Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Could Rogers/NHL-Type Deal Happen In America Next?

For the next 12 years, there will be one sole rightsholder to hockey up north. All it took was $5 billion for Rogers Communications to secure the English and French language rights to the NHL in Canada. Could the same type of deal possibly happen in the U.S.? Let's look at the prospects.

The NFL and MLB recently solidified long term deals with a vast array of partners for many years to come, so for at least the next decade we'll never see this type of precedent hold steady for those two leagues. It could play out differently though for the NBA, Big Ten and MLS which all have expiring contracts.

NBA (unlikely, but I wouldn't be surprised)
  • I doubt the NBA would do this kind of deal unless someone overpays them beyond their market value. They see how much the NFL benefits from multiple partners and probably want to do the same thing. But if there's anyone who would be willing to splurge, I'd say it's ESPN.
  • In order to further align itself with the NBA and control the sport like it controls college football, it wouldn't shock me if ESPN:
    • took over operational control of NBA TV
    • set up a joint movie division dedicated to promoting basketball in the vein of 30 for 30
    • encouraged potential NBA phenoms to join the NBDL rather than go to college and made the NBDL a main attraction on ESPNU
    • formed a separate entertainment division which gave NBA stars the opportunity to star in their own TV shows and/or Disney movies (like Kevin Durant's "Thunderstruck" film)
    • broadcast the NBA every night on ESPN2 while also increasing the amount of NBA talk which is seen on all of ESPN's properties
    • subliscened Thursday night games and some playoff games to Turner while controlling all editorial content and on-air talent
    • made Sunday night, the NBA's night since 1. the night is basically free between February and June, 2. ESPN has always had a struggle filling in Sunday nights when it's not baseball season 3. it's one of the most watched nights on television so broadcasting afternoon and primetime marquee games across multiple ESPN networks simultaneously could help the game a lot. 4. The NBA doesn't really have it's own night, unless you count Thursday (even though they share it with the NFL and college football).
  • Fox would be able to make it work as well since they have so many networks dedicated to the male audience (FS1, FS2, FX, FXX, FSN) but I doubt they're willing to put in billions of dollars to be the sole proprietor responsible for popularizing basketball when they have no prior relationship with the NBA, they have other commitments they have to make with their other deals and most importantly, the NFL is a bigger ratings draw. You don't want to be stuck with not having enough money to bid for the NFL Thursday night package because of splurging too much money into the NBA.
  • Turner would LOVE to do this kind of deal but they don't have the money to do it. The only potential partner who could help them, CBS, probably isn't ready to commit a lot of money to professional basketball unless it is profitable. 
MLS (very unlikely)
  • Rumor has it that this is the type of deal NBC wants to do with the MLS and US Soccer, but that the MLS isn't willing to do it unless NBC pays them with a substantial premium. Due to MLS' low ratings though, NBC isn't willing to pay that premium. So it looks like without a doubt, MLS will be selling to multiple buyers which could include NBC non-exclusively.
Big Ten (very likely)
  • ESPN and the Big Ten used to be close buddies. At one point in time, ESPN covered the Big Ten more than the SEC but as the quality of football product got better in the SEC, the Big Ten got put on the backburner. ESPN2 still broadcasts a lot of Big Ten football on Saturday afternoons but you can tell through the way ESPN presents it's college football coverage nowadays that the SEC is their #1 preference. It also helps that ESPN is starting a brand new sports network together with the SEC schools. 
  • Fox has the rights to the Big 12, Pac 12 and C-USA but none of those properties are marquee enterprises at Fox. C-USA is only used as filler programming and isn't really a major conference. The Big 12 is shared with ESPN, it's affiliates and coming soon Campus Insiders while the Pac-12 is also shared with ESPN and the Pac-12's own TV network. The only conference Fox seems to be aligned with though is on the basketball side with the Big East.
  • Taking the Big Ten away from ESPN and it's other rivals would make a big statement about Fox's commitment to live sports. Fox would finally have a conference it can fully indulge itself in and they would be working with a conference that is a good friend since Fox already owns half of the Big Ten Network and owns the rights to the Big Ten Championship game.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Katie Couric Parts Ways With ABC News To Join Yahoo!

katie couric leave

It's a rumor that has been reported for a long time but for the first time, it's very close to being official. Katie Couric is joining Yahoo! as a talk show host. Because of this new venture, Couric has decided to leave ABC News where she did specials, ratings stunts on "GMA", high profile interviews and helped with election coverage.

Due to the time constraints of ABC News as well as her own time constraints with her daytime talk show, there wasn't a lot of room for Ms. Couric to get involved with "World News" and/or "GMA". Despite this move, Couric will still continue her daytime talk show which is under a separate part of her ABC deal with the daytime/syndication division. But speculation is circulating that around the end of December, ABC will ending up cancelling her show due to lackluster ratings which don't live up to the costs of the show.

There are a lot of implications and questions involving this deal:
  • This is the first time, from what I recall, that a prominent TV personality such as Couric is leaving the comfort of television for the uncertainty of the internet in her prime. Couric had already been doing some work for Yahoo! but it was through ABC, which has a partnership with Yahoo! to produce original content. Is this the start of a shift in which online companies compete just as hard for famous personalities as TV companies?
  • Will we still see Couric on ABC? Yahoo and ABC News are still partners so it's very likely that we'll still see some of Couric's interviews spotlighted on ABC programming. If a big story breaks and Couric gets an interview scoop, I'm sure parts of the interview will play on "GMA" first and then eventually get released on with major promotion from ABC.
  • Could Couric still go to CNN or another TV network? Very unlikely. It's definitely possible as long as Yahoo! approves of it, but Yahoo! is her chief employer now and I'm not sure if Yahoo! wants anything getting in the way of the projects she's going to be working on for the website. Also, when it comes to CNN, rumor has it that there's bad blood between Zucker and Couric after Zucker left Couric hanging to join CNN.
  • Katie Couric has worked for basically every single TV network (CBS Evening News, NBC Today, ABC's "Katie", CNN DC Correspondent) with the exception of FOX, and I'm guessing with this move, she's now aiming to work for every single major website possible, lol. Because of the fact that she's been able to work for every single network possible, it's going to get harder and harder for her to find new challenges in the industry if this Yahoo! venture doesn't work out for the long run.
  • What does this deal mean for ABC News and Yahoo? This deal probably worked out in one of two ways:
    • The first way: ABC can't afford to spend anymore on "Katie" because of it's ratings problem. But ABC still wants to keep Katie in the fray so that she can eventually replace Barbara on "The View". ABC doesn't have a cable sibling that she can fit into (Fusion is for young people, Katie's not young) and Yahoo!, a good friend and partner of ABC's, is looking for media content. ABC lets Katie off the hook easily from her news obligations to spend the next year working for Yahoo! while she waits for Barbara to leave. ABC will then partner up with Yahoo! next year to bring Katie to "The View" while also making Yahoo!, the official digital partner of "The View".
    • The second way: The ABC/Yahoo deal is set to expire soon and this is Yahoo's way of saying that it's time to go their separate ways. Yahoo! is willing to do whatever it takes to become a major content producer even if it means stabbing ABC in the back and competitively bidding higher for one of their prized gems. Under the Mayer regime, Yahoo! has made content deals with CNBC and NBCSN so could this be the beginning of Yahoo!'s process of leaving ABC News and "GMA" for NBC News and "Today"?
  • Which is more likely? I would go with the first option. Couric was stuck in an ironclad deal with ABC which I'm sure ABC wasn't going to let go of easily if it wasn't with for the fact that Yahoo! is such a close partner in crime.
  • In the case that Yahoo! does leave ABC at the altar, where does ABC go? AOL and Facebook are two of the top options which come to mind. AOL's homepage still gets major views and if all or most of their news stories were redirected to ABC News' homepage, ABC wouldn't miss Yahoo! that much. Not to mention, HuffPo is a major force among the younger crowd and ABC News' infrastructure would provide better resources for HuffPo and HuffPoLive. Facebook would also be a great move if they pinned ABC News' stories and videos (which are relevant to what FB users' friends are discussing) to their users' timelines. For example, if an FB user on my TL is discussing Obamacare and near the post, there is an explainer about Obamacare from ABC News, I'm more inclined to click on it.
  • Who's next to move from TV to online if Katie is successful? If Katie can successfully parlay her star power into a great online interview show and if Katie becomes influential enough to take away some news scoops from the big networks, then expect Matt Lauer to be next in line. If NBC can't find a spot for him at their network past 2015, expect a bidding war for his services between Yahoo!, CNN and possibly Google/YouTube.
    • I doubt Yahoo! or any other internet content producers will be able to take on cable news in a 24/7 format but on demand series-es with occasional live broadcasts which are filled with occasional scoops can easily beat CNN, MSNBC, AJAM, Fusion in the ratings, especially if they're hosted by well known journalists such as Matt Lauer and Katie Couric.
    • For example, if Couric was at Yahoo! during the Syria mini-crisis from earlier this year and got the first exclusive interview with Bashir Al-Assad paired together with a live analysis show featuring experts on Syria, I'm sure the average total views on those videos that day would've topped CNN, MSNBC, AJAM, Fusion and their average ratings.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where Does Howard Stern Go After Sirius?

Ready or not, NBC’s ‘grooming’ Stern to follow Fallon

One of the biggest names in radio is going to be a free agent soon. Howard Stern is currently under a 5 year deal worth $80 million with Sirius Satellite Radio and although his contract doesn't expire until 2015, speculation is running rampant on where he might be going next. The radio superstar has ranted in the past about how unhappy he is at Sirius and has stated that he will most likely be departing once his contract is up. Here is a list of potential suitors who I think have a shot at Howard.
  • Ora.TV - The online television network founded by the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim and Larry King is slowly building it's library to possibly become the first high-functioning talk and entertainment online network. 
    • It has invested into talk shows hosted by Larry King and Jesse Ventura, news shows such as "NewsBreaker" and "Daily Rehash" and is even exploring going into reality television and scripted programming. 
      • I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually built enough content to look into launching a cable TV network. 
    • With that being said, the best way to find relevancy would be to bring on someone like Howard Stern who has a rabid fanbase that is willing to spend money wherever he goes. 
      • If you make him the face of your network, you're also helping the other programming on the network because it provides them a boost in potential viewership and promotion. Carlos Slim also has plenty of money to blow and would be the perfect candidate to help Howard syndicate his product beyond the internet just as Ora has done with Larry King.

  • Comcast - The cable powerhouse, which also owns NBC, already employs Stern as a judge on America's Got Talent so there's already a relationship intact. With all of the thousands of hours of Howard Stern's show available to repurpose, it wouldn't be that difficult to launch a TV network centered around Stern similar to Oprah's OWN network. It would be a higher rated replacement of G4 whose aim would be the typical rocker male and could even draw a female audience who is interested in Howard's celebrity interviews.
    • The problem with this potential partnership is that in order for the network to be successful, you would need a lot of other shows to fill up time. 24 hour replays of the Howard Stern show can only take you so far.
      • As Howard is getting older though, his passion for new adventures such as TV production are probably winding down. At one point, he started a major TV production studio which produced movies and TV shows but Howard has openly stated that he got tired of the long arduous process.
    • I still wouldn't count this option out totally though. If Howard is prepared for the long hours and if Comcast is willing to put up the money for it (or possibly split the burden with Sirius, which would help Sirius entice Howard to stay with them) then I don't see why this couldn't happen.
  • Podcast network - Howard has always been the type of person who is weary of leadership. Why not become your own leader? Finance a podcast network on your own which is prominently featured on ITunes and feature various other shows from on air personalities who you consider as proteges. It would even be easier to launch if Howard was able to partner with an existing online broadcaster who would be able to provide Howard with the infustructure to launch the network but would also give him the freedom to do whatever he wanted to. 
    • Podcast One comes to mind but I'm not sure if they can afford him. Pandora is another option because they have the money and they are already involved with online radio. The problem with Pandora is that they have no experience doing live talk radio so they could face a similar struggle with production values that Keith Olbermann faced at Current TV.
  • Reelz Channel or AXS.TV - Both of these newer cable networks are looking for ways to gain mass distribution across cable television. Howard Stern is a perfect way to draw buzz, acclaim and demand. Howard would be the cheapest option to draw a bargaining chip among cable operators with investing expensive live sports. 
    • A radio show simulcasted live on the network together with a potential primetime interview talk show could do wonders for ratings on both of these networks which have low expectations. These networks also have major investors who I'm sure would be willing to shell out money if they know they could get their money's worth.
    • Also, just as I said with Ora.TV, Howard would help boost the awareness of Reelz or's programs and would bring up viewership and promotion. Other studios will start fighting for a timeslot on either network, if supported by the prowess of Howard Stern.
    • Howard doesn't fit the demo for either of the networks mentioned but he would provide a big jump for their ratings in the same way "The Walking Dead" and "Breaking Bad" helped AMC become one of the top cable networks in the U.S.
    • And who knows? Maybe Howard would be even more of a team player and would take interest in doing other shows besides talk shows which would help the network. A relationship call-in show with Beth? A reality show? A talent show which only featured Howard as a judge?
  • Other options which could work that'll never happen: CNN, HBO/Showtime/Epix, back to free radio, stays with Sirius, retires 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Could Discovery Communications Make A Surprise Bid For Champions League? Steve Bornstein to IMG?

UEFA Champions League bidding has started and according to reports from the Sports Business Journal, the contenders include:
  • ESPN
  • FOX
  • NBC
  • BeIN/Al Jazeera
But, could Discovery Channel become a surprise bidder in this competition? Now, you're probably asking, Discovery Channel? That makes absolutely no sense. But actually it does. Discovery owns a network aimed at males known as "Velocity" which broadcasts mostly non-fiction reality programming about cars and once in a while broadcasts European car races from sister station, Eurosport.

(SIDENOTE: Eurosport is a sports network which Discovery owns a 20% stake of in Europe that focuses on niche European sports such as racing, tennis, cricket and Australian football. It also operates and manages a couple of race events all over the world. The reason Discovery owns a percentage of the network is because Discovery can package their own channels like Animal Planet and TLC with Eurosport to cable operators in Europe. The operators have to carry Animal Planet and TLC and pay a fee for them if they want to carry Eurosport, which is popular among European sports fans.)

With the most popular European sporting event up for grabs here in the U.S. and with experienced European infrastructure already in place via Eurosport, it might be smart for Discovery to step in and acquire the rights to help increase the viewership of Velocity's programming. It might even make sense to rebrand Velocity as "Eurosport America".

Discovery would up it's ante when it came to negotiating for fees with cable operators and would attract a different crowd of advertisers than it's used to if it got into the game of live sports. Broadcasting live events isn't anything new for Discovery either (Felix Baumgartner jump, Grand Canyon walk) and the idea of getting into sports broadcasting is also something which isn't new for Discovery. 

Discovery's TV division in Denmark, Sweden and Norway recently won the rights to broadcast European soccer qualifiers on their networks and at one point in time, Discovery was in talks with the ACC to start their own TV network centered around ACC basketball and football. Because of it's history and it's allegiances, a European sports network in America centered around UEFA soccer, motosports, European niche sports and non-fiction male programming wouldn't be that far-fetched and would probably garner better ratings than what Velocity currently gets.

(SIDENOTE: It wouldn't even be that far-fetched if Discovery got UEFA soccer rights and sublicensed over-the-air rights to NBC in exchange for F1 racing, some EPL games and/or promotion because NBC and Discovery have aligned together on many things in the past. A potential Velocity/Eurosport network wouldn't be a direct competitor to NBCSN because Discovery would probably still want the main focus of the network to be non-fiction programming since UEFA soccer airs in the afternoon and nonfiction shows are Discovery's forte for all it's networks.)

BUT................this is all VERY unlikely to happen because the CEO of Discovery Communications faced these questions already and he stated the following:
When Discovery announced last December that it would buy a 20 percent stake in Eurosport for $220 million, CEO David Zaslav said the company didn't plan to launch a U.S. sports network. "The U.S. sports business is completely different," Zaslav said, pointing to the "huge checks" networks have to write to acquire sports programming. "I don't see us getting into that business in the U.S.," he added.
Just in case it does happen though, don't say we didn't tell you so. Surprise bidders always come out of left-field.

Steve Bornstein is one of the most powerful names in sports media. He is said to be responsible for helping ESPN become the huge brand that it is today. He also helped lead the NFL's media strategy in growing the NFL Network and extorting as much money as possible from potential NFL TV partners. He'll be leaving his job as the head of the NFL Network next year and word has surfaced of where he might be going next.

Peter Chernin, a television/movie producer and former head of Fox and CVC Capital, a management firm which owns F1, have teamed up together to bid on IMG, a sports talent agency. They've enlisted Bornstein as their main adviser and plan to name him the CEO of IMG if they win the bidding competition. 

Throughout Bornstein's history, he has gone to television networks and helped them advance their purpose and grow from their beginnings. He did that with ESPN just as they were rising in the 80's and he also did that with the NFLN as it was rising from it's early steps of launching. So why move on to a sports agency?

It could be a couple of things. Maybe, he just wants to try something new and different from television. Or maybe the master plan is to turn IMG into a major content provider for sports programming. IMG already produces a couple of shows which have aired on regional sports networks in the past and it also helps produce global feeds for FIFA and EPL soccer games.

Will IMG begin to create sitcoms, reality shows, talk shows, dramas etc. centered around their clients/athletes and spearheaded by Bornstein, who has experience in many different facets of television? I think it's a possibility because sports and the stars which surround it are becoming more mainstream now than ever before. Let's also not forget that Peter Chernin is a major Hollywood producer and could easily create franchises centered around sports superstars who are also IMG clients like Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal etc.

These types of programs would fit perfectly on regular general entertainment networks. They might even possibly fit on regional sports networks or even one of the newer national sports networks which all have major holes to fill when there's no live programming. IMG could become one of the top notch producers of programming in no time as long as they don't force concepts on their clients and the ideas make sense.

Could Chernin and CVC desire Bornstein's services to launch their own sports/entertainment network? The likelihood is slim to none because most sports rights have been signed and go into the next decade. Also, the amount of sports you can sublicense from the ESPN's and FOX's of the world is slim because they have an array of networks which need to be filled. It wouldn't make sense for ESPN or FOX to sublicense games to a potentially new IMG sports network if there are timeslots in their own networks which aren't filled up yet.

But it should be pointed out that IMG has a lot of rights to shoulder programming from various schools and conferences and as mentioned before it has a lot of athletes which they could use to launch new programming for a potential network. They even have an online sports network centered around college athletics known as Campus Insiders which is focused on the same type of analysis and opinion you would get on ESPN and could serve as training ground for potential talent.

(SIDENOTE: Maybe Bornstein moves IMG, in the vein of Campus Insiders, into digital broadcasting for the benefit of it's clients? YouTube's first sports network with studio shows, reality/entertainment shows and games powered by IMG? In the past, Bornstein has pointed out that it's tougher to launch a sports TV network nowadays)

At the end of the day though, IMG has too many relationships with the establishment right now to go on and start it's own rival outlet so once again, the chances of this happening is slim to none. I guess time will tell as to whether Bornstein does end up running IMG and if he does, whether the company transforms from a sports agency to a sports media content provider with a sports agency business on the side.

  • One World Sports recently got rave reviews for their broadcast of the Uruguay/Jordan FIFA World Cup qualifier. I'm not sure how much money OWS has in their arsenal but if BeIN grabs the rights to the Champions League, BeIN may need to sublicense other sports content which it owns the rights to that conflicts with the Champions League. Look out for One World Sports as a potential destination. 
  • The Whistle is a sports website aimed at kids who are also sports fans. Their main goal is to provide a behind the scenes look of what's it's like to be an athlete in professional sports as well as instructional tutorials for different sports. The NFL, NASCAR, PGA, Major League Lacrosse, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter and a couple of other organizations/athletes all own minority stakes in it and also produce content which ends up on the website. The website also has a show which airs sporadically on the NBC Sports Network, Fridays at 3:30pm.
  • I believe this is a good idea. I watched a couple of clips from the website and found them to be interesting even though I'm not the target audience. They do a great job of NOT dumbing down things just because they're trying to reach kids. Kids may be young, but they aren't stupid.
  • The problem with this site is that I'm pretty sure there's not that many kids who visit it. They don't visit it because they don't know about it. The Whistle needs to align itself with a kids broadcaster so that it gets promoted well whether that means Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network or even AwesomenessTV becoming an investor/partner. Putting a show on NBCSN makes no sense because kids don't watch NBCSN.
  • Even if you don't team up with one of those entities, at least make sure you advertise heavily on all of those networks so that you raise awareness for your brand among your target audience. 
  • Also, the content which The Whistle churns out needs to be syndicated throughout the internet more because if it's not then it'll never get exposure. The NFL and NASCAR are minority owners in the website so there's no reason why segments from the website aren't featured on, or even during the NFL Network's pregame shows or NASCAR pregame shows.
  • My cousins, who are the target demo for this type of programming, only watch NBCSN if there's a reason too. The likelihood that they'll be watching NBCSN at 3:30pm on Friday is slim to none compared to the likelihood that they'll be watching NBC's FNIA pregame show which is before the NFL game or even the NFLN's pregame shows.
  • Turner does an excellent job of promoting the Bleacher Report during it's broadcasts seamlessly. Recently during "Inside the NBA", a Bleacher Report correspondent did a taped segment about the past week in the NBA with a comedic twist. It was a segment which was relevant to the NBA and promoted B/R. 
  • The NFL, NASCAR and other partners in this project might not have as much incentive to do this kind of promotion because unlike Turner's relationship with B/R, they aren't majority owners of The Whistle but if you take the time to build the website into a top notch destination maybe it'll eventually become something you're interested in taking a larger stake in and can make money from.
  • With the concussion issue and parents telling their kids to stop playing football, it's vital that the NFL invests in the kids' demographic and keeps their attention. If Rome fell then even the NFL can fall if they don't take the kids demographic seriously.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brian Stelter to CNN?

Can't say I didn't see this coming to be honest but according to Joe Flint, CNN is in advanced talks with Brian Stelter to host "Reliable Sources". They won't be sharing him with the New York Times like they did with Howard Kurtz and the Washington Post/Daily Beast.

When Jeff Zucker was coming to CNN, it was made very clear from the beginning that Zucker is looking for reporters who dominate in niche fields and there's no one who represents that more than Mr. Stelter. The announcement could come as soon as this week according to Flint.

Stelter has made appearances on "New Day" and "CNN Newsroom" more often than not whenever big media stories are in the forefront of watercooler conversation. On Monday morning, Stelter appeared on "New Day" to analyze the "60 Minutes" apology on getting their Benghazi investigation wrong. Stelter made a stunning statement and said that this controversy could be worse for CBS News than Dan Rather's inaccurate story about George W. Bush's service in the military.

What to expect with this deal:
  • A micro-site centered around Stelter's take on the media similar to the new websites being started by Bill Simmons and Nate Silver on ESPN's portal OR a radical change of "Reliable Sources" blog.
  • Host, "Reliable Sources"
  • Weekly appearances on CNN's "New Day"   
Other possibilities:
  • HBO made for TV movie based on Stelter's book "Top of the Morning"
  • Weekly interview series with playmakers in the media with a similar format to Stelter's recent interview with Aziz Ansari at 92Y. 
  • Appearances on HLN's "Showbiz Tonight"
This move does raise questions about whether Stelter will cover cable news. Kurtz had no problem with covering CNN and it's rivals and he continues to cover cable news over on "MediaBuzz" on Fox News. Stelter, on the other hand, made a stance to not cover cable news while he serves as a guest anchor on "Reliable Sources". Does it compromise his job if he chooses to not cover cable news? I think so.

I think Mr. Stelter needs to also serve as an unofficial ombudsman for the network and not be afraid to call out and cover CNN extensively when needed just as Jon Stewart does on a consistent basis. Critics will perceive not covering cable news objectively as a loss of credibility. Zucker shouldn't hire a media critic if he's scared of getting criticized.

As of right now, Bloomberg and CNBC have the lead when it comes to covering the business of media on television but with this move, it's possible that CNN will take their lead away. Let's admit it, covering the business of media is not a ratings powerhouse BUT if you can connect the business of media to how it affects the consumer in an interesting way then I think the ratings will be higher than expected.

EXAMPLE: CNN could do a whole hour panel discussion on sports TV rights. How do you make it interesting? Help consumers understand how it affects their cable bills as well as who benefits the most and who benefits the least. 

In Britain, there is a lot of ire because Champions League rights recently were sold to a cable operator who will move games away from over-the-air television. The BBC covered this story and was able to connect to the consumer in a relevant way by discussing how this move will make a national tradition of watching soccer exclusively accessible to those who can afford it as well as how this could decrease soccer's influence in the next generation. It's an example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poor and it goes politically into class warfare.

UPDATE: KA-BOOM!!!! According to Dylan Byers of Politico: 

CNN has hired Brian Stelter, the New York Times media reporter, to serve as the new host of "Reliable Sources" its Sunday media program, and as a full-time media reporter on its digital side, POLITICO has learned.

ANOTHER UPDATE - What are the repercussions of this deal? 

Stelter replacement: I'm not sure how long their deals are or how much they get paid currently but contracts are made to be broken and both of Capital New York's big media reporters, Joe Pompeo and Alex Weprin are fair play. They could also go back to where they came from and poach someone from TVNewser like Chris Ariens. 

How does NYT move forward: Despite the fact that NYT continues to increase it's output of high quality video online, there's nothing better than the spectacle of television for many writers who aren't used to stardom through face recognition. It's the reason Stelter, Silver, Zeleny, Saulny, Beck, Battista all left. In my opinion, NYT needs to find networks to team up with to give their writers a place to be on television. 

On the sports side, there's plenty of sports nets available that need content and could serve as a hub for writers to break news and analyze events. On the news side, there's not as many choices but it shouldn't be a predicament which prevents moving into television production. Each writer is an individual case. If you start a production company which pitches/sells shows featuring writers to many different networks then you end up owning, profiting from the show; you make the writer happy and you're spreading the wealth of your empire and influence throughout various networks.

Another option would be to take over primetime for either CNBC or Bloomberg which is 100% lackluster and failing for the most part. During the primetime block, mix up a potpourri of shows from different sections of the paper featuring star writers. It'll be tough to compete with established cable news stars but it'll give the newspaper an extra dimension which it doesn't have right now.  

When it comes to leaving NYT for an online startup/big website, there's nothing NYT can really do about that. A lot of times people make that move because they want something new to challenge them and they've reached their pinnacle at the newspaper of record. With that being said though, if you can fix the TV problem, then do it at all costs necessary.

Yahoo has helped diversify the role of it's journalists by giving them opportunities to talk sports on NBCSN while also giving them an opportunity to be featured on ABC News' programming. In order for television to no longer be a problem, NYT has to find similar arrangements which go even further than what Yahoo is doing by giving their writers their own shows. You never know, it just might end up being TV magic (see: PTI on ESPN).

Questions arise - Could all these people be leaving because they know something that we don't? Is the New York Times about to face major cuts? Are they about to get sold in a surprise move similar to the WaPo sale over the summer and if so, is the new owner advocating for less spending? Why has it seemed so easy for vets of the paper to simply move on? 

How does NYT rebound? If they have the money to, I would throw around a lot of money to sign Kara Swisher and Walt Mossburg, the two biggest blogging free-agents in the game right now. Try to work something out which is similar to the deal Andrew Ross Sorkin has with the NYT and possibly even try to get an assist from Sorkin's other employer CNBC for a possibly weekly or daily tech show/live broadcasted tech events.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sports Media Potpourri: MTV/MLB Deal Is Smart, Keith Olbermann Has To Re-Do ESPN Deal

Andrew McCutchen and David Ortiz will have a role in MLB's new partnership with MTV.
  • MTV and Major League Baseball have come to an agreement to become content partners. The main proponent of the deal is a brand new weekly show based out of the MLB Man Cave which mixes pop culture and baseball. The show would air on MTV2 (which has broadcasted sports in the past and is aimed for guys) and would be executive produced by Andrew McCutchen and David Ortiz, who are responsible for convincing baseball stars to come on the show.
  • SMART DEAL: This is a great deal for both sides. MTV2 continues to expand it's original programming through this deal and make it's distinction from MTV more defined while MLB is starting to find a way to reach the young demographic which has failed to connect with baseball as much as it does with basketball and football. The deal also helps MLB's biggest stars become more well-known. Star power is the biggest key to why the NBA has been so successful because the young demographic has stars they can connect with. The same can't be said for baseball. This MTV deal also could give MLB access to a deal with Nickelodeon in order to attract kids.
  • RADICAL IDEA: MLB Advanced Media has begun to go into live event production, recently acquiring the rights to the Global Citizen Festival. MTV and MLB could possibly become co-production partners with MLB assisting in providing venues while MTV provides the TV space to broadcast potential live concerts. This makes sense especially because live events are one of the few guarantees to a high percentage of viewers left in the TV industry. They could also partner to start a sports division to MTV which covers the off-the-court/field side of athletes in all different types of sports, similar to what this show will already be doing. 
  • MLB ON MTV?: Finally, I would even encourage broadcasting a baseball game on MTV once a year except, make it more of an event than a baseball game. Make sure players and managers are wearing mics the whole game, put a camera inside a player's hat and have two hardcore celebrity fans partnered up with a young, exciting baseball announcer calling the game. During the game, you could even have behind-the-scenes vignettes playing side by side with the action on the field and you could even turn it into a reality show and have the players pulling pranks and challenges on each other throughout the game. During the 7th inning stretch, have another celeb singing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and an in-game concert. Explain some rules of the game to fans who wouldn't know much about it and make sure the game is eye-catching both graphics wise and broadcast wise. Even include social media and let players tweet, post IG photos and Vine during the game and interact with fans. Traditional baseball fans will HATE this idea, but if you get the right people together then it could work. This exposes more young people to the game in a fun, interactive way.
  • AOL has a brand new show which follows athletes as they get tattoos and takes an inside look at how the tattoos define them and what they mean. The show, "My Ink," has already featured Ray Rice and is a really good idea which is different from what we normally see on sports TV. AOL will be trying to keep viewers of the show on their site by automatically playing related videos from ESPN's telecasts after an episode of "My Ink" is over. 
  • This is a good idea to keep viewers on your site but I think the strategy should be working the opposite way. AOL should be trying to convince ESPN to play segments from their show on "SportsCenter" and "NFL Live" in order to garner viewers in the first place. If you're not a daily AOL visitor, the likelihood you will know about this show is slim to none.
  • 2K Sports, which doesn't even have a deal with ESPN like AOL does, recently used this strategy to get viewers to check out their social media pages. 2K got an exclusive interview with Michael Jordan (which was used to promote NBA 2K14) and gave ESPN the video to use as a segment on SportsCenter. As people were tweeting about the segment played on SC, they also discovered 2K Sports' Twitter account which linked to more YouTube clips of the interview. The video featuring 4 minutes of the interview has now surpassed a million views.
  • Keith Olbermann has been causing a stir in the sports world recently after starting a brawl with WFAN and it's personalities who believe Olbermann has no right to talk about the Incognito controversy because he's a bully himself. Unfortunately though, not that many people have been watching Olbermann's smart and well thought out commentaries. 
  • Because ESPN broadcasts so much live sports, a lot of times there isn't enough room for Olbermann's show to start on time at 11pm on ESPN2 or ESPNEWS. Also, because Olbermann's YouTube account doesn't get much promotion, views on the page only average between 20,000 and 50,000 views which is pathetic considering the fact that ESPN is putting a lot of money into their latest venture with Olbermann.
  • The KEY to why Olbermann is even back at ESPN is because ESPN wants to do everything it can to thwart Fox's ratings (and to some extent NBC and CBS as well). If there's only two options for sports highlights at 11pm, then it's possible that Fox is able to cut in deeply into SportsCenter's ratings and become the clear alternative. But with a 3rd option, viewers who are looking for something different from SportsCenter have more than 1 option which makes Fox Sports Live less of a threat.
  • Based on Fox Sports Live's ratings so far though, it looks like Olbermann's services weren't needed as much as it was perceived to be at first. SportsCenter still has an overwhelming lead over FSL and it'll probably remain that way for a while.
  • With that being said, Olbermann hasn't done splendid in the ratings either because he hasn't had a constant timeslot for viewership to get used to him. In my opinion, it's unfair to Olbermann and it makes it tough for him to ever really succeed on ESPN2. So here's my radical idea.
  • RADICAL IDEA: It's time for ESPN to become a producer for another network. Keep Keith Olbermann in the ESPN family, keep the show at ESPN's studios, keep ownership of the show itself and keep all the ESPN producers and ESPN talent surrounding the show where they are BUT move the show to another none-ESPN network. Olbermann's job is mainly to split up viewership among viewers who don't want to watch SportsCenter but he can't do his job successfully if he's never on at a time period which is consistent. If you move his show to a none-ESPN network which always has the 11pm timeslot open and isn't a direct competitor and you provide the show with promotional support during ESPN's other shows then it would do so much better than it's doing now.
  • Networks such as Spike TV and TruTV would be perfect for this sort of venture. Both networks dabble with sports and both have a younger male audience but neither is a direct competitor to ESPN. Younger males will cling to Keith, even if he's not in their age group, if he's stern with his opinions. If you also promote the show during ESPN's morning block and during live sporting event on the air then it's very easy to succeed. After the show has played on the none-ESPN network, then replay it throughout the night on ESPN2 as soon as their live sporting event is finished. You could even put the show in a late night block together with a similar formatted show for Jason Whitlock. 
  • Olbermann discreetly expressed displeasure about his constant struggle with a timeslot, tweeting: "Reminder: we're preempted tonight for the college hoops marathon. So you can start NOW trying to figure out when/where we're on, Tuesday" Whether Keith wants to say it or not, you can tell he's frustrated. With a move like this, you provide fans with a constant alternative to SportsCenter, mess with FSL's viewers, spread the ESPN empire beyond ESPN (just as parent Disney has done by giving it's movies to Netflix rather than starting it's own movie network), and you can do this all while not enabling a direct competitor. 
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  • ESPN and TNT recently did an amazing job cross-promoting each other and their NBA coverage. The crew at NBA on TNT did a live hit on "SportsCenter," Charles Barkley did an interview with Chris Berman at halftime of Monday Night Football on the eve of the NBA season, ESPN's Mike Breen joined the panel on the TNT pre-game show (ESPN had a PR person tweeting and taking pictures live from TNT's outdoor NYC set as Mike Breen joined the panel), NBA TV's Dennis Scott and Steve Smith made an appearance on ESPN2's "Numbers Never Lie" and ESPN even telecasted TNT's Thursday night broadcast on ABC's big board in Times Square.
  • This got me thinking, could ESPN and Turner bid TOGETHER for the NBA rights coming up in order to keep other threats such as Fox away. Based on the cross-promotion from the 1st week of the season, it seems like both companies are comfortable with each other. And as far as we know, they did all this without the league prying them to do so.
  • RADICAL IDEA: It would be great to see ESPN and TNT cover the NBA TOGETHER in the next rights deal. Partnerships between sports TV companies don't always work as we saw with "The Baseball Network" from the 90's with ABC and NBC but sometimes they do work like what Turner and CBS do every year with March Madness. It would be great to see more Turner analysts on ESPN enhance their coverage which is typically very weak. Vice versa, a lot of the video content which Grantland produces on the NBA fits perfectly with NBA TV.
  • The potential combination of studio teams would be great. Imagine Jalen Rose and Chris Webber in the same studio. It would also help broaden the opportunities offered to broadcasters on both ESPN and TNT/NBATV. If George Karl, Doug Collins and Avery Johnson want to an analytical coaches' show, there's enough space on NBATV to do so. If Charles Barkley wants to do a college basketball game with Dickie V, it's much easier to do it on ESPN which has a grand library of games. In order to spice things up, once or twice a month ESPN and TNT analysts and hosts can even switch places. The opportunities are endless.
  • It would be great to also see the Finals split between ESPN and TNT. ESPN and Time Warner already have a history of working together. When Ernie Johnson had cancer, Mike Tirico was volunteered by ESPN to host TNT's 1st and 2nd round coverage of (I believe) The British Open. ESPN and HBO also have a deal to cross-promote HBO's big pay-per-view fights. Also every year, ESPN produces NBA TV's coverage of the NBA Draft Combine.
  • Whether they partner with each other or not, I think at the very least, we will probably see Charles Barkley and Dickie V do a game together sooner rather than later. Wouldn't it be cool if both of these entities became such good friends that they even let Dickie V call a couple NCAA Tournament games?
  • The network is owned by media investor, Jeff Sagansky, who has a major stake in entertainment companies which broadcast content during airplane flights. I think the network is a good idea but unless you're able to get really famous, well-known analysts who bring an audience with them, then I doubt this is going to work. It sounds like a HuffPostLive-style 24 hour conversation about various fantasy sports. This format would work well online but it's not intriguing enough to exist on TV.
  • In my opinion, if you want to start a sports network anytime soon, you have to invest in a product involving sports which gets viewers other than sports fans interested. A 24/7 sports network with nothing but relevant, quality sports movies and documentaries and some high-quality sports talk and news shows in the vein of "Real Sports" and the old Bob Costas HBO show could work, for example. You'd be able to attract families interested in inspirational stories, people interested in historical events and intelligent sports fans in need of quality sports journalism.
  • If HBO ever started a sports network which debuted brand new documentaries, brand new sports movies, quality sports reality shows like "Hard Knocks" and paired all that up with new episodes of "Real Sports", classic sports movies, other investigative sports news shows and other weekly panel and talk shows discussing taboo topics in sports; I personally think it would achieve the rarity of garnering decent ratings without the need for live events. (If possible, ESPN should team up with HBO and re-brand it's ESPN Classic network into "HBO Sports" and feature the best of ESPN's "30 for 30" series AND HBO's vast library of sports programming. Guarantee it would rate higher than ESPN Classic currently does.)
  • Another possibility for a possible sports network would be something dealing with reality shows based on all aspects of life surrounding sports. Females would love the drama and males would love all the access to their favorite athletes.
  • Anyways, sports documentaries/movies are the way to go if you're looking for a new way to attract sports viewers, not a 24/7 fantasy talk network. People love nostalgia as well as a chance to learn new things surrounding their favorite sports athletes. Look out for Epix as well as Netflix to cause a stir in the sports documentary industry. 

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