Usually I don’t do sports media predictions because everyone else does them and they usually come out better than what I would generate, but these have been on my mind for a couple of days so I’ll give you a few before wrapping up the blog for New Year’s.
Comcast takes over NBC and Starts to merge NBC Sports with Versus/Golf Channel and Comcast SportsNet affiliates
This is going to be one of the big stories of 2011, how Comcast’s ownership of NBC Universal will change entertainment and distribution of content. Versus will get stronger thanks to the leadership of NBC Sports Emperor Dick Ebersol. Golf Channel’s coverage will be bolstered by having Johnny Miller on several PGA tournaments. In addition, NBC’s influence will be seen on Comcast’s regional sports networks as the network will provide some content to help fill programming holes. And this leads us to my next prediction.
Comcast’s Deep Pockets Will Help NBC Retain Rights For the Olympics
With Comcast in tow, NBC Sports Emperor Dick Ebersol will do his very last power play before retiring after the 2016 Olympics by winning the rights not only for the 2014/2016 Olympics, but also the 2018/2020 Games. Then after the 2012 Olympics, Ebersol and International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge will announce that NBC will also win the rights to the 2022/2024 Olympics, leaving behind a lasting legacy. CBS/Turner and ESPN will complain, but the IOC has never worked in lockstep with normal bidding procedures.
The NHL Rights Are Awarded To NBC/Versus, ESPN Decides to Pass
Despite the NHL Players Association wanting to return to ESPN, the NHL decides to remain with the status quo and on the networks of Comcast/NBC Universal. In a first, NBC will pay a rights fee, but it will also be attached to revenue sharing where the network can still make money on the league. NBC will retain the Winter Classic. NHL Network will be allowed to pick up some postseason action for the first time. When asked to bid, ESPN decides it will not seek the rights, but will continue to distribute the NHL worldwide on ESPN International.
Vin Scully Announces 2011 Will Be His Last Year
Never wanting to be a distraction, Vin Scully announces at the end of the Dodgers’ next to last contest against Arizona on September 27, that the final game of the season will be his last. Scully then calls the following game as normal and as he signs off says, “Thanks for the ride.” Vin agrees to throw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium for the 2012 season opener and then will ride off into the sunset.
The NFL Lockout Happens, But No Games Are Lost
After the Super Bowl in February, the NFL will lock out the players, but the Draft and Schedule Announcement will occur as planned. Then right before the first preseason games are to be played, the NFL and NFL Players Association will craft an agreement. Part of the new agreement that will take effect in the 2012 season will be a new 18 game schedule with two byes built in extending the season into mid-January and a mid-February Super Bowl.
The NBA Lockout Happens, and It Wipes Out The Entire Season
Unlike the NFL which will realize not to mess with its Golden Goose, the NBA and its Players Association will hold several rancorous negotiations leading to an extended lockout. It will not only delay the start of the season, but wipe out the entire season, leaving fans with bad tastes. Several players will organize old school barnstorming tours across the country and into Europe, but because a couple of big name players will get seriously injured, the media will mock the tour and games planned for Communist China will get canceled. After the 2012 NBA Finals are canceled due to the lockout generating enormous fan anger, a new agreement will be crafted in the summer for the 2012-13 season.
3-D TV Sales Continue To Slump, ESPN Decides to End ESPN 3D
With the continued slow sales of 3-D TV, ESPN pulls the plug on ESPN 3D, citing the lack of viewership and lack of support from cable and satellite providers. ESPN announces it will show several 3-D events in movie theaters that will have some moderate success. Overall, the networks realizing the expense and lack of support for 3-D, will focus on improving the quality of HD video and surround sound audio for NFL games.
MLS Totally Miscalculates Its Value and Pays The Price
Major League Soccer has been asking for an inexplicable $20 million/year rights fee from Fox Soccer Channel, almost three times the value that’s being offered and almost 7 times what FSC was paying for a contract that expired in 2010. With Fox Soccer Channel getting better ratings airing English Premier League games, FSC will pass on MLS. The league will find it hard to get anyone to pay its asking price. Desperate to find a TV partner, MLS will be forced to buy time on Versus to get a package of 10 games on the air.
And we’ll see how I do with the predictions at this time next year.