This will conclude our series of guest columns over the last few days. I want to thank Paul Lebowitz, Ryan Scheb, Corneilus Green, Ed Hannan, Michael Schottey, Jason Chalifour, Andrew Nostvick, Greg Stanko, Matt Lichtenstadter and Jesse Karangu. I would not have been able to provide some fresh content on the site without them and I also thank you for continuing to visit throughout a busy time for me personally.
In this last guest column, blogger Ken Barnes talks about cutting the cord and finding alternate ways of finding your favorite sports action.
Three years ago, my wife and I were blessed with premature twin boys. Due to their serious medical conditions and the need for round-the-clock care, I quit my job while my wife continued her career as an RN nurse. Dropping to one income required financial sacrifices, and one of the first things to go was our pay TV. We went from having AT&T U-verse’s 300-channel package with NFL Network and DVRs (which we loved) to nothing but our local network stations using an over-the-air antenna. As an NFL, NBA, and NHL fan, that was a big sacrifice. Free over-the-air network TV still provides most NFL games plus the playoffs and the Super Bowl. ABC provides NBA games on Sundays throughout the spring, playoffs and the finals. And NBC provides weekend NHL games and playoffs as well.
I get just enough of a sports fix on the weekends to survive without pay TV, and most of our entertainment is now provided by our Roku streaming box and Netflix. The Roku box allows subscribers of MLB Extra Innings, NBA League Pass, and NHL Center Ice to view all games and highlights live and on demand (just like online) right on their TV. The only league missing? The NFL. Of all the leagues, the NFL is my favorite and the one league pass that I would gladly pay for (since I don’t get many Carolina Panthers games here in Arkansas).
If the NFL would allow DirecTV to keep Sunday Ticket but also allow online subscriptions, I know they would make a killing! Please take my money and join the other leagues on my Roku box – please, please, please!
Ken Barnes and his wife have a site (Twins N Tidbits) that features items about twins, special needs, recipes, and tips for saving money.
And that does it for the guest columns. Back to regular posting on Monday.
Our next-to-last day of guest columns concludes with this one from Jesse Karangu who has this thesis on how to improve NBC Sports Network.
When NBC Sports Network came into the forefront of sports fans’ viewpoint, many were excited that there would finally be a serious alternative to the all-powerful ESPN. Fox had tried with a regional sports network but failed and besides sports blogs and websites, there has been no other voice in the sports world other than the omniscient force located in Bristol, CT. Sadly for all of the bigwigs at Comcast, most of that buzz has been lost, and many sports fans have not been convinced to change their ESPN habits. The ratings for the network have gotten even lower than they were when Versus was on air and a lot of scrutiny has been placed on Mark Lazurus (president of NBC Sports) for the lackluster performance.
To NBC Sports Network’s credit they’ve made a lot of positive moves from expanding their coverage of hockey, to keeping events Versus was known for such as IndyCar and Tour de France, bringing in Bob Costas to host his own monthly talk show, starting a nightly news/talk show, hiring Michelle Beadle and even utilizing NFL Films for a series. But in my opinion, that is not enough. Here are some of the things I would do if I was in charge of NBC Sports Net.
- At 5am, NBCSN can have a highlights show which separates itself from “NBC Sports Talk” and just run through highlights with no opinion for an hour to remind viewers of everything that occurred the night before.
- Create a live morning alternative to “SportsCenter” under the same moniker “NBC Sports Talk” but with a “Morning Joe” type set-up. You would have 3 people who would be the main hosts which would be Erik Kuslieas, Michelle Beadle and Warren Sapp or Bill Romanowski, who was recently released from “Inside the NFL” but will continue some work with the NFL Network. Beadle is already very experienced with making loudmouth personalities seem likeable and she would be the main lead of the show. The show would air from 6-9am and would feature a different roundtable of guests every morning. They would have the ability to go in depth on various subjects and also bring in some of the same, light-hearted and corny type of segments that Beadle was used to with “SportsNation”. It could be very similar to FSN’s successful show “Best Damn Sports Period”. The show doesn’t also necessarily have to always talk about sports.
- Embrace your Comcast SportsNet family and broadcast some of their local show nationally to give national viewers a perspective of each region from CSN Chicago’s Chicago Tribune Live to CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Sports Talk to CSN Philly’s Philly Sports Talk etc. and use these shows to fill up time with relevant sports talk instead of repeats of outdoors programming all day. You can also use these network’s personalities to begin an “Around the Horn”-type show with each city with a CSN affiliate represented. They would each pick a topic to talk about affecting their local teams and everyone on the panel would analyze it. You could also include sports bloggers as well.
- Continue to invest in original programming. Develop shows with your own personalities such as Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels, Michelle Tafoya or famous sports talk personalities such as Chris Russo, Steve Czaban, Sid Rosenberg, the 2 Live Stews, Tony Bruno, Artie Lange, Rob Parker, Buzz Bissinger or internet superstars like Will Leitch, Brooks, Drew Magery (who could give a weekly or daily behind the scenes look at Deadspin), The Basketball Jones, Bomani Jones, Jason McIntyre, Will Carroll, Real Cold Hard Football Facts.com, Smart Football.com etc. Team up with the journalists at Yahoo Sports! and begin an investigative “Dateline” meets “Real Sports” meets “Rock Center” type of show. Show an SNL-highlights show with the best sports skits and skits involving athlete celebrity guests. Rerun full episodes of SNL that had athlete guests on as well (although SNL may be tangled up in syndication deals with VH1). Start a sports comedy/sketch show with popular sports comedy geniuses like all of the Meme FB sites, Eric Stengel etc. License online content from YouTube content providers such as the NOC and SBNation, which Comcast owns some percentages in. Expand on your sports documentary series’ such as the “36” show to feature other sports even if NBC doesn’t own the rights to it. It was very wise of them to acquire MLS and USA Soccer and their bases, but the reason those viewers don’t stay is because there’s no supplemental programming besides live games. The point is, bring the nation outspoken, diverse voices they’ve never heard before, target personalities who already have a base they can bring in and also begin more long-form journalism which ESPN has a weakness in.
- Acquire more live sports!!! You can only do so much if you don’t have any actual sports that people want to watch. Make sure you overpay to steal ESPN’s baseball and Big East packages. Hopefully, by doing so, you can also get more Bob Costas on the network by broadcasting some of his interviews from Studio 42 on MLB Network. Maybe you could even convince Pac 12 Network to simulcast some games and shows on the network in exchange for more carriage on Comcast subs (very unlikely).
- Very, very unlikely scenario:
Comcast gives up control of G4 to DirecTV which turns the station into “The Audience Network”
Gives “The Audience Network” some access to NBC’s library of content
Adds a clause saying that “The Audience Network” must keep some G4 original shows such “American Ninja Warrior” and “Attack of the Show” as well as G4’s personalities
In exchange, NBCSN gets exclusive television rights to the Dan Patrick Show and Nick & Artie Show
“The Audience Network” and Comcast RSN’s can re-air DP Show as soon as it’s done broadcasting live on NBCSN.
Jessie Karangu is an 19-year-old who reps for his hometown of Baltimore, MD and the Baltimore Ravens. He is a sophomore in college and he hosts his own radio show online as well as on the air in Salisbury on 96.3 WXSU. He also is an avid blogger and used to intern for BET Digital. He is proud of his Kenyan-American heritage and dreams of one day becoming a radio and television show host and producer. His idols are Oprah and Ryan Seacrest, believe it or not and you can follow him on Twitter @BeBreezyMan and check out his blog at http://www.thejmanproject.wordpress.com
One more day of guest columns. Check out what we have tomorrow.
As we continue with the guest columns this week, we have this one from reader Matt Lichtenstadter. In this post, Matt writes about the possibility of Al Jazeera’s new US soccer channel making in-roads through obtaining the rights to the English Premier League. It’s a fascinating scenario and one that could change the landscape of sports in the US if Al Jazeera is successful.
Matt looks at Al Jazeera’s attempts to obtain programming and start a war with ESPN and Fox.
It’s no secret now that soccer is becoming more and more popular in the U.S, especially the club variety. The English Premier League is quickly becoming a rights commodity for FOX and ESPN alike, and it’s almost time to negotiate TV rights for the 3 seasons starting in 2013. These negotiations worldwide will net the Premier League over $1.5 billion (for comparison, the new NFL deals in total netted around $3 billion for 8 years). While the British rights are often the most interesting to follow, the US rights may be more interesting than that. Not only will FOX and ESPN duke it out, there will be a new player in the mix that may cause quite a stir.
Al Jazeera is often thought of as the network for the Middle East, and it is one of the largest media networks in the world. They have a large sports division that covers sports for the Middle East as well. Now, with money backed up by the Qatari royal family, they have started a sports network called beINSport USA, which next year will cover La Liga from Spain, Serie A from Italy, and Ligue 1 from France. They have already poached the famous duo of Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson from GolTV most likely, and the Premier League will very likely be their next rights target. They have tons of money to play with, as seen with some of the club teams that Qatari’s own, but will that be enough to sway the pendulum away from the status quo?
Al Jazeera English, the news arm of the network broadcast in English, is only carried by Dish Network right now, and it’s assumed that they will also carry the new sports network. But aside from that, they have no other apparent carriage deals in the hopper. It’s very likely that most of the country will be shut out from watching 3 of Europe’s biggest club soccer leagues this year because of carriage issues. If Al Jazeera wants to grab Premier League rights, they’ll have to expand their footprint on American carriers, fast. ESPN obviously has an incredibly wide distribution, and FOX Soccer has a good network as well. FOX and ESPN have a lot to play for in these rights negotiations, especially considering these networks are the home of the World Cup up until 2022. FOX wants to keep its soccer profile high leading up to the World Cup in 2018, and since John Skipper is a major proponent of soccer at ESPN, you know he’ll be very interested in getting the major package for his network in order to keep their soccer profile high after they lose FIFA events after the next World Cup.
It’s no doubt that Al Jazeera has plans for their brand new sports network, and the Premier League could be at the top of their wish list. They have the money to make it happen, but can they compete with the likes of FOX and ESPN, especially considering what they have at stake with their soccer broadcasts? Time will tell, but if you want to see how well Al Jazeera is doing, check on their carriage rights deals and see how many they have by December, when the rights will most likely be sealed. There’s a new player on the US soccer scene, and everyone better take them seriously.
Bio: Matt Lichtenstadter has his own sports blog, Matt’s Sports Musings, which you can find at http://www.mattssportsmusings.com/. He’s also written a few pieces like this for other blogs as well. He wants more work. Help his pour blogging soul. He’s also on twitter @JagsFan93.
The guest columns continue through tomorrow. Thanks to those who have provided the guest columns this week and I’ll be back Monday.
We continue with the guest columns today. I hope you’re enjoying them. This comes from Greg Stanko from the public relations firm, Oglivy Public Relations in Washington, DC.
He writes about IndyCar’s TV contracts.
A lot has been made here and in other forums about how ESPN covers the NHL (or perhaps more accurately doesn’t cover it) since the League signed on with OLN back in 2005. Hockey fans feel that since the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader doesn’t have the NHL broadcast rights, the lack of coverage is punishment for the League signing on with the competition.
If you think hockey fans are peeved, you should hear what fans of the Izod IndyCar Series think of ESPN – even though IndyCar and ESPN have a long standing relationship.
IndyCar’s television issue is instructive for most second tier sports and conferences. Today, they have the choice of signing up with NBC Sports Network or one of the other cable sports networks not headquartered in Bristol, Conn. and be a big fish in a small pond. Or, they can sign up with ESPN and hope to benefit from the network’s marketing might.
It may be hard for younger viewers to believe, but 20 years ago, IndyCar was more popular in terms of television ratings than NASCAR. The series had a bigger national (and international) footprint and many more sponsors. The Indianapolis 500, not the Daytona 500, was biggest race in America in terms of TV ratings.
And then in 1996, a civil war started in American open wheel racing. The formation of the Indy Racing League (IRL) led to a twelve-year period where the rival circuits bled fans, sponsors and money. By the time the two operations merged back together under the IRL banner in 2008, the sport was largely irrelevant to most fans. NASCAR had the “butts in seats,” the sponsors, the richer television contracts and the overall popularity. To add insult to injury, the Indianapolis 500, the one open wheel race most Americans could name, wasn’t even the most popular race in Indianapolis, having been surpassed by NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
One of the first major deals the IRL made after reunification was its television contact. It hoped that a strong television contract would help it reconnect with tens of thousands of lost fans.
With the exception of a few months in 1996, the IRL had ABC/ESPN as its partner. However, ABC/ESPN offered the cash-strapped IRL barter deal for the cable contract. The IRL, needing the money, jumped at the money offered by Versus and moved the majority of its races to the upstart cable network under a ten-year contract. On the broadcast side, ABC/ESPN was the only bidder for the Indianapolis 500 and several other races so it kept that part of the contract.
Beginning in 2009, the open wheel fans faced a major dilemma.
On the one hand, Versus stepped up to the plate and produced a superior product. It brought back long-time ESPN auto-racing play-by-play man Bob Jenkins to anchor a well received broadcast team. Versus also found a jewel with analyst Jon Beekhuis. The broadcasts were technically excellent and Versus promoted the races throughout its schedule. The problem was nobody was watching. Versus’ inferior brand name and distribution meant race fans had to struggle to find the channel and, based on the ratings, not a lot of them made the effort.
On the other, ABC/ESPN treated IndyCar as its redheaded stepchild. Unlike the NBA and college football, there was no parallel programming on ESPN so the channel, with the exception of the Indianapolis 500, rarely went out of its way to promote the series. It also didn’t seem to put a lot of effort into the broadcasts. ABC/ESPN announcers Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear were significantly inferior to their counterparts on Versus. Mispronounced names and misidentified drivers were common. The tone of the broadcasts was flat. Technically, the races were even worse. More often that not, the producers botched shots, missed key moments and generally produced a poor product.
The neglect was also seen in the coverage ESPN gave the IRL on its other programs. Barring a spectacular crash, the Versus races rarely got coverage on SportsCenter, Around the Horn, PTI or the channel’s other programs. However, again with the exception of the Indianapolis 500, the ABC races were also ignored. One race made SportsCenter only because Danica Patrick, once the IRL’s biggest star, got into a post-crash screaming match with perennial back marker Milka Duno.
Fast forward to today. The IRL has morphed to become IndyCar. Versus has become the NBC Sports Network and, if anything, the coverage has gotten better. The network added Wally Dallenbach to the broadcast booth to work with Jenkins and Beekhuis and the curmudgeonly Robin Miller to the prerace program. Technically, the races are still top notch and the producers rarely miss a moment. Unfortunately, the ratings, while better, still aren’t as good as IndyCar wants, but they continue to improve.
On the broadcast side, fans were disappointed when ABC/ESPN kept the over-the-air rights when NBC chose not to bid. Fans are now resigned to more of the same inferior coverage and promotion though 2018.
As an example, after last weekend’s race in Detroit, ESPN not only deemed the race unworthy of coverage on its Sunday late night SportsCenter, but also did not include the race results on the ticker on the bottom of the screen. It did, however, manage to find time to cover the NCAA women’s softball semifinals and a Brazil-Mexico soccer friendly.
So what have we learned?
In essence, unless you are one of the big six (NFL, MLB, NASCAR, NBA, college football and college basketball), the benefits of signing up with ESPN can be minimal. You are at the mercy of the producers who choose what’s going to air and what’s going to be promoted. Your chances of getting coverage are better if your product airs on ESPN than if it doesn’t, but not by much.
As a result, you may be better casting your lot with NBC Sports Network or the rumored Fox Sports channel. As the NBC Sports Network increases its distribution and bids for additional sports properties, such as baseball and NASCAR, you may no longer be the big fish in a small pond, but you will still be in better shape than if you are on ESPN. You get to show your product at its best. The ratings are going to improve. And, chances are, the money will be better.
Right now, the NBC Sports Network is the David to the ESPN Goliath. But that may not be the case for long. Chances are ESPN’s dominant position in the sports universe is at its zenith. For leagues and conferences looking to raise their profile, it might be worthwhile to throw your lot in with a hungry new comer.
Greg Stanko is a public relations veteran with Ogilvy Public Relations in Washington, DC and a long-time IndyCar and NASCAR fan. In 2004 and 2005, he ran the public relations team for Yellow Transportation’s NASCAR Busch Series entry.
I’ll have more columns throughout the weekend.
Earlier this week, Deadspin reported that CNBC’s Darren Rovell was duped by an average Joe posing as an Escort Service owner. While Darren’s story from last year on the NBA lockout was mostly forgotten, the Deadspin exposé brought it back to the forefront.
Iowa sportswriter Andrew Nostvick gives us this guest column looking at how Rovell got duped.
It’s been quite a rough Wednesday for CNBC Sport Business reporter Darren Rovell. News came out that afternoon that an anecdote from a story Rovell had written in November during the NBA lockout was proven to be untrue as the source for the story was in fact an 18-year-old high school senior.
The report, originally posted at Deadspin, includes Rovell’s original tweet, as well as e-mails exchanged between Rovell and the high school senior Tim, who went by the name of Henry James, a supposed manager of an escort service in New York City.
In the e-mails, Rovell and Tim talked about the escort business and the effect it had because of the NBA Lockout. Rovell used the info from his e-mail conversations and included it in his story. The anecdote was removed from the original story, with a correction. Deadspin has a screengrab of the anecdote on its article.
Rovell also issued an apology, which you can find at his CNBC link. In his apology, Rovell said he went with the story because he thought it was different
There were a couple of points about Rovell’s apology that were quite bothersome. One was when he said he would do fewer stories on “real life impact of big events,” which he thinks the public enjoys.
I’m not really sure what’s wrong with writing big event stories that have implications on people not directly involved with professional sports. There’s a difference between writing a story on how a sports lockout affects a business, as opposed to say…writing a story on fancy hats at the Kentucky Derby.
Rovell made a mistake and he owned up, just stop there. Please, stop! He says that and then he adds in the final paragraph something about people will always want to seek out their 15 minutes of fame. What does that have to do with anything? Especially if the story was written in November 2011 and we’re just hearing about it now!
Seeking out fame has nothing to do with your situation. I’m not sure what happened with the story, what your process was in writing the piece. I’m sure there’s more than just the e-mails. It is true that there is an element of anonymity when it comes to Twitter. But that shouldn’t stop a reporter from, well, putting together the puzzle pieces.
Next time, just stop at “I apologize to my readers.”
This will be an issue that dies down and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
Andrew Nostvick is a sportswriter living in Southwest Iowa. He graduated from Wartburg College in 2010 and has been a Chicago sports fan for many years. You can reach him at his Twitter handle @NosTheTwit.
That’s all. We have another guest column coming today and more throughout the weekend. Let me know what you think about the columns in the comment section.
This is the second of three guest columns on this Thursday. This is quite timely.
Reader Ed Hannan has been watching ESPN’s coverage of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals (or ECF as ESPN likes to abbreviate). He hasn’t been thrilled over the Alleged Worldwide Leader’s coverage. He provides some ways to improve its presentation to a point where it could be on a par with the NBA’s Network of Record, TNT.
First off, I’d like to thank Ken for the opportunity to write for his fantastic site. He’s phenomenal on Twitter and as plugged-in to the local and national media as anyone out there. I appreciate him giving me some prized real estate to write about something that’s been a hot topic lately both locally and nationally with the Celtics one game away from the NBA Finals.
The point, which is almost universally agreed-upon (I haven’t seen anyone write otherwise on Twitter or anywhere else in the blogosphere), is that ESPN’s NBA coverage is inferior to that of TNT. This is unfortunate as it is ESPN which has the rights to air the NBA Finals each year.
But why? Popular reasons are the banter among Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and host Ernie Johnson, legendary play-by-play announcer Marv Albert, and the loose, yet respectful tone TNT takes in its coverage.
ESPN is deemed inferior by many for a few reasons: Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy just aren’t as good as Albert and Steve Kerr; its pregame show and postgame show feature too many voices, some of whom (I’m looking at you Chris Broussard and Jon Barry) add nothing while Michael Wilbon is a host, not a panelist, and Magic Johnson should not be the lead voice (he’s closer to a Shaquille O’Neal, although Johnson is improving); and there is no real postgame show (it is instead folded into SportsCenter).
I want to focus on two other areas that rarely get mentioned, but are major reasons ESPN’s coverage lacks in comparison to TNT.
The first is ESPN’s on-the-court interviews with coaches at the start of the second and fourth quarters.
Doris Burke is a capable sideline reporter (she’s actually better at it than TNT’s Craig Sager since she knows basketball as a former Providence College star and works both college and pro games for the World Wide Leader) who asks coaches great questions without being afraid to follow up (Sager’s ongoing dialogue with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is embarrassing to TNT and the NBA).
She’s not the problem. It’s ESPN’s inane decision to air the interviews in their entirety even as play resumes via split-screen without putting the score on the screen. Instead, in Game 5 of the Celtics-Heat series on Tuesday night, ESPN showed stats for the previous quarter.
This is inexcusable. The number-one thing people need to know when they are watching a sporting event is the score. Not giving viewers what they want is deplorable. But it happens every game, so it’s not going to change anytime soon.
It also happens during rare takeout interviews with players that air during the action, when they will actually cut away from the game for a taped piece filmed several hours, or even a day before the game, again without showing the score on the screen.
If that’s not bad enough, when the game is taking place, viewers are subjected to the huckster voice of Mike Breen. Breen has the pipes to be a credible play-by-play guy, and he generally earns positive reviews on Twitter and from media critics, but he’s got a little too much Jack Edwards in him for my taste.
He gets overly excited for LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade alley-oops or any play made by a superstar. Take, for instance, Wade’s block of a Paul Pierce shot in Tuesday night’s game. Breen started screaming as if the Heat had just won the NBA Championship. Problem is, Wade blocked it to Rajon Rondo, who redirected it to Mickael Pietrus for a critical three-point shot in the fourth quarter. That was treated as an afterthought, which is just wrong.
It seems as though we’re going to be stuck with ESPN’s coverage of the NBA for at least a few more years, but there are things it can change to make viewing a more enjoyable experience, and we are here to help.
- Redo the pregame/postgame studio show. Get rid of Broussard and Barry, who certainly have a place on ESPN, but not part of the pregame/postgame show. In their place, I would add Tim Legler, Jalen Rose and Stephen A. Smith, and make Wilbon the host. He’s the best host they have, but Legler and Rose are not shy about sharing their opinions, having spent many years on various ESPN platforms honing their craft. I would find a way to integrate the polarizing Smith, who knows the NBA better than perhaps anyone covering it for the network, and make sure Magic Johnson is at least a featured element.
- Bring back Hubie Brown. He’s the best NBA announcer they have, having been the head analyst at CBS, TNT and ABC before being demoted to his current No. 2 slot. Why he’s not part of the main announcer team is beyond me.
- Tone down Mike Breen. He is the best play-by-play guy covering the NBA (Dan Shulman is busy with MLB work once the NBA playoffs roll around) but he needs to get away from the breathless praise of every dunk, breakaway layup, alley-oop or blocked shot Wade, James and other megastars like Kobe Bryant make.
- Focus on the game. Either take fewer commercial breaks or air the coach/player interviews in the pregame and at halftime. But if you’re going to show them during the game, at least make sure the score is always on the screen.
ESPN has the resources to improve its NBA coverage and this year is certainly one of transition after losing Mark Jackson to the Golden State Warriors and retooling its studio show. It needs to spend the non-lockout-shortened summer making tweaks that will make these ideas a reality.
Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go to the store to make sure my fridge is stocked for tonight’s Game 6.
Ed Hannan is a former newspaper reporter who has covered the Boston Celtics, Pawtucket Red Sox, Providence Bruins, University of Rhode Island football and basketball, Brown University football, and the Campbell’s Soup Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. He is an avid sports-media watcher who has taken the first two days of March Madness off for the past quarter-century, claiming that the day CBS releases its announcer pairings should be a national holiday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading. Another guest column is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET today.
We continue with the guest columns. This one comes from reader Corneilus Green. Three columns in one for you.
Sports Broadcasting Talent Moves
The summer is definitely heating up with the speculation of who is staying or who is going to new networks.
Michelle Beadle is the most high profile talent to leave ESPN (which was mostly expected) and she gets to do more at NBC. It was definitely a shocker that Michelle Bonner left ESPN and the same for Dana Jacobson.
Scott Van Pelt whom I would have preferred leave for NBC/Comcast, remained at ESPN which is good for him, however, his radio partner, Ryen Russillo is near the end of this contract and who knows where he might go.
Doug Gottlieb, whose contract is up in September, could have a contract offer from CBS Sports according to SportsbyBrooks. Whatever CBS offers to Gottlieb has to be astronomical for him to leave the Worldwide Leader, though I think he should go if the opportunity was presented.
I feel Erin Andrews will stay at ESPN. Her stock has fallen since a few years ago and thus does not have value to another network should she still want to cover sports.
The lowest profile re-signing was John Buccigross. Buccigross stayed at ESPN mainly because he would the #1 voice for NCAA Frozen Four replacing Gary Thorne. Buccigross is one of the few at ESPN along with Linda Cohn and Steve Levy who trumpet hockey, which is amazing because as we know, it gives little to no coverage to the sport.
Had Buccigross not stayed with ESPN, it was expected that NHL Network would have offered him the chance to be its main anchor and be the face of the network. It will be interesting to see where all the sports talent lands.
NBA TV and MLB Network should utilize field reporters who can report from the various team’s headquarters instead relying on the insiders and the writers on the dot-com side.
I will be watching to see who the Pac-12 Network hires in addition to Summer Sanders, Ronnie Lott, and Rick Neuheisel. I would like for the Pac-12 Network to hire Tom Ramsey. I miss hearing him call college football. I fully expect Fox to elevate Craig Bolerjack, Joel Klatt, and Petros Papadakis as the main team for college football on FX, also make Gus Johnson its main voice for the Pac-12 on Fox and move Steve Physioc to part-time on Pac-12 football and become the main voice for college basketball for the Big Ten Network.
Fox should replace Kevin Frazier with Fran Charles on as college football studio host and also add another analyst to Marcus Allen.
Never has there been more interest in sports media and who’s staying or who’s going. This year has unofficially been the year of the media rights deals and sports talent moves. Do not expect that to change during the summer.
An SEC Network could become reality in 2014. The SEC has called this Project X. It’s one of a number of things that has come up during the renegotiation the conference’s media rights deals with CBS and ESPN. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, it opened the league to an increase of its media rights fees.
An SEC Network was close to starting in 2009 but ESPN threw a boatload of money at the conference not to start one. It appears that the SEC added two schools just for the sake of addition. The conference was already recruiting Texas and Missouri which wanted more money though they should have gone to the Big Ten had an offer been extended to both, but they were wishy-washy while Nebraska was jumping to the Big Ten without any hesitation. Texas A&M kicked and screamed its way to the SEC, but I’ll save that for another day.
The SEC is close to agreeing to an increase its TV rights fees, but the holdup has been CBS. The Tiffany Network has balked at paying more because its game inventory will not change. CBS is justified in balking. Mizzou and Texas A&M do not have the same attraction as Nebraska.
ESPN, which has been trying to establish a monopoly on televised college athletics, will most likely try to buy CBS’ slate of SEC games if CBS does not change its stance. CBS should hold out to the very end and get more doubleheaders and more night games to justify paying more for SEC games.
It’s being speculated that ESPN will partner with the SEC to establish an SEC Network. This would be likely picked up within a year on all the cable, digital cable, and satellite companies in the conference’s footprint because of the league’s popularity. The SEC has a bigger footprint than all of the conferences and the most rabid fan bases.
An SEC Network would most likely be modeled after the Big Ten Network. Many observers thought the SEC should have started its own network instead of allowing ESPN to talk them out of it by dangling more money. This makes Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany look a lot smarter than SEC head honcho Mike Slive in that perspective.
If the conference agrees to establish a TV network, this would put more cash in the SEC membership’s coffers, surpassing the Big Ten in revenue. The conference has enjoyed six consecutive years of a school wining the BCS National Championship Game.
It’s high time the SEC gets its own network. In my opinion, NBC/Comcast would be a better equity partner for the league in establishing an SEC Network than ESPN.
The Pac-12 Network was the crown jewel when it came to the historic media rights deal between the conference and ESPN/Fox. Even more historic was the creation of seven networks, the main Pac-12 Network and seven regional channels.
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has proved himself to be a power broker in college athletics and he has grown the conference into a financial power. In addition, his experience in negotiating TV contracts brought four digital cable companies as partners to carry the networks when he announced their formation.
While this all sounds good in theory, the hard part will be trying to convince all of the cable and satellite companies to carry all seven networks. Most likely all will carry the main Pac-12 network, but not the other six. Thus, the challenge of starting a sports channel and ensuring most of the country can watch it.
The Mtn. went dark on May 31 because it could not get distribution beyond DirecTV and various smaller cable providers in the West. Longhorn Network is having difficulty gaining carriage in Texas.
Time Warner Cable will have a tough time convincing cable and satellite companies to pick up its two new regional networks it is starting with the Los Angeles Lakers. As reported by John Ourand from the Sports Business Journal, Time Warner is charging companies $3.95/subscriber fee. That’s insane.
DirecTV President and CEO Mike White said that the satellite provider will not carry the Longhorn Network. Another statement could potentially spell bad news for the Pac-12 Network. White said DirecTV will most likely not carry all seven Pac-12 Networks. If you’re Larry Scott, you should be concerned. It appears DirecTV will only carry the main network and not the regional channels. Dish Network and AT&T U-Verse are probably thinking the same thing.
While Larry Scott’s thinking was out of the box, it could be a bad move for now. The Big Ten Network has been largely successful, but it was just one network. The Pac-12 Networks will have major challenges in gaining carriage. As a U-verse customer, I would like to be able to watch all of the networks from their inception. The question is: Can the Pac-12 convince every digital and satellite company to carry all seven networks? Good luck, Larry Scott.
Corneilus Green resides in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Currently unemployed, but Corneilus is a sports enthusiast who once had a dream of being a sports broadcaster and commentator. He still might do it.
Thanks to Corneilus for the column. More guest columns will published throughout the week.
We continue the guest columns today. I hope you had a chance to read the first column written by Paul Lebowitz on Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. We’ll continue with the guest columns throughout the week and we certainly have quite a bit of good material for you.
This comes from recent college graduate Ryan Scheb. A tennis fan, Ryan has been watching the French Open on ESPN, NBC and Tennis Channel and he gives his grades to all three rightsholders.
2012 French Open: Media Grades
Three networks, ESPN, The Tennis Channel and NBC have all teamed up to provide all but round-the-clock coverage of tennis’ most grueling tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros. While the three networks are playing nice together, which is a great benefit to viewers, each network still has their own unique style. Here I’ll spend some time analyzing and grading each of the network’s coverage.
Last year, ESPN and the Tennis Channel decided to swap coverage windows. ESPN now owns the rights to all courts from 5AM – 10AM Eastern. While ESPN lauded the move as being able to show more live tennis, the French Open schedule makers have put the best matches later in the day – outside ESPN’s viewing window. Many times, the 3rd match on Court Phillipe Chatrier (Roland Garros’ Center Court) has been the premiere match of the day. This usually starts around 9:30AM, Eastern Time. As ESPN’s window ends at 10AM, they have sometimes elected to not even show the beginning of the match because they will obviously not be able to show it to its conclusion.
That being said, one of the greatest assets of ESPN’s coverage is their ESPN 3 website and Watch ESPN app for iPhones and iPads. Both allow a viewer to watch live coverage of ongoing matches that are not currently airing on ESPN as well as ESPN’s coverage if a television is not available.
While their coverage window at the French Open continues to be somewhat frustrating, their coverage remains first class. I have long said that ESPN’s tennis crew has the best chemistry in all of sports. Tennis, by its very nature, has a bit of a club-like mentality. Because almost all of the broadcasters are put of this club, they all seem to know each other quite well. This makes watching the ESPN coverage of tennis so much fun because viewers can tell that the commentators are more than colleagues, they are friends.
Unfortunately, this exclusive club causes conflicts of interest that some broadcasters have trouble getting over. Patrick McEnroe is the Director of Player Development for the USTA; he also serves as lead analyst for ESPN. McEnroe is a pretty good analyst and he does a fairly good job of overcoming his bias. While he (and the rest of the ESPN team) root for Americans, he seems able to be objective in his commentating.
The same cannot always be said for Mary Joe Fernandez, the captain of the Women’s Fed Cup team. While she is an adequate analyst, although I find her a little boring, I was frustrated with her early in the tournament when she refused to answer a question about which up and coming American tennis player had the best chance to really make it. The response of “they all have some chance” does not serve the viewer well.
Led by the versatile Chris Fowler of College GameDay fame, the entire ESPN crew is the best in the business. Fowler serves as occasional host, although more and more he is calling matches. It is clear that he really enjoys tennis which viewers appreciate. Darren Gilbert, Brad Gilbert, Chris Evert and Pam Shriver join McEnroe and Fernandez as analysts for ESPN. All are good analysts and very comfortable on television. Gilbert is quirky but provides good strategic analysis (he was a very successful coach.) He was at his best during the Djokovic-Tsonga quarterfinal on Tuesday Cahill who joined the team when Gilbert left to coach Andy Murray has really grown into his role as a commentator.
Shriver is a personal favorite, although she can be polarizing. I believe she is the most objective commentator on the team. Ironically, she is the most separate from the “tennis club” mentioned before. Chris (Chrissie) Evert is the newest member of the team; she replaced the outspoken Mary Carillo. Evert is smart, well-spoken and ready to be critical when necessary. But, even with Shriver and Evert, Carillo is missed. (More on her later.) Both Shriver and McEnroe have begun to call matches as “play-by-play commentators” with another analyst. Of course, unlike in other sports, tennis commentators do not actually talk during the points, so very few descriptions of what is happening take place. Nevertheless, both have done well in this role.
Chris McKendry serves as host for the network’s coverage and does a good job. She does a much better job in that role than Hannah Storm. Cliff Drysdale, who was one of ESPN’s first ever employees, continues to call matches with the team. He was not in Paris for the French Open but will rejoin the crew for Wimbledon.
The Grade: A-. Great announcing team, solid production and online streaming give the ESPN tennis team production a very respectable grade.
How to Improve: Cliff Drysdale has probably seen his better days; it is time for him to retire. I’d like to see ESPN get Ted Robinson to help them with Wimbledon and the US Open since he will not be working during either of those tournaments. Also, I’m not a huge fan of Mary Joe Fernandez. She adds little to the commentary and struggles to remain objective. Getting Carillo back would be a HUGE win for ESPN.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 10 years since the Tennis Channel was launched. In these quick nine years, it’s come a long way. What once started as an outlet for tennis fanatics to watch no-name tournaments has turned into a must have network for even the faintest of tennis fans. Their turnaround is no more obvious than at the French Open, where they signed their first contract at a Grand Slam back in 2007. Since then they have acquired some sort of rights at all four slams.
Despite having come a long way, there is still room for improvement. Their graphics package looks like it comes from the 1980s and the lack of online streaming is a major drawback. Sunday morning when Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were struggling, I would have liked to be able to watch both matches. If this took place during ESPN’s television window, that would have been simple with the aforementioned ESPN3. Tennis Channel did not offer that opportunity. This continued during the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were in a tight match on Chatrier while Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro were battling on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Tennis Channel, which had coverage until 1PM Eastern Time was only able to show one match at a time. When ESPN took over coverage, I was immediately able to watch both matches thanks to online streaming.
Without question, the French Open is their biggest event of the year. As such, they bring their best crew to Paris. With NBC, they share Ted Robinson, John McEnroe and Mary Carillo. Simply put, there is no better broadcast booth in tennis. Robinson is a pro and he knows how to handle McEnroe, who despite being tennis’ best analyst can be overly talkative. Carillo, although toned down when McEnroe is in the booth, is no stranger to highly opinionated commentary. Carillo is so respected that she is constantly pegged by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch as one of the best broadcasters of any sport. (Note: For Tennis Channel’s coverage, Carillo does not join Robinson and McEnroe in the booth. Despite the fact that the two are good friends, this is per McEnroe’s request.) The fact that the Tennis Channel uses the best commentary team in all of tennis is impressive.
Unfortunately, the highlights end there. Other analysts for the Tennis Channel include Lindsay Davenport, Rennae Stubbs, Justin Gimelstob and Jon Wertheim. Ian Eagle, Brett Haber, Bill Macatee and Cari Champion round out the team. Davenport and Stubbs are average analysts, but both, Davenport especially, seem extremely shy. Gimelstob is polarizing. While some, including CNBC’s Darren Rovell have given their approval, many others find him annoying, myself included. Tennis Channel’s analysts, save for Carillo and McEnroe, are just a little wet behind the ears. They definitely know the game, but they lack the TV presence that make ESPN’s team such a pleasure to watch.
The Grade: I’ll give the Tennis Channel a B-. Not bad for a network that three years ago would have gotten a D.
How to Improve: Time will help Tennis Channel’s newer analysts. Better graphics and online streaming would greatly enhance their coverage.
NBC offers very limited coverage of the French Open. Robinson, McEnroe and Carillo do all the commentating for the network. As mentioned, they are a great crew. Frankly, there isn’t too much else to say about the network. They own a three hour window on the weekend days of the tournament and then air some of the men’s semifinals on Friday and the two finals on the final weekend. NBC has been doing tennis for a long time and they know what they are doing, except when it comes to airing live coverage outside of the Eastern Time Zone on weekdays.
The Grade: Not much to grade, so I’ll give them an “S” for Satisfactory. They do the job and do it well.
How to Improve: Live Coverage to all time zones on semifinal Friday.
Overall, tennis fans are treated to pretty good coverage. ESPN is by far the superior network, but both the Tennis Channel and NBC do a nice job rounding out the coverage. Looking ahead, ESPN has complete coverage of Wimbledon this year, from the first serve to championship point. Mercifully, gone are the days where NBC would take over midday during the 2nd week of the tournament and then refuse to air live coverage to the entire country. ESPN will air the tournament live to the entire country, plus every television court will be available on ESPN 3/Watch ESPN throughout the tournament, including the finals. This is a great victory for tennis fans!
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Ryan Scheb graduated from the University of Florida; he majored in Finance. This fall he will move to New York City where he will join the Volunteer Program at Cristo Rey New York High School. Ryan is a diehard Packers fan/owner and longtime tennis fan. He has always had an interest in sports media and loves to write so he had a lot of fun writing this guest column.
And we have more guest columns coming tomorrow. Thanks for reading.