. To appease the SEC, CBS will show ACC games in a 12 p.m. ET window, giving the network an afternoon college football doubleheader. CBS College Sports will show primetime games and Raycom will return to syndicate late afternoon games.
The NFL Splits Radio Rights – Westwood One citing cash flow problems will bow out of the bidding for the NFL radio rights ending a 21 year relationship with the league. ESPN Radio will buy the rights to Monday Night Football and the NFL postseason including the Super Bowl. The Content Factory wanting to add live sports to the Dan Patrick Show will purchase the rights to Sunday afternoon games, Sunday night, Thursday and Saturday night games and the Pro Bowl.
One More Sports League Will Announce Suspension of Play – It won’t be one of the Big Four, but another niche sports league will cease operation in 2009 due to the bad economy. It could be the WNBA, it could be World Team Tennis.
Citi Will Remove Its Name from Citi Field After the 2009 Season – Citigroup will remove its sponsorship of the new Mets stadium after the 2009 season following its failed request for another bailout. Congress will get wise to the wishes of its constituents and get tough with the financial institutions. As a result, Citigroup will cut back on sponsorships including Citi Field.
A Major Sports Radio Station Will Switch Formats – Due to the tough economy, CBS Radio will make major cutbacks following the loss of the NFL from sister company, Westwood One. Without the inventory, one major sports radio station in a major market will be forced to fire its entire staff and switch formats to a syndicated news/talk station.
That will do it for my predictions. On December 31, I’ll review them to see how I did.