SBD/Issue 236/Sports Media

CBS Sports' McManus Does Not See NFL RedZone As A Ratings Threat

McManus Thinks RedZone
Will Have Select Audience
CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus expects the NFL's new RedZone channel to have limited distribution and to have little effect on his network's NFL ratings. The channel will provide live look-ins at NFL games when either team is inside the other club's 20-yard-line, the so-called "red zone." The NFL is launching RedZone this fall, and so far has distribution deals only with Dish Network and Comcast. "I think it will have a pretty select audience and I think the distribution will be limited, so I don't expect it to affect us that much," McManus told reporters yesterday during CBS' annual media NFL roundtable. Some have worried that if more widely available, the channel could attract viewers of the network games. Questioned if the issue of RedZone came up before CBS' recent two-year extension of its NFL deal, McManus replied, "We were pretty adamant that as long as it is a relatively small distribution, in other words it's on a premium channel, and that people have to pay a premium to get that service, I don't think it is going to hurt our numbers at all. But we are monitoring it very, very closely" (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

WHAT IS NEXT FOR REDZONE? MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted both Comcast and Dish Network last spring were "knocking helmets in different legal venues" with NFL Net, and he asked, "Who would have bet the over ... that Dish and Comcast would be the first carriers to put NFL RedZone into play?" While it "certainly is good news for NFL Network that these top players are in its RedZone huddle, the question at this writing remains: Who's next?" Distributors such as Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Charter and Suddenlink, which have kept NFL Network "on the sidelines over pricing and positioning issues, were expected to get in the game following Comcast's announcement last spring." But that "hasn't happened yet" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 8/25). In Albany, Pete Dougherty noted cable companies that add NFL RedZone "must assign it to a sports tier." The NFL is "trying to secure a monthly fee on par with the Golf Channel, but many operators are balking at paying the same price for a seasonal, once-a-week channel opposed to a 24-hour network" (TIMESUNION.com, 8/25).

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