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Guggenheim Baseball Management, the new ownership group of the Dodgers, in the next six to 12 months must decide the future of the team's local TV rights by selecting "one of two lucrative alternatives to pursue at a time when marquee live-sports events have become increasingly valuable," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The "simplest move would be to sell their local TV rights to an existing regional sports network." The Dodgers would be entering the market "at the perfect time." News Corp.'s Fox unit is "trying to stave off a challenge from the new regional sports network that Time Warner Cable plans to launch next year." Dodgers telecasts "form the backbone of Fox's Prime Ticket, which would lose substantial value without the team's games." Recent TV rights deals for the Angels and the Rangers are valued at nearly $150M a year, including "equity in the sports networks." LHB Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said that as the "top baseball brand in such a large market, the Dodgers would likely command more than that." Futterman notes the greater L.A. TV market "is just under five million homes, but its outlying areas boost that figure to more than seven million." The other alternative would be for the Dodgers to "launch their own network" as the Yankees did with YES Network and the Mets did with SportsNet N.Y. These networks "have become cash cows for team owners because of the monthly fees cable operators pay on behalf of all of their basic subscribers." Analysts said that a Dodgers network "could command a monthly fee of about $3.50 per home beginning in 2014 and reach a market that could stretch as far east as Las Vegas and north to San Luis Obispo." That could translate into nearly $300M "in revenue annually before the network sells a single ad spot" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/29).
RETURN ON INVESTMENT: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes at some point, team owners "do want a return on their money." The Dodgers' $2.15B sale price "is enormous because the buyers anticipate a huge windfall from a new cable TV deal that would go into effect" after the '13 season. Dodgers controlling Owner and Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter said, “It will be substantial.” Sandomir notes to get the "most money, the Dodgers will probably be the centerpiece of a regional sports channel that will funnel enormous annual rights fees to the team and amass monthly subscriber fees from the cable, satellite and telephone companies that will carry its games." Bevilacqua Media Company CEO Chris Bevilacqua said of the Dodgers, "The marketplace continues to escalate for valuable sports rights and they’re in the second-biggest sports market with one of the biggest sports brands in the world." He added that the bidders for the TV deal with the team "could include" News Corp., TWC, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Hulu and Netflix (N.Y. TIMES, 3/29). In L.A., Joe Flint noted while TWC and Fox will "likely be willing to pay more than double and perhaps even triple what the Dodgers are currently getting, that still may not be enough" to win the rights. If the Dodgers create their own cable sports channel, the team can "keep not only subscriber fees from cable and satellite companies, but also advertising revenue." Additionally, the Dodgers have a broadcast deal with KCAL-CBS, "which carries 50 games." Those likely will "go away because the team can get more money from cable than broadcast" (LATIMES.com, 3/28).
INTERESTED PARTIES: SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said that the Dodgers' new owners "must already have a clear plan for the team’s broadcasting future." Ganis said that co-Owner Stan Kasten is a "well-respected businessman and sports executive, and you don’t pay that price unless you have an idea of how you’ll recoup all that money." Bloomberg News reported that Fox is "set to launch a national sports network -- though insiders say it isn't imminent -- that would seem to make a deal with parent company News Corp. even more attractive" (THEWRAP.com, 3/28).
Fox Sports would not comment on reports that it was looking to launch an all-sports channel, but sources told THE DAILY that it is considering turning Speed, not Fuel, into an all-sports channel to compete with ESPN. Fox has talked with leagues and distributors, but sources stressed that Fox' plans are still evolving and nothing is firm yet. The network has been looking into launching such a channel and has been exploring its options. At one point, Fox was talking about converting Fuel into its motor racing channel, but that does not appear likely now. Speed is in 82 million HHs while Fuel is in just 36.5 million (Ourand & Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Fixmer & Sherman reported News Corp. is "taking steps to start a national U.S. sports network on cable television aimed at challenging" ESPN. The sources added that News Corp. is "assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organizations." With a national network, Fox would join Comcast Corp.'s NBC Sports Network and CBS Corp.'s CBS Sports Network in "taking on the dominant ESPN." News Corp. last year "secured rights to the Pac-12 Conference and Big-12 Conference games" and owns 20 RSNs. The company in October won TV rights to the '18 and '22 FIFA World Cup tournaments. A source said that the new channel could "begin service by the end of this year." Another source said that the effort is being led by Fox Sports Media Group Chair David Hill (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 3/28). News Corp. execs "denied that the channel could begin as early as the end of this year." A senior exec said, "That’s not going to happen. There is no final timetable." In N.Y., Bill Carter notes ESPN receives $5.06 a month "per subscriber this year," while most channels "receive less than a dollar." But to "extract that kind of value from cable systems, a sports channel would need a roster of highly desirable events." News Corp. may be "looking to position itself as a bidder for sports rights that could put a new network on the map as a legitimate competitor to ESPN -- for both viewers and fees" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/29).
BEEN THERE BEFORE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Adams & Stewart note News Corp. has been "down this road before." In the late '90s, the company "launched Fox Sports Net, a national program service that aired across its regional sports channels." The national service "allowed Fox Sports Net to capture national advertising." But "over the years, local programming on the regional channels increasingly took precedent, squeezing the amount of time for national programming." The regionals "still air some national programming but their main focus is on local sports" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/29). In L.A., Joe Flint notes given "how lucrative its regional channels are, Fox and News Corp. executives have for the most part viewed a national network as a luxury item, not a necessity." And "going after ESPN would not be cheap." Sports teams and leagues would "no doubt welcome another competitor to ESPN because it would mean one more bidder for rights, which could lead to even higher prices" (L.A. TIMES, 3/29).
Kangaroo Media is “suing a Pittsburgh company known for its software that allows fans of the Penguins and Steelers to watch instant replays and other video on their smartphones during games,” according to Alex Nixon of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. Kangaroo Media, which is owned by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross, alleges in its complaint that Pennsylvania-based YinzCam Inc. "has infringed on two of its patents related to mobile video technology used by spectators at sporting events.” Kangaroo Media has a service called FanVision that sells and rents devices where sports fans can see replays in the venue. YinzCam develops free smartphone apps “that allow fans attending professional sporting events to view game replays and other video highlights on their phones during a live game.” Since creating apps for the Penguins and Steelers, YinzCam has “added similar free apps" for two more NHL teams and 16 additional NFL teams. Nixon notes YinzCam Founded Priya Narasimhan "did not return a call seeking comment;" no attorney was listed for YinzCam in court records. The company “had not responded to Kangaroo Media's complaint as of Wednesday” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/29).
In the latest entry for ESPN as part of the Poynter Review Project, Jason Fry wrote ESPN college basketball analyst Bob Knight went “too far recently in covering the early rounds of the NCAA men’s tournament,” as he went “out of his way” to avoid saying “Kentucky.” He instead referred to UK as only “that team from the SEC.” Knight in ’09 said that he “couldn’t understand why Kentucky’s John Calipari was still coaching since he’d ‘put two schools on probation in Massachusetts and Memphis.’” Knight followed that up last spring by “criticizing the policy allowing players to go to the NBA after a single season," saying that UK had “started five players in the NCAA tournament games that had not been to class that semester.” Fry noted that statement “wasn’t true, and Knight soon apologized.” Readers and critics “pounced on Knight’s circumlocutions, and rightly so.” Fry noted with a “media furor in full swing, something interesting happened.” Knight on March 21 appeared on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show to discuss Saturday's Kentucky-Indiana rematch, and “mentioned both teams by name multiple times.” ESPN Senior VP & Managing Editor of Studio Production Mark Gross in an e-mail said, “Our production staff has had conversations with Coach Knight on the topic. On this past Wednesday’s appearance on ESPN’s 'Mike & Mike,’ he talked extensively about Kentucky, a week after he specifically discussed Kentucky on his March 14 'Mike & Mike' appearance. Our focus now is on our upcoming coverage of the NCAA tournament and Final Four.” Fry wrote for a coach to be “petulant and flaunt grudges is part of the theater of sports; for an analyst to do so is unprofessional behavior.” This gets to a question that has “bedeviled ESPN before: Do its star analysts get to play by different rules than the rest of ESPN’s talent?” In Knight’s case, ESPN “moved relatively quickly to intercede and, one hopes, to prevent further damage.” But it “shouldn’t have had to do so in the first place” (ESPN.com, 3/27).
DRAW A LINE: Meanwhile, Poynter Institute Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride examined ESPN employees’ handling of Trayvon Martin’s death, a Florida teenager who was shot and killed Feb. 26 by a neighborhood watch captain. ESPN.com’s Jemele Hill “did a very nice, tight column this week explaining how the lives of professional athletes are connected to the life and death” of Martin. That was contrasted with ESPN’s “bouncing back and forth on whether its talent can post a photo of a ‘hoodie’ via social media in solidarity with the family” of Martin. As a journalism organization, ESPN “should do more work like Hill’s and less like the self-expression of several others -- including ESPN anchors Trey Wingo and Mike Hill, NFL reporter Michael Smith and Grantland writer Jonathan Abrams -- who donned hoodies in their Twitter avatars.” McBride wrote Hill “practiced journalism,” and it is “so much more effective than pulling up the hood on your sweatshirt and taking a picture.” McBride: “If you want to make a difference, explain the story, don’t become part of it” (ESPN.com, 3/27).
In N.Y., Bob Tedeschi writes if "ever a sport was built for a mobile app companion," baseball is it. The people at MLB.com were the "first of the major sport leagues -- or the major media companies, for that matter -- to produce a stellar app." MLB's At Bat "returns with a few nice refinements to complement a core of fun and useful features from years past." AtBat12 subscribers who pay the $15 season pass or $3 monthly "receive a long list of goodies that will appeal to home users as well as those who attend live games." Tedeschi writes, "For my money, the app’s coolest feature is in the Gameday section, which includes box scores, video highlights and an animated, pitch-by-pitch game simulation from the catcher’s point of view" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/29).
PRODUCTION VALUE: Golfer Christina Kim was "behind the microphone" during the second round of last week's LPGA Kia Classic, while golfer Brittany Lincicome was in the producer's chair and golfer Stacy Lewis was "manning a camera on the 13th hole." The idea to have the three players work the media stints was "hatched during the off-season when Golf Channel personnel discussed ways to showcase the personalities and approachability of LPGA players" (GOLF WORLD, 4/2 issue).
INJURY REPORT: In Philadelphia, Kerith Gabriel noted when MSG Network's Knicks sideline reporter Al Trautwig reported before Monday night's game that Knicks F Amar'e Stoudemire would be "out due to a bulging disk in his lower back," Trautwig "substituted a 'c' where an 's' should have been." Trautwig "quickly caught himself," but the "damage was already done." Perhaps the "best part was the cutaway to play-by-play callers Walt Frazier and Mike Breen, with what appeared to be Frazier feverishly trying to hide a chuckle at Trautwig's gaffe" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/28).