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SBJ/December 17-23, 2012/Year End
Stories of the Year
Published December 17, 2012, Page 16
|A hockey fan protests outside the NHL's headquarters.
The NHL implemented its second lockout in eight years, and the third in the 20-year tenure of Commissioner Gary Bettman. Taking its cue from recent labor agreements in the NFL and NBA, the NHL hoped to procure a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with the players. But getting to 50-50, and agreeing on core economic issues such as revenue sharing, did not prove to be simple.
The world assumed the London Games would pale in comparison to the Beijing Games that preceded them. But the Brits — and the athletes who competed — proved the world wrong. From Danny Boyle’s distinctly British opening ceremony, to Michael Phelps’ record-setting 18th gold medal, to Usain Bolt’s captivating 100-meter sprint, the 2012 Olympic Games captured the imagination of the world and became the most-watched U.S. TV event in history.
Rights market heats up
The market for sports media rights has never been hotter, with the past year marked by several billion-dollar deals. MLB doubled its rights fees with ESPN, Fox and Turner, and NASCAR saw a healthy increase when Fox opted to extend its deal early. ESPN capped things off by agreeing to pay the BCS $500 million a year.
Lance Armstrong gave up his years-long defense against doping, a move that erased his seven Tour de France titles and sent most of his sponsors packing. The downfall of cycling’s most decorated athlete sent a shock wave throughout the sport, making it more challenging for other cyclists to land sponsors and for the sport, in general, to maintain respect.
AEG goes on the block
|AEG's holdings include Staples Center in Los Angeles.
When AEG Chairman Phil Anschutz announced plans to sell the company, people wondered who would have pockets deep enough to bid for a company that has a financial stake in virtually every aspect of sports and entertainment. AEG’s reach extends from ownership and operations of teams, arenas, a ticketing outlet and a merchandise company to running AEG Live, North America’s second-largest concert promoter.
Expectations were already high entering 2012 for the Los Angeles Dodgers to become the most lucrative baseball team sale ever. But Guggenheim Baseball Management wowed the sports industry with a whopping $2.15 billion purchase, nearly doubling the prior record for the sale of any North American sports franchise.
Bountygate shakes up the NFL
It began as a shocking development: the New Orleans Saints had a slush fund to pay teammates to knock opposing players out of the game. Suspensions came quickly, but the proceedings have since been dragged before the judiciary, arbitrators and the court of public opinion. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, acting as an arbitrator, this month threw out the league’s player suspensions and fines, but that likely won’t be the last we hear out of this case that has become a thorn in the side of Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The year saw two of the top commissioners in sports plan their exit strategies. NBA Commissioner David Stern said he will step down in February 2014 after serving as commissioner for 30 years. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he likely will retire after the 2014 season, when his current deal expires. Have we heard that one before? The 78-year-old Selig has been MLB commissioner since 1992.
The conference shuffle
After yet another round of realignment in 2012, one thing hasn’t changed: SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany have the power to flip college sports on its ear. Those two men sit at the controls and will determine whether we enter an era of super conferences.
What was once thought impossible is soon going to be a reality. Conference commissioners finally OK’d a four-team playoff to start with the 2014 season. Of course, all that led to was conversation about when the playoff will expand to eight teams.
Nets find a home in Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Nets finally moved across the Hudson River into the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The move, along with the name change and a new branding effort, has revived the franchise and stoked competition between the Nets and Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks.
Year of the RSN
The power of live sports on television was clear in 2012, when 10 sports channels launched. The Pac-12 conference launched its suite of seven channels in August, followed a little more than a month later by two local sports channels in Los Angeles from Time Warner Cable and one local sports channel in Houston from Comcast.