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SCHANZER MAKES THE CASE FOR KEEPING THE BASEBALL NETWORK
Published April 13, 1995
Ken Schanzer is the President and CEO of The Baseball Network, the joint venture formed between MLB, ABC and NBC in July 1993. At The Baseball Network, Schanzer is responsible for all of MLB's broadcasting activities. Yesterday, he spoke with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY on the future of TBN and the challenges facing them post-strike. Excerpts follow: THE DAILY: Given the uncertainty surrounding the sport and the fact that the fate of The Baseball Network seems to be caught up in that, what's your assessment of The Baseball Network's future? SCHANZER: I have spent no time thinking about the network's future. I have tried to spend all of my time trying to do everything that we have to get done between now and the start of the season in a way that's going to make it clear before they have to make the decision on whether this is the best way to go. The best thing that I can do about The Baseball Network's future is make sure that it performs as well as it can. THE DAILY: Have there been any discussions between you and the owners on the goals that were set before last year necessary to renew or any talk of extending the deal? SCHANZER: I have had no discussions with the owners about either of those things. THE DAILY: Is there any time frame for a decision? SCHANZER: My instinct is if they were to decide that they wanted to go forward, the earlier they would make that decision the better that would be for us. It would make the sales marketplace more attractive for us and give us an opportunity to make deals for a longer duration. THE DAILY: What would be your primary argument to the owners against signing on with a Fox or a CBS? SCHANZER: Without knowing what somebody else's offer is, I can't say absolutely and definitively that this would be better than any offer that they could get. Although, my instinct is that an entity or enterprise like baseball is better off owning its primary marketing vehicle than putting it in somebody else's hands. And to the extent that it can maximize the value of that vehicle via an ownership enterprise, that's a very wise way to go. That control is terrific. It allows it to leverage all of its assets in one place and derive the maximum value for it. But, the one thing that something you own yourself cannot replace is the willingness of an outside entrepreneur to absorb losses in order to take on your vehicle. But, it seems to me that ultimately someone taking losses is not going to continue forever as an inducement for them to keep paying you money. Therefore -- almost by definition -- it is a short-term strategy to go in and out of the marketplace seeking to extract absolutely the maximum dollar from a rights purchaser. Because all you're going to do in the end is revisit what happened when baseball sold its rights to CBS for a dollar that bore no relation to its value. THE DAILY: Would the season ending without a CBA be the best hope for The Baseball Network, since another network might be unwilling to step up without a deal? SCHANZER: I have no knowledge of that. My hope would be that baseball, not just relating to network television but to a whole slew of things, will begin to embrace a long-term strategy of the way in which it ought to organize its affairs to maximize the value of the sport both for now and for the future. I would hate for an immediate, transitory event to be the prevailing reason why something were or were not done. THE DAILY: How were you able to maintain your sponsors through the strike? SCHANZER: We've spent a lot of time servicing clients. Making sure that they were happy. Keeping them abreast of what was going on. I think we gave them a sense last year of the way in which they were going to be treated. I think if you talk to sponsors they will say they had a very, very good feeling about the way in which The Baseball Network worked with them throughout last year and this year. You hold onto partners by treating them as partners. THE DAILY: There was a comment this week by Bill Giles on an all-baseball cable network. Is that part of The Baseball Network? SCHANZER: No, not now. That's long been a dream of Bill's and he's taking a good, hard look at it. If it got to the point where it were real, I'm sure that he would probably want to take advantage of some of the skills that repose in the people here. It is really very much in the exploratory stage. But I can't think of anybody in baseball who's better equipped to make that examination than Bill. THE DAILY: Are there concerns that this year's All-Star Game could be threatened by another walkout? SCAHNZER: In my heart of hearts, my instinct is that so many constituent elements of baseball were unhappy with being out on strike for so long that I think there is an enormous positive energy to try to get things resolved and not to disrupt this season. So that would surprise me. THE DAILY: What's the latest on the World Series situation between NBC and ABC? SCHANZER: The people who are involved in it -- NBC, ABC and us -- are very sanguine about its resolution. I don't think there is growing antipathy or any dispute rising. It is the ultimate non-issue. ... It will get resolved, and it will get resolved simply -- and I suspect in the relatively near future, because each of the networks has to make final decisions on its scheduling for the fall.