As we get into the home stretch and the Christmas holiday is now just a week away, let me offer a few thoughts on sports media this morning. As usual, they’ll go in bullet form.
- So we have a couple of cable carriage disputes looming large as we end 2011. Looks like MSG Network and Time Warner Cable are heading towards a train wreck unless something drastic happens. It appeared the two sides were heading towards an agreement, but now, MSG Media is encouraging TWC subscribers in New York and Buffalo to find another cable provider in case MSG Network, MSG Plus, MSG Plus 2 and MSG Buffalo are pulled. It’s another example of both sides accusing the other of making ridiculous demands. And in the end, it’s the consumer that gets the shaft, not the cable or content provider.
- The other sports channel that’s in danger of being dropped is Universal Sports. A whole slew of providers are threatening to drop the channel on New Year’s Day unless NBCUniversal can convince them to keep it. Just this year, Universal Sports got an agreement with DirecTV, but any gains made with DirecTV will be lost when it goes dark on a bunch of providers that put it on a sports tier. Universal Sports airs Olympic sports that don’t get much play on the regular networks. Here’s hoping that this dispute will be resolved as well.
- With bowl season starting, I wonder how major college football has gone so long without a legitimate playoff system. The NCAA manages to get a championship done in the other divisions including the smaller Division I schools. Yet, the bowls and college presidents somehow think that they must protect the “integrity” and the “sanctity” of their systems. The Bowl Championship Series has done nothing but raise more questions and the fact that we have a #1 vs. #2 matchup involving teams from the same conference and also a rematch from a game this year totally stinks. Yet, the bowls make money from shoddy accounting and executives lining their pockets. The bowls make their matchup choices based on which schools “travel well” and can sell their allotment of tickets. Often these trips are money losing operations, but because the bowls have such a grip on the BCS schools, they refuse to change. Here’s hoping that at least we get a +1 addition to the BCS when the current TV contract with ESPN ends because what we have is not working right now.
- While we have seen resolution of TV rights for the NHL, Olympics, World Cup and NFL this year, it’s 2012 where we could see some upheaval in rights. Bidding for MLB and NASCAR will open up and there’s a lot of interest in baseball. Walking, Talking Conflict of Interest Bud Selig has said there’s more networks bidding for the rights than at any time. In the last contract, TBS took postseason rights from ESPN and half of the League Championship Series. We’ll see if Turner remains in the baseball business. Will NBC get back into baseball after leaving in 2000? Can Fox stay with MLB despite declining ratings in the regular season and postseason? Will ESPN spend to break back into the playoffs? We’ll find out when the new contracts are signed.And what about NASCAR? ESPN went all in to return for the Sprint Cup series. With three networks Fox, TNT and ESPN taking three different approaches to televising the sport, will the higher ups at NASCAR decide to make one certain style uniform or will we see one of the partners drop out? This will be quite interesting to see this play out.
- And lastly, we learned last week that Etta James, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, is terminally ill. While this is not sport media news, it’s sad to hear that one of the greatest voices in rock history will be leaving us. Etta gave us great songs like “At Last”, “A Sunday Kind of Love”, “Tell Mama” and “Something’s Got A Hold on Me.” She had a heroin addiction in the 1970′s and kicked that. She’s had several health problems over the last few years including dementia, but they don’t diminish what James gave us. She won’t have much more time with us, but her music will live on long afterwards. I’ll leave you with her signature song, “At Last.”
Enjoy your Sunday.