Team RSNs are prospering
Published October 25, 2010
My compliments to John Ourand on his recent interview with Ted Leonsis [Oct. 11-17 issue of SportsBusiness Journal] regarding the ongoing development of team, league and conference networks. Leonsis’ responses went beyond the headlines to explain several of the key objectives in developing and owning a network.
The only thing I would note is that, based upon the track record of the past 25 years, most of these networks, when properly structured, have succeeded. As of today, dozens of major sports teams, leagues and conferences own/co-own television networks. As pioneers and leaders, YES and NESN often receive the headlines, but over the past decade alone, team RSNs have successfully launched in New York, Chicago, the Bay Area, Baltimore/Washington, Denver and Cleveland to the point where over 25 [percent] of the teams in Major League Baseball and the NBA own or co-own their respective regional network.
As for leagues and conferences, the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and Big Ten have each launched their own successful, widely distributed network. As in any new business category, there have been failures, like Minnesota’s Victory Sports and Portland’s Action Sports, but even those efforts ended up being leveraged into much-improved rights agreements. Most other team and league networks launched before and since have achieved long-term prosperity.
Given this track record of success, it should continue to be a seller’s market for network development going forward. A growing number of media platforms and partners will be chasing after a relatively fixed number of key sports properties to drive ratings and revenues, a situation that’s more or less been in place since the dawn of broadcast television and radio. As long as each potential network prepares and structures itself properly, I think most will continue to succeed.
Berke is president and CEO LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media, Inc.