Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Michael Strahan Is The Black Ryan Seacrest

Five years ago, if you looked up Michael Strahan on Google, it would probably say "Michael Strahan defensive prowess" or "Michael Strahan monster defensive end." Coming soon though, it'll probably say "Michael Strahan media mogul."

Who would've ever thought the Super Bowl champ would attempt to dominate television in such a short period of time? Strahan is in negotiations to host "Good Morning America" according to CNN's Brian Stelter.

Strahan is adding his male presence to "GMA"'s anchor team which is filled with a lot of estrogen after Sam Champion and Josh Elliott's respective departures. Because he has other obligations at 9 a.m. with his own talk show co-hosted by Kelly Ripa, Strahan will mostly anchor during the 7 a.m. hour.

Strahan also won't be working for five days a week. 

MY THEORY: I would imagine he'll be off on Mondays and/or Fridays due to his NFL on Fox obligations. Strahan usually hosts "LIVE with Kelly and Michael" on Monday mornings during the NFL season despite having to fly the red-eye between L.A. and NYC which suggests to many that he'll do the same with "GMA" but I'm sure it'll be much easier to come into work at 8 a.m. to be on time for his 9 a.m. show than having to come in at 6 a.m. or earlier for "GMA". 

It could also work the opposite way with "GMA" wanting Strahan in-house on Mondays (with an off-day in the middle of the week) to break down Sunday's NFL action in a watercooler-style format to give viewers some pointers on what they need to know as they go to work.

In terms of what role Strahan will play, he'll most likely take over the "Play of the Day" segment and he may tape celebrity interviews to be used for the 8 a.m. hour. I also wouldn't be surprised to see him file feature reports on inspirational stories which are trending or which "GMA" hopes to get trending.

It's very interesting and ironic how Kelly Ripa has always been the non-newsy talk show host which both morning shows pursued over the years and that her co-host ended up being the person who accepted a morning news show role. It's being reported by Deadline that Ripa was also offered a role on "GMA" but she declined (TMZ hinted that Ripa could eventually join the team).

WHY DOES "GMA" WANT STRAHAN? 1. He's a man's man. He played professional football and provides support for George Stephanopoulos. Women love to hear other women who share their point of view but something women love even more, although they won't admit it: a man's perspective (it works vice versa as well).

2. He's a voice women trust. "Kelly and Michael"'s ratings are the highest they've ever been because the ladies find Strahan very appealing to their tastes. As "GMA" continues it's struggle to keep the #1 spot vs. "Today," it's important they associate themselves with other members of the ABC family who viewers trust and already watch frequently. This is also why there is so much cross-promotion between "DWTS" and "GMA." Even though "DWTS" isn't the highest rated reality show on TV anymore it still has enough viewers and social media support to garner influence.

3. Diversity. Strahan's move assures "GMA" that they will continue to be the most diverse show on morning television: an African-American male, three women including one who is African-American and gay, a Greek male.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR "K&M"? As far as I know, "K&M" will stay the way it is. If I were ABC though, I would suggest bringing on Neil Patrick Harris and/or Anderson Cooper as the permanent once-a-week co-host/first substitute co-host on call. NPH is on Broadway while Cooper's daytime show was cancelled a while back which means both are available for the limited time needed. 

Both men have great chemistry with Ripa and maintain a regular job which means co-hosting the show for one day a week wouldn't be a big deal (as long as their employers approve). It'll give fans a sense of nostalgia back to the days when NPH and/or Cooper filled in more often and Mr. Strahan won't become too strained from all his commitments. A strained Strahan would mean a less entertaining Strahan which puts the show in jeopardy.

WHY IS STRAHAN A MEDIA MOGUL? Because this is not the end of announcements to come from the Hall-of-Famer. Strahan recently started his own entertainment production company/agency with other partners who represent people such as Tony Gonzalez (ironically, his company brokered Gonzalez's deal with Strahan's rival show, "CBS NFL Today") and Deion Sanders. The company also produced a pilot for Amazon, plans to produce other movies/TV shows and represents music artists.

Coming soon, Strahan will be executive producing and hosting a sports version of the Kids Choice Awards on Nickelodeon. He'll also be producing and hosting a primetime game show on a major broadcast network to be announced (probably ABC) according to Sports Business Journal.

WILL STRAHAN LEAVE NFL ON FOX? Only time will tell but I doubt it. Fox put him in charge of presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy during this year's Super Bowl and they've also used him for interview specials on Fox Sports 1. Fox definitely sees a bright future with Strahan and would rather share him with ABC (just as they do with Seacrest) than lose him. 

Although if Strahan ever decides to leave Fox because of the travel distance (I doubt it'll ever work the other way around with Fox dumping Strahan), there's a four letter network with major football rights that's owned by ABC's parent company which could perfectly fit Strahan in right away.

As of now though, Strahan seems comfortable with working for Fox Sports and I would expect him to stay because he's being primed to eventually take over Terry Bradshaw's lead studio analyst role. I'm sure he also has a lot of loyalty towards Fox after they picked up his sitcom and he could probably use Fox as leverage whenever his ABC deals expire (a national 9 a.m. show on Fox doesn't impede on their current local morning news structure).

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Josh Elliott's Move Changes Television Landscape Both Now And In The Future

Before Ben Sherwood became president of ABC News, he woke up each and every morning watching "SportsCenter" with his son. 

In a story told vividly in Brian Stelter's "Top of the Morning," Sherwood recalled watching his son become fascinated with one of the hosts during the 9 a.m. edition of the television institution. Sherwood's son began to recite sports stats and became even more of a sports fan because of the impact which a California native had on him. 

Josh Elliott hasn't always been a rising television star. When he first started his old gig at ESPN, he served as the host of a flailing show known as "Classic Now," whose aim was to make the ESPN Classic network relevant to today's sports fan. The show eventually got cancelled and ESPN Classic is no longer a linear network.

ESPN moved him to their new morning editions of "SportsCenter" alongside TV vet Hannah Storm and the rest is history. Influenced by his son, Sherwood recruited Elliott to ABC News and placed him in the newsreader role at "GMA".

Elliott was credited for helping "GMA" beat "Today," it's arch rival, in the ratings and he expanded his role on ABC serving as a host for a short-lived but successful daytime talk show, a co-host of The Rose Bowl Parade and the lead substitute for George Stephanopoulos on "GMA".

With Sherwood recently being announced as the new head of operations at ABC, it would have been assumed that it was only a matter of time before Elliott also ascended to an even bigger role on the network. Unfortunately, fate had a different ending.

Due to his salary demands not being met, Elliott chose to sign a new deal with NBC Sports. This is a huge move which helps bolster the NBC Sports roster but it's also being looked at as a mechanism to further weaken "GMA" after NBC also poached former weatherman Sam Champion and gave him his own morning show on The Weather Channel.

Many questions arise with this new deal:

1. Who replaces Elliott on "GMA" and will "GMA" suffer? Amy Robach will serve as Elliott's replacement effective intermediately. Luckily, viewers are already VERY familiar with Robach because of the frequent substitutions she has made on the show. She was also the show's main correspondent during the Olympics.

As Alex Weprin points out in Capital New York, "GMA" relies heavily on a team-based formula. The show isn't led by one or two single individuals but rather a team (each person has their own segment(s) throughout the show). Because of this, the show has a hefty bench with viable candidates to replace the anchors currently in place if they ever leave.

If Elliott and Spencer had left at the same time, I would've been worried about the show's stability but because Robach has worked so often with the rest of the tandem when Elliott is off, I doubt the show's ratings will see a major impact.

When "GMA" announced their new social media initiative, the "new" anchor team just happened to be in place that day.
2. What will Elliott be doing at NBC Sports? In the last article I wrote about this ordeal, I mentioned how I didn't believe there was enough room for Elliott on the sports bench at NBC. Dan Patrick/Bob Costas co-host "SNF," Liam McHugh hosts Notre Dame football and NHL hockey, Rebecca Lowe hosts EPL soccer, Dan Hicks hosts golf and calls ND football.

Well, apparently I was wrong. Elliott will be contributing to Olympics coverage, Sunday Night Football and Triple Crown horse racing. Although no specifics have been provided yet, my hunch is that Elliott will be named as an in-studio co-host of "SNF" alongside Dan Patrick (a similar role to what Olbermann did before he left NBCU). He'll probably do feature pieces and breakdown plays with "SNF" analysts while DP anchors and calls highlights.

I would also expect him to serve in a reporter capacity for the Olympics and Triple Crown horse racing. Other potential spots to see him (predictions): Sports updates with Sam Champion on The Weather Channel's "AMHQ," a rotating host on NBCSN's 12 p.m. sportscast "SportsDash".

I highly doubt NBCSN will start a daily show for Elliott to host on his own (but I could be wrong). NBCSN has found more success in afternoon shows which are geared towards niche sports (such as NASCAR and the NHL) rather than a general sports talk show. 

Even before Michelle Beadle and NBC started to disagree with each other, there was talk that her show would be cancelled because it was EXTREMELY low-rated (all of NBCSN's afternoon shows are low-rated but her show was beneath the threshold). 

Fans who want generalized sports shows trust ESPN and ESPN2 too much to let their loyalties slip away. And with FS1's acquisition of the Mike Francesa Show as well as the increase in original video content on various sports websites, all the viewers left who would watch a potential Elliott talk show are gone for the most part.

3. What does the future hold for Elliott beyond NBC Sports? "Today" but just not today. Elliott has a six-month non-compete clause which means he can't appear on "Today" for six months. NBC was in talks with Elliott to make him the newsreader at "Today," which according to CNN's Brian Stelter, would put him "in line to succeed Matt Lauer".

Don't be surprised if this is the eventual move Elliott makes six months from now. Stelter pointed out to me on Twitter that this move is about the "long-term". If you've ever watched Elliott before, whether you like him or not, you can't doubt his talent and versatility when the red light comes on and he's on-air live.

He does his job with such poise and has an indescribable "it factor". Just recently, when Malaysia's Prime Minister announced that it was believed there were no survivors in the tragic MH370 missing plane saga, Elliott was placed at the helm as the lead anchor of ABC News's special report.

As Matt Lauer and Bob Costas's roles at NBC wind down, Elliott emerges as the top contender to take over for one or both of them. Unlike other possible contenders for either role, Elliott has on-camera experience as a news and sports anchor.

4. What does this mean for Willie Geist and Liam McHugh? It's common knowledge that Geist and McHugh have been the top in-house candidates to take over the helm for NBC's two biggest franchises ("Today" and The Olympics) once the reign of their current hosts come to an end. If Elliott takes over one of those jobs or both of those jobs, where does this leave Geist and McHugh? There's a possibility that NBC loses one of them OR both of them in the next 5 years (Geist recently signed an extension with NBC but could leave whenever it expires).

In my opinion, it's more likely McHugh leaves than Geist and here's why. There's still room for Geist to increase his workload on MSNBC if the 7 a.m. "Today" gig doesn't work out next year (he would still be the lead anchor at 9 a.m.) and he would be a potential candidate to anchor "Nightly News" whenever Brian Williams leaves.

McHugh, on the other hand, is already the lead anchor of major events (Stanley Cup, Tour de France, Olympics) on NBCSN. With sports rights for most major sports leagues locked for the next 10 years, it looks like NBCSN will continue to fare behind Fox and ESPN for a long time which means that if McHugh stays, he'll be stuck working the same gigs he's currently involved in for at least 7-10 years or more. There's no room for him to grow.

I believe it's more likely McHugh decides to leave for a bigger role at ESPN or Fox OR a major payday at a RSN looking for it's lead personality. The only way I see Geist leaving NBC in this situation is if he's offered Charlie Rose's position at CBS (it would be a fun way to continue the Geist legacy at CBS and he would be back with Chris Licht, his old producer at Morning Joe).

5. Who is the new heir to Stephanopoulos's GMA chair? In my opinion, Stephanapoulos will most likely leave "GMA" sometime in the next three years either as the new "WNT" anchor OR as an anchor at another network (his contract is up at the end of the year). Elliott was his heir, but now that he's gone who holds that seat now? Early candidates: Dan Harris, Dan Abrams, Gio Benitez, David Muir (if Stephy is moved to "WNT"), Lara Spencer OR a newcomer from another network.

  • Chelsea Handler is leaving her show at E!. Her manager tells THR she may look to start a radio show and a late-night show at a competitor or on a digital platform. She would fit in well at Sirius/XM or at PodcastOne. It would be interesting to see her go to a company like Netflix. I wonder how much of a dent she would make if she released new episodes every day at 11 p.m. with no commercials in direct competition with the start times of her cable competitors. Deadline says she's talking to FX. I wouldn't be surprised if someone like Viacom made a bid for her services to help one of their fledgling networks (EPIX or NickMom) or VH1. Turner (HBO), Discovery (OWN) and CBS (TVGN, Showtime) are other potential suitors in my opinion.
  • CBS Sports has signed a deal with Sony to co-produce a digital series following NFL draft prospects (Tahj Boyd, Jake Matthews, Louis Nix) as they get ready for the big leagues. The show will air on PlayStation consoles, PlayStation's YouTube channel and CBS Sports's website. It's interesting to see CBS Sports form partnerships with various companies to stay relevant among different sects of sports fans w/o becoming overbearing like ESPN, Fox and NBC: college basketball (Turner), pro football (NFL Network/NFL Films), sports video game fanatics (Sony).
  • Piers Morgan signed off of his CNN show on Friday night. Where is he headed next? It was believed that Morgan would host weekly specials on CNN but it seems like that is off the table now. He doesn't fit in with any other cable news net in existence: conservative (Fox/The Blaze/NewsMax), hard news (AJA/BBC), liberal (MSNBC), alternative (RT America), ethnic (Fusion/Black News Television Channel). HLN would fit in well but where would he be placed on the schedule? This is why it looks like Piers is done with American television, in my opinion.
  • OZY Media, a trendy news website which was founded by former MSNBC anchor Carlos Watson, has received an investment from German powerhouse media company Axel Springer, who also happens to be in talks with Forbes. Could a merger be brewing between Oxy and Forbes, owned by Axel Springer and led by Carlos Watson?
  • Yahoo is trying to buy NDN according to the Wall Street Journal. NDN is a video provider which serves video to various websites including newspapers and blogs. This could be extremely beneficial for Katie Couric if she's able to garner major interviews for her new show. If NDN and Yahoo become 1 entity, a big Couric interview could reach the same amount of viewers worldwide which a huge TV interview would reach because the interview would be syndicated to thousands of websites and most likely be featured on Yahoo's front page.
  • New York radio is taking national television by storm in 2014: Boomer and Carton (WFAN/CBSSN), Mike Francesa (WFAN/FS1), The Breakfast Club (Power 105/Revolt), This is Hot 97 (Hot 97/VH1).
  • Turner is having trouble filling out the rosters for it's teamcasts which will provide team-centric broadcasts of both Final Four games on TNT/TruTV. Turner tried to hire away local radio personalities to call games but the owners of the radio rights to all four teams which employ the radio personalities (Learfield Communications and IMG College) said no. I have a feeling IMG College might've budged if Turner gave them some sort of extra access to the Final Four to use for it's online Campus Insiders outlet.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why "Good Morning America" Could Crumble Soon

Just one year after ABC News came out of the morning television race victorious, it seems as though all hell is about to break loose.

Josh Elliott, Good Morning America's newsreader, currently has four weeks left on his contract. ABC representatives are currently offering him a $4 million deal but Elliott's reps aren't satisfied.

Elliott has been credited for being part of the solution which moved "GMA" to it's #1 ranking and he believes he should be paid somewhere in the $8 million range according to the New York Post.

It doesn't help that Lara Spencer's contract is also up for renewal. Spencer and Elliott are seeking a bigger role in the ABC family and a better salary after Robin Roberts received an extension worth $14 million.

The trouble doesn't end there. George Stephanapoulos's contract ends sometime in 2014. It is believed that his contact expired in January but obviously he's still an active member of ABC News since he hasn't missed any time off. 

If his contract actually did expire in January, there are clues that he might have received a temporary extension other than the fact that he still shows up to work.

It was announced in February that Stephanapoulos would split his co-hosting duties on "This Week" with other ABC News correspondents. Because of the stability Stephanapoulos brings to the Sunday morning political show, I doubt this move was initiated by ABC execs.

My theory is that Stephanapoulos temporarily extended his contract with ABC News in exchange for more off time on "This Week" and a deeper negotiating period to come.

How "World News" Affects "GMA"

It is well known that Stephanapoulos is aiming to become the next anchor for "World News" after Diane Sawyer. But there are some boundaries getting in his way.

The first boundary goes by the name David Muir. Muir is rumored to be favored by both Sawyer and ABC execs as the next person to take over the throne.

ABC recently extended his contract and gave him a promotion as the co-host of "20/20," but how long can ABC keep him happy there until he decides that he wants more?

The second boundary is Diane Sawyer. Sawyer is in her 60s but doesn't seem inclined to want to leave anytime soon. To be honest, there's no reason for her to leave in the first place. 

She still does her job very professionally to the T (with the exception of Election Night when some thought she was drunk) and she's holding the ratings steady against Brian Williams, who seems to be unbeatable.

ABC has very few holes to fill for a lot of people and the storylines all intertwine with each other. 

1. Re-sign Josh Elliott for $8 million or not? If you re-sign Elliott for $8 million, you keep "GMA"'s chemistry on the right footing and most of all, you have a heir to George Stephanapoulos' GMA chair. Stephanapoulos will be leaving his GMA chair in the next couple of years, months or days and right now there's no one better suited for the role than Elliott.

If Elliott does decide to leave, where can he go? He is rumored to be talking to NBC in a part-time news/part-time sports role (similar to Bob Costas and Bryant Gumbel's skillsets) but there's no room for him. "Today" just added Carson Daly, Willie Geist and Tamron Hall to their staff and Matt Lauer isn't leaving for at least another year or more. MSNBC might be able to fit him on "Morning Joe" but all other slots are taken.

There's no room for him in NBC's sports department either. NBC already has Costas, Dan Patrick, Liam McHugh, Dan Hicks and Al Michaels under their stable. Unless one of those guys leaves their perches, where does Elliott fit in? And I doubt NBC wants to start another low-rated talk show on their sports network like they did with another ex-ESPNer, Michelle Beadle.

This is why at the end of the day, ABC still has leverage over Elliott. Unless a departure falls into his place at 30 Rock, Elliott will have to continue to call Times Square home.

2. Re-sign Lara Spencer or not? This seems most likely event to occur. Spencer's representatives don't seem to be struggling with ABC according to the NYP. If Elliott decides to leave, it may even leave room for ABC to pay Spencer more than they initially would've.

Spencer doesn't have any leverage either because there are no other networks vouching for her to move. Her most comfortable landing spot could be something such as a HGTV hosting gig, but she would never be able to make as much money in that role as she does now with "GMA".

The only thing that might throw Spencer's negotiations off is if Elliott is able to convince ABC to pay him $8 million. It would be almost disrespectful for Spencer to continue in that role getting paid less than Elliott when they fulfill the same purpose for the show and it's very unlikely ABC is willing to pay $8 million to both of them.

If Spencer does decide to leave, expect Sara Haines to take her place.

3. How long will Stephanapoulos stay with "GMA"? When Stephanapoulos signed on to join "GMA," it was common knowledge that he was taking over to build his repertoire for the top role at "World News". 

As the years go by, Stephanapoulos's patience is winding down. In my opinion, as long as Sawyer stays and he's being primed to take her place then Stephanapoulos will stay. But if Stephanapoulos continues to take a back seat to David Muir in both the headlines and substitution roles on "World News", then it may be time for him to say his last goodbyes even though he's worked so hard for this dream.

CBS and CNN will take him in a heartbeat. He could easily become the face of CNN alongside Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer or he could become the newest and youngest face of "60 Minutes" at CBS whilst also covering the biggest stories in the world. CBS is launching a digital news network soon and if they could convince someone as big as Stephanapoulos to pave the way, it would be a huge win for them.

4. Possibilities from most likely to least likely but still possible:

Stephanapoulos and Spencer IN/Elliott OUT
Stephanapoulos, Spencer, Elliott IN
Stephanapoulos, Elliott IN/Spencer OUT
Elliott, Spencer IN/Stephy OUT
Elliott, Spencer, Stephy OUT

5. Nuclear Option: If all three leave the show over the course of the next 6 months or if two of three leave together (particularly Elliott and Spencer), "GMA" is back to square one. "Today" has finally found a pep to their step again and they're just waiting for "GMA" to screw up. This would be it.

If only one of them leaves, as long as it's cordial like Sam Champion's departure was, the show will move on and continue it's dominance.

6. My gut feeling/prediction: This story reads too much like Ann Curry's for George Stephanapoulos. Muir is a young, handsome anchor who can easily draw the female demographic. He also appears on "World News" with Sawyer more than Stephanapoulos does and he's helped increase ratings in the demo. 

I foresee Stephanapoulos leaving "GMA" under bad circumstances (although nowhere near as bad as Ann Curry) with Elliott taking the anchor chair at "GMA," Muir taking over "World News" and Spencer staying where she is at the "Pop News Desk". We'll see this movement start to progress in about 6 months or less.

"GMA" will keep it's ranking in first place while Stephanapoulos will leave for CNN.

CONCLUSION: Why could "GMA" crumble? Because ABC risks losing a future heir to the top host chair at "GMA" and they risk losing the person who currently holds that top host chair if he's not given the promotion he deserves sooner rather than later. They also risk the chance of losing chemistry if more than one piece to the puzzle leaves such as the potential departures of Elliott/Spencer together.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why MyNetworkTV's Acquisition of "The Walking Dead" Is Smart

MyNetworkTV has acquired the rights to air one of television's most popular shows once a week beginning this fall.

AMC's "The Walking Dead," normally a TV-MA rated show, will debut on a date to be announced with a TV-14 rating due to editing which will be done to fit broadcast television standards.

This is a really smart move for Fox because it gives viewers a reason to tune in to MNT for the first time in a while. Despite being renewed up to the 2016-2017 season, many have questioned what 21st Century Fox wants do with the network and it's affiliates.

There were talks of adding Thursday night NFL games to the network but those ended rather swiftly. The network was stuck between a rock and a hard place with no identity until now.

Depending on how successful this move is, Fox can sell MNT to content producers and advertisers as the home of reruns for critically-acclaimed shows. MNT only has enough space to rerun a show twice a week which means that it doesn't impede on any potential online licensing fees (Netflix or Amazon might not be willing to pay as much for the licensing fees of a show if it's being aired on television for big blocks of time).

If you want to binge-watch "The Walking Dead," you still have the option to do so on Netflix. But if you're already caught up and want to re-live some of your favorite episodes once a week or if you want to catch-up with the show in a more traditional way, you have the option to watch on MNT.

Because MNT reaches 97 percent of Americans, "TWD" reruns will also give AMC a chance to expose their popular show to potential new viewers who may not be aware of it (We tend to forget that not everyone has cable. As of 2012, the number of subscribers was at 61.7 million which means at least 238 million people didn't have cable or satellite. With the increase in subscription costs, that number has most likely risen). Those viewers could also potentially turn into regular viewers on AMC Sunday nights.

Fox is also playing defense with this move. "TWD" has so many superfans that it wouldn't be an unforeseen circumstance if they won in the demo or at the very least took away some viewers who may have watched Fox's rivals if "TWD" wasn't on TV at the time (Vice versa, it could also hurt Fox if their shows against "TWD" are weak).

It's also a big plus that MNT will be the only place to watch "TWD" reruns unlike the other shows currently on MNT's schedule which air on other networks.

Some media critics argue that MNT should be producing original programming. In the old guard traditional media world, cable television aired repeats while broadcast television produced all of the original award-winning content. But we don't live in that kind of world anymore.

Everyone is producing original content. Playstation is. Netflix is. TNT is. Your neighbor with a huge following on YouTube is. Why enter such a crowded field? There's nothing wrong with being a broadcast network which airs syndicated reruns as long as the other major broadcast nets aren't following the same strategy (both now or 30 years from now).

I would argue that MNT choosing to air reruns helps invigorate broadcast television because it gives free TV viewers another choice which they've never had before without taking on too much financial risk on the network's part which in effect keeps them on air.

Based on the ratings on both cable and broadcast, viewers are very satisfied with the choices they currently have. Also, now more than ever (for the most part), quality shows always find a way to get on air either on TV or online even if they're denied in the beginning of their process. For example, "TWD" was denied by HBO before joining AMC. One less broadcast network producing original shows doesn't hurt a new show's chance of getting on air, the future of broadcast TV or their own bottomline.

(SIDENOTE: Choices in today's broadcast TV model include: Original high quality shows (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, The CW), Spanish-language (Uni, Tele), African-American focused (Bounce), Old reruns from the 70s, 80s (This TV, Retro), Old reruns from the 2000s (MNT, Ion) etc.)

We also can't forget that it wouldn't make sense for Fox to have two of it's own broadcast networks competing for pilots. Fox is already producing enough shows for itself, FX and it's sports properties. It doesn't need any more stress on it's hands.

"TWD" is a proven product which has a following no matter where it goes which means that it'll guarantee MNT a viewer base it didn't have before. Original programming poses too much of an unnecessary risk.

Hopefully, Fox tries to pick up the off-network rights for other major critically-acclaimed shows such as "House of Cards," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland" etc. Broadcast television deserves a channel with cable reruns to give cord-cutters/non-cable subscribers a taste of what they're missing. 

FNTSY Sports Network Aims To Make Noise In A Crowded Field


The emergence of television over the internet has broadened viewers' choices like never before. One of those choices might prove to be very valuable once football season commences this fall.

FNTSY Sports Network is the first 24-hour network dedicated to fantasy sports. As long as you have a Facebook page, you have the ability to watch various programs on the channel live and for free.

It's an experience which is really easy and simple compared to other online television experiences which require you to authenticate who your cable provider is.

I've kept a keen eye on the network and have watched hours of content from time to time. Even though this network isn't being operated or produced by a major media conglomerate, the content being churned out is extremely impressive and of high-quality.

First Impressions

The network's studios are very flashy and appealing to the eye without being too "in your face". The graphics displayed on-screen complement the main commentary of whatever program is on air and they don't get in the way of the viewing experience (unlike Fox Sports Live's old graphics scheme).

They feature an innovative Twitter widget on the left side of the screen which shows various tweets from some of the biggest personalities in sports.

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As NFL free agency got underway, it was really cool to see a rolling graphic of tweets from Adam Schefter, Yahoo! Sports, Ian Rapoport and other NFL insiders. The tweets weren't in real-time but it's still a really good idea which makes the viewer feel like they are up to speed with everything going on in the sports world.

The personalities on the network also seem to be very well-versed with how television works even though they aren't well known. Many of them have experience from working with other Canadian sports outlets including the flagship show's main host, Laura Diakun, who covered the Olympics for CBC.

Daily Programming

The network only has three programs which run on a consistent basis. Those shows include a Sirius/XM morning radio show which they produce and simulcast live, a fantasy version of "SportsCenter" known as "Fantasy Sports Today" and a call-in show known as "Gametime Decisions".

In between those programs, the network broadcasts podcasts from RotoExperts bloggers (it's sister website) and intersperses YouTube videos from it's personalities. The channel also has a partnership with Pro Football Focus to showcases their bloggers and YouTube videos.

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The channel also seems to be getting major support from legitimate, high-brow advertisers such as Monster Headphones, Ford and Bud Light (although all the ads are Canadian-based). The number of advertisers and types of advertisers a new network can garner is a key determinant of how successful the network can be.

Al-Jazeera America, for example, barely has any major advertisers willing to align their products with AJA's programming which makes their respective ratings problems even more dire.

Room to Grow

Despite all of these positives, the channel definitely has room to grow. There's barely any diversity in their on-air staff -- one woman and no people of color. A YouTube channel with highlights from various shows exists but it's not promoted on the official website or on-air.

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FNTSY Sports Network also shares most of it's personalities with RotoExperts but if you surfed through any of their websites, you wouldn't be able to tell. Not to mention, a lot of content on the channel's website and some of the lists displayed on-air come from rival websites like Yahoo!, CBS and ESPN.

The channel has also had a tough time staying relevant. When NFL free agency kicked off, instead of breaking down how player moves could affect their fantasy stock in real-time, fantasy baseball was the main topic of conversation.


1. Broaden the definition of fantasy sports - Fantasy sports in it's simplest form is the management of online teams based on statistics but there are other forms of playing fantasized sports which aren't necessarily termed as "fantasy sports".

  • Gambling is a major frontier which all the other sports networks (except FS1) don't feel comfortable discussing due to the conflicts of the interest. Why not take the lead in giving viewers the best strategies to being successful (especially with March Madness and Triple Crown horse racing coming into the horizon)?

  • averages millions of views from video game fanatics who tune in to watch contestants battle it out to determine who the best player of any given video game is. Why not take some of their share in viewers and organize live televised FIFA, Madden, NBA2K tournaments featuring some of the most well-known players who have massive followings?

  • A lot of the conjecture seen on sports television deals with predicting what's happening next. Why not bring in Nate Silver-type statisticians to analyze and predict who will win games and who fans should pick in their March Madness brackets?

2. Build a blog network - It seems like this strategy is already starting to take place but build a network of existing expert fantasy blogs which will distribute videos from the channel and build recognition for the brand. Include those bloggers as your most prominent guests.

Campus Insiders has a group of "insiders" who they depend on for news in their respective geographic areas. CI doesn't employ them but instead promotes the insider's website on their webcasts in exchange for news. FNTSY could do the same with fantasy bloggers.

3. Start a sports medicine team - Success in fantasy sports is predicated on the athlete's health. Bring in some doctors who can break down injuries and the health of major athletes in an entertaining, educational way. It builds awareness for issues involving health and keeps fans more educated.

4. Cross-promote - SportsGrid deserves their own half-hour show breaking down what's trending in sports. They, as well as RotoExperts, also need to have FNTSY Sports Net videos pinned down on their front page.

5. Bring on more high-profile guests - So many athletes and high profile figures in sports do satellite tours and phone call-ins. Invite them onto your shows as guests and talk fantasy sports with them. These guests usually get asked the same questions on every single radio and TV show they appear on, so why not take advantage of your fantasy angle and try to get compelling answers that might create buzz for the network.

You'll also be able to draw more viewers in if they hear that their favorite athlete is on the air. FNTSY would also be smart to take advantage of the fact that they have the ability to reach both Canadians and Americans when trying to entice guests to come on their shows. The highest profile guest to come on so far has been Jonah Keri.

6. Record the podcasts using video - As mentioned before, FNTSY airs RotoExperts podcasts during the night to fill in time. The conversations seem genuine but we can't see who is talking because a graphic with text is the only thing displayed.

Television is a visual medium. Make sure the viewer can see who is talking and the interactions occurring because if they can't, remote buttons will be clicked immediately.

BUT, if you're going to air podcasts with no video, change the graphics around to reflect the progression of the conversation. Show me the stats which the hosts are talking about or a tweet with the same information the host and guest are discussing.

7. Entice some stars to become spokesmen/ambassadors - In today's polarized market, you can't gain a fan base unless you're endorsed by somebody else with a fanbase of their own. FNTSY has already hired Hall-of-Famer Chris Doleman to help promote the network.

The problem is, what 18-24 year old male knows who he is (no offense)? You have to bring in well-known athletes who're prominent fantasy players and seem dedicated to media to come endorse your product. The one person who immediately comes to mind, despite his volatility: Chad Ochocinco.

8. Find a partner with connections if you don't have to give up too much - In order to build brand awareness and find more investment money, you may need to partner with someone in the mainstream media. If FNTSY can find a way to do that without giving up their independence or a major stake in the company, it'll help them compete with the other big dogs in the sports TV industry.

Jon Klein (former president of CNN) and Jeff Gaspin (former president at NBCUniversal) are already partners in the venture but a partner who currently doesn't have their own sports TV network such as Turner, DirecTV, Discovery Communications, Yahoo!, Dish Network, Sirius/XM, one of the sports leagues etc. might be able to provide access to athletes, information/stats, on-site locations, funding, guests, programming and distribution on cable operators which FNTSY couldn't get on their own.

9. Provide live companion programming - During NFL Sunday afternoon games or during the baseball/basketball seasons, broadcast live from the studio (or a college campus, a bar or on-site at the sporting event). Become the best resource for stats, scores and injuries which could affect popular fantasy players. Fans of this age lack a reliable second screen companion which can provide those kind of things all-in-one to complement the viewing experience (except for Twitter of course).

10. Be different - Become the voice of the 18-34 year old sports fan who feels like their voice is not being properly represented or heard. Don't be afraid to cause controversy but don't intentionally cause controversy either. This type of network thrives on debate but you'll only gain respect from fans if you can debate intelligently rather than spew nonsense.

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The Future

Can this network work on television in a 24-hour format? Possibly. But it's going to be pretty hard to do so without any rights to live sporting events (see NBCSN and FS1's ratings).

Unless it can find a brand name to partner with (or if they're willing to pay a fee), I doubt FNTSY will be able to gain carriage on cable systems in the United States.

In my opinion, this channel works better as it is in it's current state (in the U.S.): Internet-delivered network/connected TV app.

If I were in charge, instead of pursuing a 24 hour network, I would produce an array of studio shows and distribute them on regional sports networks which have plenty space before and after the game. I would also serve as a complement channel to all of the pay-per-view packages which the sports leagues bring to fans each night.

You would reach more viewers through these strategies than you do as a fledgling 24/7 cable channel struggling for viewers and carriage.

But, FNTSY Sports Network isn't giving up. They've already signed a deal with at least one Canadian cable operator and hope to continue the push onward.


Pictures courtesy of Twitter

Monday, March 17, 2014

Top 3 Networks Who Should Be Bidding On WWE TV Rights

The WWE is currently in talks with various media companies to gauge interest in their television rights deals for "Raw" and "Smackdown".

USA Network's exclusive period of negotiations is over which opens the door for Viacom, Fox, AMC or Turner to take control.

Rumors have surfaced that AMC is looking to buy WWE Entertainment as a whole but unless they're willing to overpay for the company, I doubt Vince McMahon will entertain any potential buyers.

WWE doesn't fit with AMC's programming strategy of scripted dramas but it would fill in holes on nights where AMC isn't as successful and it would give them more top 10 shows on cable TV to showcase to advertisers.

Viacom looks like they're in the lead though. Spike TV is supporting the #2 most popular MMA league, Bellator, and it could use the WWE's ratings as a lead-in. Spike's contract with the TNA is also expiring which leaves room for the WWE to step right in. 

Viacom might even be willing to implement some of Spike's sister networks into the deal such as MTV and Nick, both of whom have delved into a lot more sports programming since WWE was last on Spike (Lingerie football on MTV2, MLB on MTV, NFL cartoons on Nick, Kids Choice Sports Awards on Nick).

In my opinion, there's a lot of emerging players in the industry who should be willing to overpay for these rights to grow their properties but aren't currently active in talks.

AXS TV - Mark Cuban's entertainment net was launched to be the number 1 spot for live music on TV, but now it's facing competition from Diddy's Revolt TV. More artists may be inclined to give exclusive live performances, concerts, interviews etc. to Revolt rather than AXS because of their relationship with Diddy. If AXS acquired WWE, they could use those shows as lead-ins to their music programming and garner higher ratings than Revolt's music shows.

If an artist has to pick and choose between AXS and Revolt, they'll pick AXS because they'll have access to a bigger audience. AXS would also have an arsenal of established stars whom they could spinoff into various original shows which fill the schedule.

El Rey - This brand new network from Robert Rodriguez is targeting the same demo that watches WWE, males 18-24. It's a network which is trying to gain name credibility, is backed by Comcast and features Lucha Libre wrestling and action movies. There's no better way to grow your brand than to align with another established brand.

ESPN - How sweet would it be to dominate Monday nights in the fall. The only program which is in the double digit millions in terms of ratings during the NFL season on Monday nights is "Raw". 

Why not give ESPN2 or ESPNU a program which they can offer to sports fans alternatively if they don't want to watch MNF? You effectively take your main competition away and have even more eyebrows watching ESPN-branded programming.

This helps make ESPN seem more cool to the 18-24 year old male who isn't a major sports fanatic and it gives the WWE a perfect strategic partner to help promote the sport in a fun, interesting ways. 

ESPN has many creative minds and access to many different facets of the sports industry that could help open doors for the WWE that they previously wouldn't have been allowed to enter.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rick Sanchez Is Getting His Own TV Show

One of CNN's most interesting anchors to ever surface on the network is making a big television return in the Miami area.

Rick Sanchez will be the host of his own talk show, marking his first time back on television solo since he was fired from CNN, after making anti-Semitic remarks against Jon Stewart in a 2010 radio interview.

The show is ironically being billed as "The Daily Show" en espanol, with a mix between politics and comedy.

It will air in primetime exclusively in the Miami area on a channel known as Mira TV, which just so happened to be the Miami affiliate of a CNN Spanish-language TV block before CNN shut down the service. 

Mira TV was the beneficiary of various lifestyle talk shows produced and anchored by CNN personalities of Latino descent. Because those shows will no longer be supplemented to them by CNN, the station decided to take it upon themselves to produce programming on their own with similar concepts and most of the same faces who were previously on-air.

It also gives the station room to add new personalities such as Sanchez, whose show will air in primetime alongside María Elvira Salazar (a talk show host whose show was cancelled by CNN and then picked up by Mira TV) and Alexis Valdés (a Cuban comedian who will be back on TV for the first time since 2012 when his popular TV show was cancelled).

Sanchez currently hosts a mid-morning radio show from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on WIOD-AM in Miami and writes columns on many different issues for Fox News Latino. 

He also gave commentaries on current events for MundoFox although it is not known whether he is still a part of their news staff. His last commentary aired in November 2013 according to MundoFox's website.

Sanchez is well-known in the Miami community due to the many years he served as a news anchor for WSVN-TV's popular but controversial 10pm newscast. His latest move, hosting a talk show on local television, may signal what seemed to have already been inevitable -- Sanchez won't be returning to English-language national television on a full-time basis.

Sanchez's new network aims to focus it's talk shows on issues specifically affecting the local Latino community in Miami and surrounding areas. The top videos on their website feature conversations on topics such as whether masturbation is good for your health, the U.S.'s relationship with Cuba, Venezuelan protests and how Obamacare is affecting restaurant costs.

Sanchez was known for discussing these type of watercooler topics on his CNN show and should be able to adjust for an audience that will be able to relate to him more than his CNN audience did.

But will viewers be willing to support a talk show every night when there is such a variety of options on television and online? As CNN is learning, the 24/7 news/watercooler talk format doesn't work for 365 days of the year.

When Sanchez returns to television at the end of the month, Mira TV hopes he'll have a strategy intact to prevent Piers-ing himself out of television -- for good.

Source: Diario Las Americas

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