I’ve been bottling up some sports media thoughts from the last time I wrote a similar post. You’re due for some more. Let’s provide you with some. They’re below in bullet form as always.
- We’re getting closer to seeing Fox Sports 1 coming to fruition. While Fox is not saying anything official, behind the scenes, it’s working very hard to show that it is very serious about making this a true alternative to ESPN. In this week’s Sports Business Journal (subscription required), John Ourand writes that Fox has already trademarked “Fox Sports 1,” purchased a dot-com to host a Fox Sports 1 website, developed a logo, and has showed a video to several professional league and college conference officials that displays what the network is all about.
Ourand cites sources who have seen the video that Fox is looking to launch the network in August of 2013, rebranding the existing Speed channel, and then making a big platform launch during Super Bowl XVIII week in February 2014 which will air on the Fox mothership.
While many sports media observers were watching NBC Sports Network to see if it was going to be the challenger to ESPN, Fox has quietly been working to sign long term contracts with existing partners MLB, NASCAR, UFC as well as the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to help establish programming on Fox Sports 1. When the network finally launches next summer, Fox Sports 1 will be in very good position and hit the ground running with some major sports programming, something that NBCSN has been unable to achieve.
And with the NBA and English Premier League coming up for bid in 2015 and the Big Ten in 2016, Fox Sports 1 could make a very good destination for all three.
We’ll be monitoring this story well into 2013.
- In a related note, Fox’s parent company, News Corp., made huge news last week with its purchase of 49% of the YES Network plus reportedly being close to retaining the rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a staggering $280 million annually.
Through buying into YES and keeping the Dodgers, News Corp. would have the rights to three of the four MLB teams in the nation’s two largest markets. And with the option to increase its ownership of YES to 80% within three years, Fox is in a very good position to maintain its position in MLB through local rights.
I would not be surprised if Fox goes after ownership stakes in NESN in Boston, co-owned by the Red Sox and Bruins, and Altitude in Denver, partners with the Avalanche and the Nuggets. I don’t think News Corp. is done with its spending spree. It will have a lot of cash to spend as it’s spinning off its publishing unit and focusing solely on television and movies.
By positioning the Fox Sports Nets with long term contracts with several MLB, NBA and NHL teams, Fox ensures the survival of its regional sports networks for many years to come.
- ESPN’s 12 year contract to air the college football playoff plus the Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls shows that the Alleged Worldwide Leader has faith in the sport and wants maintain its firm control of the postseason.
We saw that when it placed all of the Bowl Championship Series on cable in 2010, that ESPN was very serious about controlling the postseason. And while ABC is given major college football games during the regular season, it carries just a few bowl games, most are aired on either ESPN or ESPN2.
When your humble blogger went to ESPN last year to talk with Executive Senior Vice President of Studio and Event Production, Norby Williamson, he told me that ESPN was the perfect destination for the BCS as the network could provide fans with programming surrounding the games not just pre and post, but through coverage in the days leading up to the Championship Game. I’m sure his feeling has not changed now that ESPN has obtained the rights to the playoffs.
While there’s no doubting that ESPN does college football well, its control of all of the BCS Automatic Qualifying conferences is disturbing. By guaranteeing control through long-term contracts that go well into the next decade, ESPN will continue airing games for the foreseeable future without interruption.
- Whenever I eat dinner at my parents’ house, one program they like to watch while dining is Inside Edition. While the show has its positive qualities, one huge negative is its coverage of celebrities, Lindsay Lohan in particular. It seems every move she makes is extensively covered, no matter how big, no matter how small. One night, as the show was in its 3,608th consecutive day of covering Lindsay Lohan, I said out loud, “This is like ESPN with Tim Tebow,” and it suddenly hit me that Inside Edition’s obsession with Lohan is just like ESPN’s with Tim Tebow.
Now is this so far off? Inside Edition goes to court whenever Lohan violates her probation whether it be drunk driving or stealing a necklace (allegedly). ESPN went to New York Jets training camp to cover Tebow.
Inside Edition went into battle mode when handlers called 9-1-1 when Lohan failed to wake up for a call on set of the Lifetime movie, “Liz and Dick”. ESPN made sure we all celebrated Tim Tebow’s birthday via SportsCenter.
Inside Edition covered Lohan’s snub of ABC’s Barbara Walters. ESPN asked actor Liam Neeson about Tim Tebow even though he was hardly familiar with the QB.
Inside Edition can’t seem to go one day without mentioning Lohan. Doug Gottlieb admitted to Dan Patrick that ESPN management told him to mention Tebow on his radio show.
These are just a few instances, but again, I ask is this so far off to make the analogy that Lindsay Lohan is to Inside Edition as Tim Tebow is to ESPN?
I’m sure I’ll hear from ESPN’s extensive public relations machine on this, but they can’t convince me that Tebow isn’t their Binky.
- I’ve seen all of season 3 of Downton Abbey except for the Christmas Special that will air on ITV in the UK on Christmas Day (naturally). While I won’t give any spoilers, I will give some news that has already been reported. Shirley MacLaine gives some great energy to the first few episodes playing Elizabeth “Cora Grantham” McGovern’s mother, visiting from the United States. The season begins in 1920 with Robert in financial difficulty and Downton’s future in doubt, Mr. Bates in jail and Matthew and Lady Mary engaged.
What transpires next is the usual drama, comedy and plot twists that make the series great. There will be joy and there will be sadness, but you’ll have to see what happens when the third season premieres on PBS on January 6.
I’m giving away nothing. If you want spoilers, buy me a few drinks and I’ll tell you.
We’re done. Enjoy your Tuesday.
As my computer churns away with another silly Windows Update, it’s time for a few thoughts on the sports media. They are in bullet form as always.
- The signing of Jim Rome by CBS Sports is a big one. As CBS Sports Network attempts to expand from its regular diet of college sports, it nabs Rome away from ESPN for a nightly 6 p.m. ET show that will be its signature studio show. In addition, Rome becomes a contributor to CBS’ coverage of the NCAA Tournment, US Open Tennis and the NFL. I didn’t realize it at the time of the announcement, but the CBS press release made no mention of The Masters or other CBS golf tournaments. While CBS does want to reach a younger audience, I don’t think the membership at Augusta National want Rome as part of CBS’ coverage, but I digress.
CBS hopes Rome will bring his core audience to its cable channel and expand the reach to beyond a sports tier where CBS Sports Network lies on some cable systems.
- This leads to a story which The Big Lead broke today, that NBC Sports Network could go after another ESPN’er, Scott Van Pelt. As the story states, Van Pelt’s contract is up in April and NBC using the Golf Channel and possibly the Olympics, could try to lure him away from ESPN. You may remember Van Pelt came to ESPN from Golf Channel so if he leaves, it would be a return to his former home. This is a story that bears watching.
- Another ESPN’er whose contract is expiring is SportsNation’s Michelle Beadle. Her contract is about to expire this month. I have not heard anything in regards to her negotiations. Suffice to say that she is well liked in the Bristol headquarters. We’ll keep you posted if Michelle is offered another gig.
- It was reported Thursday in Dave Hughes’ DCRTV.com site that Jen Royle who’s about to leave her current gig at 105.7 FM in Baltimore, will be part of a new show at Comcast SportsNet New England. A CSNNE spokesman told me that the info reported was incorrect and that Jen is expected to make a couple of appearances on the network’s talk show, Sports Tonight, although no dates have been set. I tried to contact Jen through her Twitter account, but as of the time of this post, I haven’t heard back. The CSNNE spokesman said reports of a new show at the network are erroneous.
- And one non-sports media thought, I can officially say I’m hooked on Downton Abbey. The miniseries about life of an English family and its servants during the Edwardian era and into World War I has been absolutely addicting and infectious. The cast is excellent and the drama is well-written. Thanks to the PBS iPad app, I watched the entire 1st season and first episode paid Season 2 in two nights. And I can’t wait for the third season in the fall.
And those are your thoughts for today.