SBJ/20100816/SBJ In-Depth

Q: Who could pull off starting a network?

We asked several executives to identify any sports brands they think could start their own network. Here are highlights of what they had to say:

 
Mark Cuban
Owner, Dallas Mavericks; Founder, HDNet

“Only the UFC comes to mind. Mixed martial arts is mainstream now. It commands more in PPV [pay-per-view] revenue than any other sport and can leverage that to create a network that offers replays of PPV, a few live fights and continuous MMA-related programming. But I also think the concept of what a sports network is and does, particularly RSNs, will change as cable goes to switched digital video.”


Chris Russo
Chief executive, Fantasy Sports Ventures

“UFC. Given the enormous (and growing) popularity of the brand, a 24-hour channel would have strong consumer appeal.”


Bob Horowitz
President, Juma Entertainment

“MMA Network. It’s the fastest-growing sport with amazing television appeal. The young demos across various income groups provide an excellent platform for an ad-supported network. There is no shortage of mixed martial arts content, plus opportunities abound as to action sports shoulder programming to fill out the network’s programming grid.”

Tim Pernetti
Athletic director, Rutgers University; former CBS College executive

“FIFA — still the most popular sport in the world. The key would be a strategy to effectively hook in fans in the U.S. at all times and not just in World Cup years.

“Dallas Cowboys — the Cowboys are the most loved and most hated franchise in sports (Disclaimer: I was a childhood fan of Roger Staubach), but their appeal is wide and strong. The hardest part will be cracking the No. 1 media market in the country where the Giants and Jets (and Rutgers) rule. NFL teams, however, don’t have the flexibility to go down this road … yet.”


Larry Novenstern
Media adviser

“Even though Arsenal is part of the EPL [English Premier League] and all games are set through the BBC, they could make a media move in the U.S. Stan Kroenke is now near the 30 percent threshold of Arsenal’s ownership, which triggers an automatic process in the U.K. to buy out the remaining share of the club. I see Mr. Kroenke’s support as a key ingredient to make this happen.”


Frank Hawkins
Former NFL executive

“The Olympic brand could support a well-designed network, and would actually benefit from one because too many Olympic sports fall out of public consciousness in odd-numbered years. A network that assembles major national championships in Olympic sports with major world competitions, and then fills in with stories on up-and-coming (and already well-known) competitors so that U.S. Olympic team members and top world athletes are broadly familiar to casual viewers when the actual Games roll around, could be very powerful and successful.”


Neal Pilson
President, Pilson Communications

“If NBC renews its Olympic franchise, I think we will see an Olympic Channel here in the USA as a joint venture between NBC/Comcast and the USOC with the blessing of the IOC. The Olympic sports need a network to grow their audience, which will then benefit NBC’s Olympic Games coverage.”


Ted Leonsis
Owner, Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics

“Who should consider their own TV network? Independent ownership groups that own multiple teams and the local arena, such as Atlanta and Washington. Why? A network makes financial sense when a group owns multiple teams and the facility in which they play. It is just good business for Monumental Sports & Entertainment to consider its options, and I would assume the Atlanta group would be doing the same. Look at New York and Philadelphia; the cable outlet owns the teams, so it seems natural for teams to consider pursuing a cable network.”

 
Mark Lazarus
President, media and marketing services, Career Sports & Entertainment; former Turner Sports president

“NASCAR. There are multiple series and types of NASCAR racing. Every man, woman and child has a love affair with the car, and NASCAR is uniquely situated to speak to that passion.”

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