Saturday, January 18, 2014

Al Roker Leaving "The Today Show"?

Is Al Roker’s ‘Today’ job in peril?

Interesting story from the New York Post today involving Al Roker's expiring contract with the "Today" show. According to their website, NBC will use Sam Champion as leverage while they're in negotiations with Roker to extend his contract. NBC believes that they won't have to pay Roker as much for his next contract because they could simply replace him with The Weather Channel's Sam Champion, who is almost as popular as Roker. 

Roker has told his agents to start looking at other places for him to move to in case his negotiations with NBC become icy. I doubt Roker leaves "Today" any time soon unless he wants to. Champion is under contract to host a morning show for TWC over the next three years and the likelihood that TWC will want their morning weatherman on another show full-time in the same timeslot is slim to none unless a strategy is worked out where he splits his time between the two shows in a similar way to what Roker (TWC/Today) and Willie Geist (Morning Joe/Today) currently do.

Also, Champion was drawn to work at TWC mainly because it's located in Atlanta which is closer to his husband in Miami than New York is. Will he want to go back to living in New York full-time? Let's also not forget that Al Roker is the MOST POPULAR host on the "Today" show according to his Q Score (an industry wide survey which tests the popularity of TV personalities). Could "Today"'s ratings erode even more without Roker at the helm?

"Today" will eventually need to transition to younger cast members and that transition is already in process with the additions of Savannah, Tamron, Willie and Carson. But with ratings still rocky, it wouldn't be wise for the show to make such a drastic change to it's lineup especially when you consider that Roker has been with the show for at least 18 years. Here's a list of possible destinations should Roker decide to leave "Today":
  • CNN - "New Day" needs a spark.......FAST! Roker might be the person that'll be able to provide that spark to an otherwise very bland copycat of "Today". Roker would also be a very trustworthy face to lead CNN's breaking news coverage of various weather disasters which occur every year.
  • ABC - It would be tough to pull off because as we saw with Ann Curry, viewers don't like to see anchors pushed off for no reason, but "GMA" could add Roker to it's cast and have him do weather part-time while also contributing weather reports to all of ABC News' other telecasts. Roker's production company could also receive a development deal that puts all of Roker's future projects on various Disney cable networks. The only reason this might not work is because Roker may not want to work at the same place as his wife and because "GMA" may not want to make any changes to it's lineup.
  • AccuWeather - AccuWeather is starting it's own 24/7 cable network to compete directly against TWC. The network would become way more valuable to cable operators and TV viewers with a face to lead the network who is well known in America -- Al Roker. The only problem with this potential deal is that AccuWeather is based in State College, PA while Roker would most likely want to stay in NYC where he has family.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Why Was An ESPN Show Promoted On MSNBC Today?

Very awkward segment (at least to me since I'm such a media geek) earlier today on MSNBC's The Cycle. They had ESPN's Jemele Hill and Michael Smith on to give predictions and analysis for this weekend's NFL Championship games. 

Toure (one of the hosts of the show) promoted the pair as friends of his, so maybe that's how they got onto the show but it still perplexes me that they had such a long segment on the show AND got major promotion for their show after the segment finished. The Numbers Never Lie decal was also very clearly visible. Let's remember that NBC, which owns MSNBC, also owns ESPN's archrival NBCSN. 

How did the higher ups at NBC allow this to happen? It's a perfect chance for NBCSN to promote their talent on another NBC network. Maybe this was part of the recent ESPN/NBC Ryder Cup deal in which ESPN traded it's rights of the Ryder Cup to NBC in exchange for more EPL highlights on SportsCenter? Maybe part of the deal was contingent on ESPN getting more promo on NBC shows which aren't affiliated with NBC Sports? Or maybe I'm just overblowing this whole thing?

Also, considering Keith Olbermann works at ESPN now, wouldn't MSNBC want to stay as far away from ESPN as possible? Normal viewers probably didn't notice and probably don't care if I'm being frank but it's weird that an NBC News show's first option to help preview a sports segment was to call up representatives at ESPN.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Questions to Ponder About NFL Thursday Night Rights Sale

nfl thursday night

News broke late Sunday night that the NFL is seeking bids from it's rightsholders (CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN) as well as TNT for a package of anywhere between 6-8 Thursday night games at the beginning of the season. The package would start next season and would be part of a 1 year deal. I have a bunch of questions about this. Some that I can answer and some that I can't. Chime in on the comments section to give your input.

Sources: Reuters, NYT

1. Why would the NFL sell rights to games normally televised on NFLN? Doesn't it weaken NFLN? Unlike 2006, when the Thursday nighters first started on NFLN, the network is now pretty well distributed and essential to the sports television diet for many fans. It's very unlikely that less games will mean that cable operators will do whatever it takes to drop the channel from it's lineup, especially because there's a chance that NFLN could win the rights to a playoff game sometime soon either in the divisional round or in the wild card (this all depends on whether the number of teams in the playoffs expands). With that being said, any reduction of NFL games weakens the network whether that's the narrative they want to push or not because it means less ad revenue. It also means that cable operators have a reason to offer less carriage fees to the NFL.

2. Why won't the NFL let Google bid for these games? According to Reuters, "Google, which had expressed interest in streaming NFL games in the past, was not asked to bid, according to the person." This is probably because the NFL wants these games on a well distributed network. Money will probably matter when choosing a partner but distribution and reach will matter more. Google doesn't guarantee the wide distribution that television does because everyone has different types of speed for their internet connection and no one knows whether Google could truly handle the number of people that usually watch NFL games on 1 stream.

3. Why does the NFL want the games on a wide distributed network? They want to use that network's platform to promote Thursday night games and make them just as big as Sunday and Monday night games, which they aren't at the moment. Having the first couple of games on a big network could give NFLN the momentum it needs to get their ratings for games as high as ESPN's and NBC's ratings are whenever they air primetime football games. The first package of Thursday night games would basically be a promotional tool/preview of what to expect later in the season on NFLN.

4. Why is this deal only going to last for only one season? I really don't understand this one right here. Maybe it's because they feel like they'll only need promotional support for one year and want to eventually move all the games back to NFLN in the 2015-2016 season? Or maybe it's just a short term precursor to a longer term deal which could take into effect after the 1 year contract is up?

5. What other networks could bid? According to Reuters, "The league also sent out requests to other TV outlets (besides the rightsholders and TNT), according to one person with knowledge of the bids. Recipients of those bids couldn't be determined" The only two cable companies which I could see possibly bidding that haven't been mentioned are Viacom and Discovery Communications, although neither has ever shown interest in bidding for sports and probably wouldn't bid for such a short deal. Who knows? Maybe the league gets into a revenue sharing agreement with a well distributed network that's considered an outlier in main street America like Univision, Ion, PBS. Or maybe AMC or A&E make a surprise bid?

6. Could ABC get back into broadcasting NFL games? According to the New York Times, it's possible or should I say plausible. "It is conceivable, for example, that ESPN would buy the deal and put the games on ABC, its sibling network in the Walt Disney empire."

7. Does the NFL prefer a broadcast network or a cable network? According to the New York Times, "The league’s preference would probably be a broadcast network like NBC, CBS or Fox, but it would also be pleased if a cable channel got the package."

8. Who is the favorite? According to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily, "I think Turner, Fox and NBC, in no particular order."

9. Could Turner actually broadcast the NBA and the NFL side by side on it's networks? A lot of people have ruled Turner out because they can't see NFL games airing on TBS or TruTV while NBA games air on TNT. I don't see what the problem with that would be though. Having the two most watched broadcasts on cable on the same night could mean LOADS of ad revenue especially because Thursday nights are one of the most watched nights on TV.

Many people are going to be looking at purchasing various things such as a car, a movie ticket, food etc. over the weekend. Turner would have the opportunity to offer ads on the two most watched sports shows of the night and could even garner more ad revenue at a premium because of how much the NFL means to advertisers. This would also help Turner grow their Bleacher Report brand immensely. 

10. Could TNT's NBA slate get pushed back if NFL games were to air on TNT? Most likely. They would either get pushed back or moved. I could see TNT starting their NBA season later OR moving the games to Tuesday nights OR moving their slate to NBA TV, which would give NBA TV a better slate of quality games (Thursdays are usually reserved for marquee games in the NBA). Turner could even use the NFL games to promote NBA TV which would give it more attention than it usually gets.

11. Could Fox Sports actually air Thursday nighters on MyNetworkTV? According to John Ourand, it's possible. He was asked if Fox Sports 1 bid for rights and here was his response: "Fox Sports was, yes. Could be for Fox, FS1 or MyNetwork."

12. Why would Fox air games on MNT instead of FS1? 

- As mentioned before, NFL has a preference towards broadcast rather than cable because it wants to ensure the widest distribution possible. Wide distribution = more promotion for Thursday night games = cementing in people's minds that Thursday night means NFL just like Sunday and Monday night do.

- Fox has decently rated Thursday night programming at the moment including "Idol" and "X-Factor". Airing NFL games on Thursday nights short-term would jeopardize those shows as well as Thursday night ratings long term since Thursday nights are already interrupted by baseball in the fall.

- Football rights creates more value for the MNT owned-and-operated affiliates that it owns and opens the door to possibly selling those local stations to conglomerates like Sinclair, who are looking to acquire as many local stations as possible. The ad revenue from the games could even spark MNT to go back to producing original programming, although that revenue would probably go to the Fox Sports department rather than MNT's offices.

13. Who do I think wins? It's a two-way race between Turner and NBC in my opinion. NBC could use these games to enhance their own Thursday night schedule and/or help out NBCSN, so they're in desperate need of these rights. Turner, on the other hand, could use these rights to start their own sports network and/or garner more ad revenue/carriage fees than they currently get as it is. Those two have the most to gain which means those two will bid the most. At the end of the day, my prediction is that Turner will be back in the NFL business and will become a strategic partner in NFL Media which encompasses NFL Network and Long-term, we could even see Turner working with the NFL and NBA to produce joint events/interactions.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tim Brando Show Out At CBSSN?

The Tim Brando Show already went through some changes in 2013 on the radio airwaves, moving from terrestrial radio to Sirius/XM, and now it looks like they may be on the move in the television world as well. Brando has been a major face of CBS' college football and college basketball programming for years which is why he fit so well on the CBS Sports Network. But, because Brando's show is owned and broadcasted on Sirius/XM, it's always been a very awkward situation to be on CBSSN given the fact that CBS owns and operates it's own sports radio complex.

Brando's show has been temporarily replaced by a repeat of CBS-owned "Boomer and Carton", which just started airing on CBSSN recently. But could "B&C" or another CBS Sports Radio show end up replacing Tim Brando permanently on CBSSN? Despite the hiatus, many CBS Sports personalities are still making appearances as prominent guests on the show.

The show's Facebook page has been very cryptic as fans have asked why the changes are happening. Administrators on the page say that the show is "negotiating the date of our return" although there's no word on if that means returning to CBSSN or returning to television at another home. Here is a list of some potential places we could see Brando's show if it doesn't return to CBSSN.

  • SEC Network - Brando has a storied history with ESPN and also currently hosts the pregame show to SEC coverage on CBS. His show is also very college sports focused (specifically in SEC Country) and it's no secret that Tim Brando and Paul Finebaum, the face of the network, are very close friends. Simulcasting his radio show on an ESPN-owned network wouldn't conflict with his gig at the ACC Network because Raycom Sports and ESPN are close allies but it could signal an exit from his CBS pregame job if he ends up taking additional hosting duties on the network.

  • Fox Sports 1 - Fox Sports 1 is in need of daytime programming and a show with as much of a rabid fanbase as Brando's could help provide a little jolt to the daytime ratings. FS1 could use this show to build credibility in the South among SEC fans as well. The biggest roadblock that could prevent this from happening is that Fox Sports has their own radio operation which they could simulcast shows from which means it doesn't need to depend on a Sirius/XM-owned show. The counterargument to that argument though, is that the show which airs in Brando's timeslot on Fox Sports Radio, the Dan Patrick Show, currently airs on TV on the NBC Sports Network. 
    • Liberty Media, the owners of Sirius/XM, have a relationship/history with Fox and because of this, a deal to bring Brando to Fox wouldn't be unexpected. Liberty owned 4 FSN affiliates at one point in time before selling the affiliates to DirecTV. 
    • The Atlanta Braves, which are owned by Liberty, are also television partners with Fox although the chances that bigwigs at Liberty Media will be involved in negotiations to put Brando's radio show on TV are slim to none.

  • RSN Syndication - A 3 hour radio show simulcast followed by a repeat could fill in 6 hours of legitimate sports talk for RSNs across the nation that struggle to fill holes in their schedule.
    • Liberty Media is looking to eventually acquire Time Warner Cable, which owns RSNs in LA and other locations. A radio show simulcast could help fill in various timeslots on those RSNs.

  • WILDCARD: ONLINE - Sirius/XM has a relationship with the MLB, which features Chris Russo on their network nowadays. Could Sirius/XM ask MLB Advanced Media to build a website which could host a video simulcast of Brando's show and other Sirius/XM radio shows? Or could MLBAM host a video simulcast on their sports website, Sports on Earth?

  • WILDCARD: CMT/GAC - Brando is openly conservative and a proud Southerner which fits the demographic of many viewers who tune into CMT/GAC. Both networks have also moved away from music and headed into a more unscripted format. With that being said, this probably won't happen unless Brando changes the theme of his show to include less sports and more entertainment fare. CMT also hasn't aired much sports programming other than a Cowboys cheerleaders reality series while GAC hasn't aired any sports programming.

  • WILDCARD: NFL Network - This would SHOCK me, but if the NFL Network wants to expand their college football coverage maybe this is the way they do it after NFL AM? already devotes more of it's resources than expected to college football so who knows?

  • The other likely possibility is that Brando's is OUT from television altogether. I would expect Brando's show to either come back to CBSSN or to be removed from television altogether unfortunately.

Search Here!!