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Dish Network Exec VP & Chief Commercial Officer Dave Shull said that the majority of L.A.'s Dish customers "don't care about getting SportsNet LA," the new RSN of the Dodgers, according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Dish also "doesn't carry SportsNet, the Time Warner Cable-owned channel that is the home for most Lakers games." Shull said that "so far, that hasn't been a problem." Shull: "I have a lot of customers in Los Angeles who are happy with the current lineup. They haven't yet told us they must have the Lakers and Dodgers." Shull said that Dish "would be willing to offer the channels on an a la carte basis to subscribers who want them," but he added that college sports content "is a bigger play for Dish right now." Shull: "This is a strategic focus for us" (LATIMES.com, 3/4). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes of SportsNet LA, "So far, none of the big guys like Charter, Cox, DirecTV or AT&T U-verse ... have bought in because they consider it unfair to their millions of non-Dodgers fans to raise everyone's rates." The Dodgers are "counting on the frightened outrage of those fans to force the issue." Plaschke: "The truth, of course, is that the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable and most pay-TV operators will probably make this deal." Only Dish "still doesn't broadcast the Lakers' TWC channel." It will "all happen at the last minute, and it makes you wonder: Couldn't the still-new Dodgers ownership have thought for a second about all the turmoil the team's fans have had to endure in recent years and actually figured out a way to avoid this purgatory?" That is the "message here." For "all their promises kept, the new Dodgers ownership has yet to figure out its fans" (L.A. TIMES, 3/5).
The announcement Monday that Longhorn Network will be available on Dish Network has "brought about more questions than answers," according to Brian Davis of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The No. 1 question generated by the deal is "when will Longhorn Network get on DirecTV?" Right now, that is "unclear." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Justin Connolly said, "I don't know exactly how DirecTV feels about us, but if nothing else, it certainly sends a sign that there's buy-in with the second-largest satellite, third-largest provider nationally, for these networks." ESPN officials "couldn't pinpoint a specific date" when LHN will debut on Dish, but they said that it would be "later this summer." Davis noted it "could coincide with the debut of the SEC Network, which is scheduled to go live in August." The deal with Dish "absolutely" legitimizes LHN. It is "one thing to be picked up by Grande Communications, and it was a huge boost to get on Time Warner Cable." But landing on "the nation's second-largest satellite distributor is a game-changer for ESPN." Meanwhile, Davis wondered if new Texas football coach Charlie Strong will "give LHN the same access Mack Brown did." That is "an unknown." One of the "most fascinating shows on LHN is Texas All-Access." It is a "complete behind-the-scenes look at the Texas program on a weekly basis." Davis: "Will Strong let ESPN's cameras have the same access? Right now, even ESPN people can't say for sure" (STATESMAN.com, 3/4).
DEAL ME IN: In N.Y., Claire Atkinson writes the future of TV viewing "is coming into view -- and it’s all about streaming." The Disney-Dish deal "had the media world buzzing" yesterday, as it "promises to take a Netflix-like service to current sports, entertainment and movies" (N.Y. POST, 3/5). CBS President & CEO Les Moonves said that the Disney-Dish agreement to "address concerns over Dish's ad-skipping technology was 'a great start' but not enough to satisfy CBS." He said that CBS' carriage deal with Dish "expires this year, and he expects to take a different approach than Disney in the negotiations" (WSJ.com, 3/4).
Astros Owner Jim Crane yesterday said that he "expects an offer from Comcast this week to buy more of Comcast SportsNet Houston, the troubled regional sports network owned by the Astros, Rockets and Comcast, or to lend it more money," according to Evan Drellich of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Crane described Comcast "as the '800-pound gorilla in the room' in the wake of the recent announcement that it will acquire Time Warner Cable" for $45.2B in stock. The merger, if "approved by federal regulators, will give Comcast about 30 million subscribers nationwide." Crane said, “The system’s broke. With the Time Warner purchase, they’ll (Comcast) be a $100 billion company. It baffles me that they can’t figure out how to get a $140 or a $150 million revenue business working in one market, when they’ve done it [in] every other market.” Crane said that he "still has hope the team can find an alternative way for fans to watch telecasts." Crane: “We’re still working with baseball and trying to look at an alternative to either stream the games in some form or fashion." MLBAM, the parent company of MLB.com, sells an "online package of streaming games, which can be accessed from a computer as well as portable devices, but local blackouts apply." Crane said that lifting the blackouts "could be possible." Crane: “That’s a possibility too, where you could get the games, you get the package where you can watch all the games and you just lift the local blackouts and you have people pay for that on a local basis. There’s three or four options and we really want the fans to see the games and leave this behind us" (CHRON.com, 3/4).
Golf Channel today formally unveiled plans for a three-part series on the life of Arnold Palmer. "Arnie" will air on consecutive nights at 10:00pm ET beginning April 13, the final day of The Masters. The series spans Palmer's childhood through his amateur and pro careers, as well as his off-the-course ventures and his legacy. The series is produced by 13-time Emmy Award winner and former NBC Sports Olympics features producer Israel DeHerrera, and written by 18-time Emmy Award winner Aaron Cohen (Golf Channel). In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports Golf Channel is "breaking the series up into three one-hour shows: 'Arnie and His Army,' which explores his influence on sports marketing; 'Arnie and His Majors,' which looks into his on-course accomplishments; and 'Arnie and His Legacy,' which delves into his influence on popular culture." The series "features more than 100 interviews conducted over the past year," including interviews with former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as "unseen footage from some of Palmer’s home movies."Golf Channel said that sponsors "will be attached to the documentary series." Golf Channel President Mike McCarley said, "This is the most ambitious documentary project that Golf Channel has ever undertaken." He added that the net "will look to do similar documentaries" in the future (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/3 issue).
THE MISSING LINK: Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" will broadcast live from a PGA Tour event for the first time this year when the net teams up with technology provider CDW to showcase its CDW Technoliner vehicle on the grounds of Trump National Doral in Miami. Tomorrow through Sunday, "Morning Drive" co-hosts Holly Sonders, Charlie Rymer and Matt Ginella will be reporting from the WGC-Cadillac Championship and will use the Technoliner and its retractable 14-foot video wall as a backdrop for remote reports. CDW has teamed with the Tour since '08 to sponsor ShotLink Intelligence, a technology system that collects and analyzes statistical data in multiple areas during play (Golf Channel).
MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman discussed MLB's new player tracking system, unveiled at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference last weekend, in a Q&A with Jonah Keri of GRANTLAND. Bowman talked about "what the new technology could mean for the game, and how MLBAM will work through the challenges that are bound to pop up as the system launches this year in three parks, then expands to all 30 stadiums" in '15. The following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: How long had MLBAM been working on this?
Bowman: We’ve been working with Sportvision for some time, on PITCHf/x and FIELDf/x. This system is more evolved, and easier to track. There are two steps here. First, you’re capturing all these pieces of data at 32 frames per second. That’s easy. Then, you’re capturing video. That’s easy. Like any cake you bake, it’s how you put the ingredients together, combining data and video capture. Then you have to overlay it all accurately, clearly, and quickly so people understand it. We’re committed to launching this year. We want to have a few eggs lying around, and we’ve got FIELDf/x already in a number of parks.
Q: At the conference, your CTO (Joe Inzerillo) said the system would be available “for baseball operations and some fan use for 2014.” How much access are we talking about? When exactly? And what will we get in 2015?
Bowman: We’ve talked to baseball ops people, letting them know that the path we’re going down is to make it available to everybody. ... It won’t be as granular as stats folks want initially, more like looking at the finished product rather than ingredients -- though ops people will see that granular data right away. Plus with only three parks this year, we wanted to make sure there was a proper sharing arrangement between all the teams, so even if your team doesn’t play in a particular park this year, that team still has access to the data coming out of it. Maintaining on-field competitiveness and fairness was important. We want to get it out in somewhat varnished form to the masses. But the goal is to also get it out in unvarnished form to people who want it eventually. That provides value, too, so that [analysts] can think of things that we haven’t thought of. Then there’s broadcast TV; we think this will be very interesting to fans, to be able to see the path a fielder takes, the line to the ball. ... We expect to have unvarnished data on March 30 to send to baseball ops folks. For regular fans ... you’ll start to see those in April of this year. It seems odd to have a whole season for a trial, but that’s what we’re doing. The goal is to put the product out this year, then get to all 30 parks, then release the data in unvarnished form in 2015.
Q: How do you plan to monetize the new system?
Bowman: 97 percent of TV broadcasts are using PITCHf/x in some fashion, and that’s sponsored -- though that revenue goes to teams; it doesn’t come directly to us. We’re capitalists at MLB.com, but frankly we haven’t given that much thought here. It’d be nice to get some return, but that’s not what’s driving us right now. This is something we think fans want, and we can deliver it, so that’s what we’re going to do (GRANTLAND.com, 3/4).