Sports Media Notebook for Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Trying to bring you some fresh content in the mornings while figuring out my schedule. I’ll get this down eventually. Anyway, won’t do linkage today, but I do want to provide you with some info and let’s get to it without further delay.


That’s a bad title, but I can’t think of anything else so that has to work for now.

First, if you’re not aware, I do a guest spot on The Buzz (620 AM/99.9 FM) in Raleigh, NC every Thursday with Mark Thomas and Mike Maniscalco (Mark and Mike). Even though I’ve never met them in person, I’ve grown to like them along with their producer Chris Morris. Well, Thomas has left the show as of last week. In addition, it appears the show will be hiring a new producer. Thomas will be still be heard on the station as part of its deal with NC State and Learfield Sports. Thomas will be working full-time at a local advertising agency. My best to Mark and to Chris. It’s been a pleasure talking to them every week.

Now that AT&T’s purchase of DirecTV has been approved by the Feds, it appears that the long-time phone provider is ready to put its stamp on the satellite television company. First, the long-time logo is gone. This is what is seen on overflow channels:

And on its screensaver, the new AT&T ownership is reflected:

The new screensaver for @directv which reflects the @att purchase.

A video posted by Ken Fang (@kzfone) on

So it appears we’ll be getting a new logo for DirecTV and perhaps we’ll hear plans about the Pac-12 Networks appearing on the satellite provider (it’s already on AT&T U-Verse systems) and Sunday NFL Ticket being made available to AT&T Wireless customers.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, Tennis Channel announced that it will air several tournaments this summer and included in its schedule are two tournaments that are included in the U.S. Open Series, the preliminary events leading up to the U.S. Open in late August. Tennis Channel said its summer schedule will include the following:

Tournaments covered on the network this summer include the bet-at-home Open (Hamburg, Germany – ATP); Swiss Open Gstaad (Gstaad, Switzerland – ATP); Baku Cup (Baku, Azerbaijan – WTA); Brasil Tennis Cup (Florianopolis, Brazil – WTA); Citi Open (Washington, D.C. – ATP/WTA); Rogers Cup (Toronto – WTA); Rogers Cup (Montreal – ATP); and the Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati – ATP/WTA).

Rogers (Montreal and Toronto) and Western & Southern Open are all in the U.S. Open Series. Tennis Channel added that the coverage of the U.S. tournaments begin next Monday:

Things get underway in North America next Monday, August 3, with the Citi Open in Washington, with more than 60 live hours; followed by the Rogers Cup in Canada with 46 live hours; and finishing with the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati with 45 live hours.

I asked Tennis Channel last night if this was a sublease agreement or a separate deal with the USTA for Rogers and Western & Southern, but I did not receive a response as of this writing. Last week, I noted that ESPN2 and ESPN3 would share the entire U.S. Open Series citing a press release which said the tournaments were exclusive to the Worldwide Leader. For tennis fans who want to watch preliminary round coverage of the U.S. Open Series on TV, they’ll have two tournaments on Tennis Channel.

One of my biggest complaints about NHL Network is its lack of original programming during the summer months. Now, it’s understandable that the network wants to cutback on programming during the offseason, but not to have at least some studio shows or live coverage of news conferences or a program on the schedule release is inexcusable. We will get one piece of original programming later today when the NHL holds its Winter Classic press conference from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, but other than that, the summer months on NHL Network is pretty dry until preseason. The look of NHL Network is still amateurish compared to the other league-owned channels. Give credit to MLB Network during its offseason for having a daily morning program and various other shows during the winter. At least it tries unlike NHL Network which shows nothing other than old games.

I’m hearing the fate of NFL AM which went off the air May 8 for a supposed hiatus is still unknown at this time. NFL Network will be live at 9 a.m. ET today for an extended “Training Camp Live” and again on Thursday and Friday at 10 a.m., but there’s no sign if NFL AM will come back in August.

NFL AM was originally a year-round morning show airing from 6-10 a.m. from the NFL Network studios in Los Angeles. It was rather ambitious for the network. Originally hosted by Brian Webber, Nicole Zaloumis and Steve Wyche when it premiered in July 2012, the show evolved to a two-hour program after Super Bowl XLIX and was co-hosted by Rhett Lewis, Erin Coscarelli and Molly Qerim in its last year. Lewis and Coscarelli remain with NFL Network while Qerim has since departed for ESPN. I’ve asked NFL Network if the show will return, however, a spokesman could not give concrete confirmation if NFL AM was returning or if it was indeed canceled.

I had the pleasure of meeting the PR men for NESN and YES recently. Now being a PR person for a sports network is a thankless job as the spokespeople for said channels have to hear from people like yours truly asking silly questions or seeking ratings information. However, in meeting Gary Roy of NESN and Eric Holder of YES earlier this month, I had the chance to talk with both in relaxed settings to talk shop and go over their approaches in dealing with media reporters and bloggers. While I can’t go over what was discussed, let’s just say I hope to meet with them down the road again and it was appreciated to get to know them beyond phone calls and e-mails.

One of the stories that has been covered extensively recently is how cord cutting is affecting ESPN and the drop in the number of homes it’s currently available. As of this month, ESPN is in just under 93 million homes, but that’s way down from over 100 million from 2011. And with the cable networks concerned about the drop in penetration, there’s talk about the Alleged Worldwide Leader going standalone.

However, as Disney CEO Robert Iger said recently, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. For ESPN to go HBO Now or Showtime or CBS All-Access, the network has to gain agreements from its league partners and also determine what price it will charge.

While HBO Now is $14.99 a month and Showtime is $11, ESPN may have to go way above that to make money. As far back as 2013, analysts said if ESPN went à la carte, it would have to get $30 a month from consumers, and somehow that price was tacked to any proposed standalone app. I’m not sure if it would be that high, but with Disney charging cable companies more than $6 per subscriber for ESPN, I’m sure the number crunchers would find an amount that could cause some sticker shock for consumers.

If Regis Philbin could find work hosting a sports talk show on Fox Sports 1, could Larry King do one for some channel? He does an interview show for SportsNet LA, why not a national network?

And with that, I’ll close up the notebook for now.

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.