Thursday, December 26, 2013

Possible Destinations For Sports Television Free Agents

There's a couple of free agents in sports television which are sure to get the industry talking. Here are the names and where they could possibly be going.
  • Brent Musburger 
    • Currently: ESPN's top college football play-by-play announcer, Big 12 college baskeball announcer
    • Potential Possibilities: ESPN may keep him in the top position for one last year before forcing him to retire to make room for Chris Fowler or ESPN might get rid of him immediately once his contract expires. If ESPN gets rid of him, then maybe there's a possibility for a CBS reunion with Musburger calling March Madness games although the likelihood is slim to none. Best case scenario would be that ESPN keeps him as long as he wants to stay.
    • Most likely occurrence: He re-signs with ESPN for at least one more year.
  • Rich Eisen
    • Currently: NFL Network's top host for Thursday night games/Sunday morning pregame show
    • Potential Possibilities: Eisen makes weekly appearances on NBC Sports Network's DP Show and has also co-hosted NFL Kickoff specials on the network so NBC Sports could possibly offer him a deal to move his interview show to the network with some contributions to their football programming sprinkled in. It'll be interesting to see if NBC wins the rights to Thursday night NFL games and makes them a co-production alongside NFLN (i.e. CBS/Turner's March Madness) or if they take on the games by themselves. Whatever the outcome may be, I would expect Eisen to be near the top of the list as the studio host. FS1 is also a possibility since it is located in the west coast alongside the NFL Network. 
    • Most likely occurrence: He'll re-sign with NFL Network.
  • Chris Fowler
    • Currently: ESPN's host of "College Gameday"
    • Potential Possibilities: CBS could transform it's college football studio show and make Fowler the centerpiece or they could move Verne Lundquist off of SEC games and place Fowler into that spot as the head play-by-play announcer. If Rich Eisen leaves the NFL Network for some reason, Fowler wouldn't be a bad choice to replace him except it's not known whether Fowler has much interest in professional football or moving to the West Coast.
    • Most likely occurrence: He'll stay with ESPN and become heir apparent to Brent Musburger.
  • Josh Elliott
    • Currently: Newsreader, "Good Morning America" on ABC
    • Potential Possibilities: CBS could offer him a combo news/sports deal which include a top correspondent position, a hosting gig on CBSSN, a possible foray into sports radio via CBS Sports Radio or even a possible cornerstore to the rejuvination of "The NFL Today" which constantly rates below "FOX NFL Sunday". Turner and NBC could possibly offer him the same types of deals as well.
    • Most likely occurrence: He'll stay at ABC News but will get additional responsibilities at ESPN which could possibly include round table discussions which intersect sports and politics/social issues etc. ABC News and ESPN seem to be getting more cozy than ever before and because of this, I would expect an expansion of ABC News produced shows on ESPN in 2014.
  • Lindsay Czarniak
    • Currently: Host, "SportsCenter" on ESPN
    • Potential Possibilities: NBC is always a possibility since those were her original stomping grounds and because she has a hubby who works at the same place. With NBC getting rights to NASCAR, Czarniak would make the perfect consummate host due to her experience with Turner's NASCAR coverage. Another possibility is one of the regional sports networks in the New York/Connecticut area like YES, MSG or SNY which could give the new mom more flexible hours to spend at home.
    • Most likely occurrence: ESPN. "SportsCenter" is launching a brand new studio and Czarniak is one of the future faces of the program who ESPN believes will bring "SportsCenter" back to the golden ratings which it had in the 90s. 
  • Tony Reali
    • Currently: Host, "Around The Horn" and Researcher, "PTI" on ESPN
    • Potential Possibilities: "SportsNation" could be changing hosts soon and may rely on a veteran host who doesn't get as much shine on the network like Reali. "Crowd Goes Wild" is another possible home on FS1. Whether the show gets cancelled or not, Regis will most likely depart the show in 2014 which leaves an opening for a new host to take over. I wouldn't even be surprised if he left sports television altogether and became a reality show host/talk show host.
    • Most likely occurrence: Tossup

Random Observations:
  • What happens to the CNN Center in 2014 and beyond? More CNN and HLN news shows are being moved to New York at Jeff Zucker's request while the remaining shows which are in Atlanta over the weekend are also slowly getting their time periods replaced by unscripted programming. Turner Sports operates their grand NBA productions in Atlanta as well but if Turner loses NBA rights in 2014, then what will be the purpose of Turner maintaining an Atlanta operation? 
    • If CNN and HLN are going to move all of their shows to New York, might I suggest launching a low-budget live online news operation using the studios in Atlanta? Bring back
    • Possible leasers to the CNN studios in Atlanta? SEC Network, Tyler Perry, Bounce TV, UP TV, The Weather Channel, Revolt TV, Cumulus (if they decide to delve into TV production)
  • Ben Sherwood: Media Person of the Year. Sherwood led ABC News to the #1 spot in morning television ratings throughout 2013, the #1 spot in digital news website rankings in conjunction with Yahoo!, launched a cable news network, brought diversity to the network with the hires of Byron Scott and Ryan Smith, became better partners with ESPN by co-hiring Nate Silver and giving up the sports portion of their website to ESPN. No other news organization had as many highlights in 2013 as ABC News.
  • New Year's Eve = Battle of the Hosts. New Year's Eve is going to include a unique battle of the ultimate multi-faceted, multiple job hosts. Ryan Seacrest, Carson Daly and Anderson Cooper will continue to host NYE celebrations live for ABC, NBC and CNN respectively. But this year, Nick Cannon and Mario Lopez are throwing their hats in the ring on Nickelodeon and Fox. The only thing which makes the battle less fierce is that Cannon's show will most likely be recorded while Lopez will be live from the West Coast. 
  • NBC/ESPN Trade ESPN recently made a trade with NBC giving "SportsCenter" more access to EPL highlights in exchange for cable rights to the Ryder Cup. In my opinion, this benefits NBC the most because not only do you get full rights to the Ryder Cup but now NBCSN's biggest property gets more promotion indirectly on the sports show of record. NBC should've thrown in expanded NHL highlights as well. It'll be interesting to see if other networks negotiate with ESPN for more airtime of their sports properties on SportsCenter.
  • BET and the NBA are a perfect fit. In 2014, the NBA's TV rights will be up for contention with ESPN and Turner Sports as the leading candidates. If I were Viacom though, I don't see what the problem would be with throwing your hat in the ring. BET and the NBA both serve the same demographics and sports rights would definitely increase the value of the network which would help it grow it's original production budget exponentially. 
    • BET also has a rich history in sports having formerly broadcasted HBCU Football on Saturday nights as well as a hit sports show, "Mad Sports". 
    • If BET wants to transform from being "a black network" to being a "top tier network", it'll help if it invested into some type of sports product in my opinion. TNT and TBS have helped their prospects in carriage fees because of the amount of live sports programming it has, even if their entertainment programming ends up failing in the ratings. It's the main reason shows like "Conan" have been able to survive despite it's lackluster ratings. 
    • Viacom has already shown interest in sports through the deal it negotiated with the MLB for entertainment shows on MTV2 as well as the numerous combat sports which air on Spike. Broadcasting an actual major sporting event would be icing on the cake though.
    • Realistically, the most likely situation between any relationship with BET and the NBA would be to create entertainment programming which promoted the game similar to what MTV2 and the MLB will do in the future. This could include moving NBA TV's "NBA Inside Stuff" to a timeslot on BET or giving NBA stars prominent guest roles in "The Game" or "Real Husbands" etc. Reality shows following the lives of various NBA players or a scripted series starring an NBA star are other possibilities. The WWE has begun producing movies starring wrestling stars which are unrelated to the sport and the NBA could do that sort of thing with BET as well.
    • In my humble opinion though, it helps both sides if the NBA carves out a small package of games for BET featuring some of the NBA's biggest stars on a night which doesn't interfere with the other packages already in existence. The NBA gets exposed to a network with a younger audience, expands it's reach and creates a direct connection with the hip-hop community while BET would complete it's quest to grow into a general entertainment network which serves any audience who is willing to watch without being stereotyped as "the black channel".
    • This would finally put BET on par with the big wigs in cable including MTV and it would be a perfect marketing opportunity to promote other BET shows as well as other shows aired on the Viacom family of networks (MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon etc.)
    • BET could even lean on Turner Sports/NBA TV or corporate cousin CBS Sports if they need help producing the games since Viacom has no experience producing major sports telecasts. The only things working against this ever happening is 1. Most of BET's shows are female-orientated and 2. The most obvious reason which is that Viacom has never shown interest in bidding for live sports. And if they did, it's more likely they would bid on behalf of Spike than BET. BUT......anything is possible in the TV world. 


Morgan Wick said...

Chris Fowler as the heir apparent to Brent Musberger?!? How much play-by-play does he do at all? Rece Davis does more play-by-play of sports people care about than Chris Fowler! Studio work is Fowler's strength; if anyone's the heir apparent to Musberger it's probably Mike Tirico.

Jessie Karangu said...

Morgan Wick: Fowler used to call the games which Davis is calling now before he decided to decrease his workload. Tirico is being considered as the heir apparent as well but the workload might prove to be too tricky.

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