SBJ/Aug. 5-11, 2013/Media

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  • Fox Sports adds races, years to NASCAR deal

    Fox Sports and NASCAR closed a new, $3.8 billion TV rights agreement that adds three Sprint Cup races, 14 Nationwide Series races and two years to the deal the broadcaster cut with NASCAR last fall.

    The $3.8 billion price tag is $1.4 billion greater than the eight-year deal Fox signed with NASCAR last year. That eight-year, $2.4 billion agreement included 13 Sprint Cup races and the entire Camping World Truck Series through 2022. The new 10-year, $3.8 billion deal gives Fox 16 Sprint Cup races, 14 Nationwide Series races and the Camping World Truck Series season through 2024.

    NASCAR and Fox declined to comment on terms of the agreement.

    Between 2015 and 2022, NASCAR will collect more than $8.2 billion in media rights from Fox and NBC, which signed a 10-year, $4.4 billion deal two weeks ago. The networks together will pay an average of $820 million a year, a 46 percent increase from the $560 million that NASCAR currently receives annually from Fox, Turner Sports and ESPN.

    Sources said that the deal Fox cut with NASCAR last fall gave the broadcaster the first right to negotiate on the first half of the Nationwide Series season if ESPN, which now holds those rights, opted not to retain them. ESPN passed on renewing its NASCAR rights in early July, triggering the clause.

    The deal with Fox closes out all of NASCAR’s remaining inventory. Fox will air the first 16 Sprint Cup races and first 14 Nationwide Series races annually beginning in 2015. NBC will air the subsequent 20 Sprint Cup races and 19 Nationwide Series races.

    A total of 16 Sprint Cup races will be shown on broadcast TV. Fox will air nine, and NBC will air seven. The other 20 Cup races will air on cable. Fox Sports 1 will air seven, and NBC Sports Network will air 13.

    Fox’s negotiations were led by co-presidents Randy Freer and Eric Shanks. NASCAR was led by Chairman Brian France and Steve Herbst, vice president of broadcasting and production. Sports Media Advisors, a media consultancy headed by former IMG and NHL executive Doug Perlman, and Proskauer assisted NASCAR on the deal.

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  • Former Blues CEO McCarthy will start media consulting business for The Legacy Agency

    The Legacy Agency hired longtime sports executive Mike McCarthy to launch a media consulting business.

    McCarthy, who left his post as CEO of the St. Louis Blues when the team was sold last year, will target teams, leagues and properties that need to develop strategies around their media rights.

    Mike McCarthy will oversee production and content creation.
    Photo by: THE LEGACY AGENCY
    Drawing on more than two decades at MSG Networks before joining the Blues, McCarthy also will oversee production and content creation for The Legacy Agency and plans to land on-air talent for the agency to represent.
    “The appetite for content in sports is voracious,” McCarthy said.

    Since the beginning of the year, McCarthy has been co-chairman of the TV production company Manhattan Place Entertainment, a position he will keep. The Legacy Agency believes that remaining co-chair of the production company will help McCarthy bring new business to the firm.

    McCarthy will be based in New York at Legacy’s offices and will report to Mike Principe, CEO of The Legacy Agency.

    “This is a great move for the development of The Legacy Agency,” Principe said. “I’ve known Mike for about 10 years. As we started thinking about launching a new media consulting business, Mike was my first phone call.”

    The move to start a media consulting business puts The Leverage Agency in an already crowded field that includes companies like Evolution Media Capital and Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures as well as Wasserman Media Group and others. Principe believes the market is big enough — and McCarthy’s experience is vast enough — to build a significant media consulting business for The Legacy Agency.

    “Before Mike, our first deal as a media consultant would have been our last,” he joked.

    The current trend with media rights is to explore launching a sports channel, similar to what the Dodgers and Lakers are doing in Los Angeles, and the Astros and Rockets are doing in Houston.

    McCarthy believes channels are a realistic option, but not in every market. While with the Blues, McCarthy oversaw the team’s decision to extend its deal with FS Midwest and moved the team’s radio rights to a station with a stronger signal.

    “There are still teams that have a credible chance to launch their own RSNs,” McCarthy said. “Launching a channel is not always your best option. But it has to be considered to establish the best rights deal you can get.”

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  • The final days of Speed

    In late July, Speed employee Jessie Morrison scaled the large, red Speed sign outside the broadcast network’s Charlotte headquarters. She stretched out across it on her stomach, turned toward a camera and smiled.

    Later, she posted the photo on Instagram with a simple caption: “Going to miss seeing this sign.”

    The image and words captured the way that Morrison and many of her fellow Speed employees feel this summer. These are the final days of Speed. In less than two weeks, the 24-hour network no longer will exist in its current form. Many of its employees will be looking for new jobs.

    FROM FOX SPORTS
    Fox’s statement on the closing of Speed


    “Change in the workplace is challenging, and every job lost in a transition of this type is significant. We’ve been as fair and communicative as possible given our plans at each step along the way. Looking at this project as a whole, we’ve placed those displaced in new positions as often as possible, and the net job-gain at Fox Sports in the past six months is significant, including several new departments in Charlotte. We still expect Charlotte to be an integral part of Fox Sports 1 going forward, especially around our expanded NASCAR race package.”

    Speed’s owner, Fox Sports, has decided there is more money to be had in a multisport channel. It will shutter the motorsports channel and convert it into Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17.

    The move brings an end to Speed’s nearly 18-year reign as the only motorsports channel on U.S. television. The move takes Charlotte’s only national cable channel dark. And it eliminates the only place in NASCAR’s backyard where people could spend their entire day talking about and working exclusively on TV motorsports.

    Speed did not offer the best-paying jobs in cable. It was not the most-watched network in sports. But it was a place where people lived their passion — an office where Formula One wonks, motorcycle gearheads, NASCAR nuts and car-collection zealots gathered daily to determine how their passions played across the country.

    Speed paid staff with a different type of currency — the type of stuff former Speed President Hunter Nickell called “psychic income.”

    “It’s what made it exciting and fun, so when the end comes, it’s deflating,” said Nickell, who’s now with IMG College. “That isn’t questioning the business decision. The business decision makes sense.”

    But it does explain why Morrison and a host of others have been snapping photos of the Speed sign outside the network’s headquarters. They will miss working for a network they loved.

    Speed will sign off at 6 a.m. ET on Aug. 17 following a re-air of NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying from Michigan International Speedway. At that point, the channel will simply morph into Fox Sports 1, ending a tumultuous 10 months during which employees’ emotions went from hope that there would be work for Speed staff in Charlotte to the reality that the Queen City didn’t fit into Fox Sports 1’s overall plans, at least not yet.



    The brainchild of former ESPN President Roger Werner, Speed launched as a channel run by motorsports enthusiasts for motorsports enthusiasts. With some of the country’s biggest cable operators as initial investors, including Cox, Times Mirror and MediaOne, the channel had little trouble cutting deals with distributors.

    The initial channel, known as Speedvision, debuted to 3.2 million homes on the last day of 1995 and targeted 18- to 49-year-old men who read the 200-plus national magazines devoted to motorsports, cars, planes, boats — just about anything with a motor. It featured lifestyle programs, news, live and taped competition, and was viewed by Werner as an immediate success.

    “That original channel was the most successful consumer product that I’ve ever been associated with in 40 years of being in the packaged goods and media business,” Werner said. “That product resonated with its target audience like nothing else I’ve ever seen. It was immediately demanded by the target audience. We literally lit up phone banks and generated tremendous press and tremendous interest.”

    Photo by: ICON SMI
    The Final Days of Speed

    Two channels will carry Speed name

    A history of Speed

    Channel filled a hole in market
    Fox took control of the channel in 2001, renaming it Speed. The acquisition coincided with Fox’s initial six-year deal to broadcast NASCAR races, reported at the time as roughly $200 million a year, and indicated how bullish Fox was on the sport. As a result, Fox ramped up Speed’s focus on the sport, adding NASCAR shoulder programming and live truck races. It relocated the network from Stamford, Conn., to Charlotte, the home of most of NASCAR’s race teams and many of its drivers.

    Speed’s distribution expanded to 50 million after Fox’s acquisition and increased to 70 million by 2007. It was doing well enough that in 2008 Fox built the network its own state-of-the-art studio in north Charlotte. It had three stages, control rooms outfitted with sophisticated Sony production systems and dedicated fiber that connected to a national control room in Los Angeles.

    The new studio represented more than just the latest technology. For Speed’s 100-plus full-time employees in Charlotte, it was the first time everyone worked under the same roof, and it fostered a sense of camaraderie among the staff. Walking through the office, it was easy to overhear people talking about their favorite type of racing.

    “NASCAR was the source of the majority of our motorsports ratings points, but that didn’t mean we wouldn’t have intense battles within our team about how we should cover open-wheel racing versus NASCAR,” Nickell said. “That didn’t stop anyone from being intense about wanting to cover more of other motorsports.”

    But just a couple of months later, Speed’s fortunes changed.

    In November 2008, ESPN bowled over Fox with a four-year, $495 million contract for the BCS — a bid that was $100 million higher than Fox’s. At the time, Fox Sports executives decided that they needed a multisport cable channel — or, more specifically, the affiliate revenue from such a network — to remain competitive with ESPN.

    Fox Sports had three options. It could launch a new network, it could convert an existing network or it could acquire another network.

    It wasn’t long before Fox Sports executives focused their sights on Speed. The well-distributed network was in about 73 million homes at the time and received 19 cents per subscriber per month. It had room to grow.



    Rumors that Fox might convert Speed into an all-sports channel didn’t sweep through the network’s Charlotte headquarters until early 2012. Most staff members became aware of the possibility after reading media reports, which said that Fox executives had told Major League Baseball, the Pac-12 and other properties that they were planning to turn Speed into a multisport channel.

    The news rocked the staff.

    “There were a lot of people who moved from Connecticut to Charlotte and grew [the network] to what it is today,” said one former employee. “To possibly lose that was hard.”

    The rumors persisted all year. Fox Sports executives addressed them in person last December when Fox Sports’ top two executives, co-presidents Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, traveled to Charlotte for an all-staff meeting. They assured Speed employees that the Charlotte production facility would play an important role in Fox Sports 1, according to Speed employees who attended the meeting. The executives said they would come back early next year to update the staff on their plans.

    Speed carved out its niche as all motorsports all the time, and NASCAR was only the beginning. 
    Photo by: ICON SMI
    Speed employees left the meeting with mixed emotions.

    “I was excited about the prospect of doing other sports. Other people were worried because all they had done is racing, and they didn’t know what that would mean for them,” said Scott Orner, a freelance director on the show “NASCAR RaceHub.”

    Optimism about the future rose when workers began overhauling Speed’s three studios. One of the studios, which housed a set for “NASCAR RaceHub” and “Wind Tunnel,” was cleared at the beginning of the year. Those shows were shifted into the network’s two other studios, and the staff began to watch for what type of set would replace them.

    Would it be college-themed? Or baseball? Or just an all-sports news set?

    But months went by and the studio remained empty. Employees grew more concerned.

    “There started to be talk that they wouldn’t be bringing in as much work as they were planning,” Orner said.

    On March 10, more than five months before Fox Sports 1’s debut, the company issued a press release announcing its first day of programming on the new channel. Speed employees pored over the schedule. There was seven hours of NASCAR programming scheduled around a truck race in Michigan and a UFC fight in Boston. But the release alarmed some employees.

    “Nothing was mentioned for Charlotte,” said one employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “That’s when we all started getting nervous.”

    In a statement last week, Fox Sports said, “Change in the workplace is challenging, and every job lost in a transition of this type is significant. We’ve been as fair and communicative as possible given our plans at each step along the way.”



    Fox brass returned to Charlotte for an all-staff meeting June 27. By then, Fox’s plans for Speed’s studios had changed. Scott Ackerson, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of studio production who was based in Los Angeles, met with the staff in the empty studio. He told them that two of Speed’s staple shows, “Wind Tunnel” and “Speed Center,” a motorsports highlight program, were being canceled. The shows rated poorly and brought in a much older demographic than Fox wanted for Fox Sports 1. Ackerson also announced that “NASCAR RaceHub” was going to be cut from an hour to a half-hour.

    The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes. Many left it concerned that they might not have a job come August.

    Speed Executive Vice President Steve Craddock relayed the news to freelancers two weeks later. He stood in front of a white board in a Speed conference room. He recounted Ackerson’s visit and explained what it meant, according to a video of the meeting that was viewed by SportsBusiness Journal.

    “With ‘Speed Center’ going away and ‘Wind Tunnel,’ there’s going to be less work,” Craddock told the freelancers.

    Later in the 30-minute meeting, he added, “I can tell you that I have no idea what is going to happen in the next year. … Based on what [Shanks and Freer] said, this was a great place to make TV. It really came down to they ran out of money in starting this new network, to do all the things they had in their mind that they said they wanted to do, primarily a morning news show. They were going to do a morning news show here from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and they just don’t have it in the budget to do that.”

    Craddock took questions after he was done speaking.

    An employee asked: Will there be cuts?

    “I’m not so sure they’re finished making cuts here,” Craddock said. “That’s not to create fear or worry or concern. I just don’t know. If you look at the number of shows needed and the number of people … it’s hard to say. Scott [Ackerson] is still fighting for shows. Or at least jobs. I’m not so convinced they won’t say, ‘We need to do a college basketball show here.’ There’s a studio. There’s a lot of good people.”

    Fox Sports, which declined to make any executives available, said in its statement: “Looking at this project as a whole, we’ve placed those displaced in new positions as often as possible, and the net job-gain at Fox Sports in the past six months is significant, including several new departments in Charlotte. We still expect Charlotte to be an integral part of Fox Sports 1 going forward, especially around our expanded NASCAR race package.”



    On an overcast morning in Charlotte last week, the parking lot at Speed began to fill up shortly before 9 a.m. Employees climbed out of their cars and walked toward the office. Backpacks were slung over their shoulders. Lunch coolers were in their hands.

    Fox began letting Speed employees go over the last few months. Others know their final day is later this month. But the parking lot remains full because Fox has begun hiring new staff, mostly in a graphics division that will remain in Charlotte and will be focused on developing promos and graphics packages for Fox Sports 1.

    A Fox spokesman last week declined to comment on the number of Speed employees who had been let go or the number that had been hired.

    Some Speed employees are frustrated with how the last year has played out. They’re annoyed with how little information they received. They’re hurt that Charlotte’s only national cable channel is going away. And they chafe at the unfulfilled promise that they would be a prominent part of FS1.

    “You could have had a great news show out of Charlotte,” said one employee. “Instead, they paid a boatload for NASCAR, for the NFL, for baseball, for talent. I don’t get having a building sit empty.”

    Others, like Adam Alexander, who was an on-air host for “Speed Center,” will be working on Fox Sports 1. Alexander will be calling college football games for the new channel.

    “It’s not easy to lose your job,” he said. “It’s opened up some good opportunities. But there just aren’t enough holes for everyone.”

    Many remain hopeful that changes and Fox Sports 1 eventually brings more studio work to Charlotte.

    “It wasn’t personal,” Orner said. “It was a business decision. I’m hopeful there will be more work. It’s a great facility. It’s put out a great product for years. People higher up at Fox understand that, and I’m hopeful that once there’s more work that comes to Charlotte I can be a part of it.”

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  • Two channels will carry Speed name

    Speed is sticking around after all.

    Fox Sports plans to keep two versions of Speed up and running after Aug. 17, when the channel officially is rebranded to Fox Sports 1.

    One version has been described as “Speed Classic,” which will be made available to U.S. distributors that do not sign carriage deals for Fox Sports 1. Just two weeks before FS1’s launch, three of the country’s four biggest distributors still have not worked out a deal for the new channel.

    Another version of Speed is the international version that’s currently available to about 7 million homes in Canada, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. That will continue to operate under the Speed banner.

    Fox Sports declined to comment for this story on the programming for either channel. But sources said the two channels, both still to be called Speed, will have different programming lineups.

    Fox Sports has little incentive to put quality programming on the U.S. channel, since it will be provided to distributors that have passed on Fox Sports 1. The U.S. channel would not carry any live programming, according to sources briefed on Fox’s plans. Rather, its lineup would be filled with old races and re-runs.

    By contract, Fox would need to provide a motorsports channel to these distributors, at least until their contracts end.

    Big distributors like DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable have not signed on to carry the channel. Those three distributors represent more than 46 million subscribers and present a potential hurdle for Fox Sports 1’s stated plan to have 90 million subscribers at launch. The largest U.S. distributor, Comcast, has agreed to carry the channel at launch.

    Much of the negotiations come down to price. Distributors pay about 23 cents per subscriber per month for Speed, according to SNL Kagan. Sources say Fox Sports is asking 80 cents for FS1 at the start, with annual increases that would push the fee to about $1.50 over the life of a multiyear deal.

    The international version of Speed will feature higher-quality programming than its U.S. counterpart. It will remain a 24-hour motorsports channel, complete with live races and news programming. The international channel is expected to use Fox Sports 1’s productions of live races from NASCAR and other motorsports series.

    Sources say the channel will keep the Speed brand and will not add non-motorsports programming, like Fox Sports 1 is doing.

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  • A History of Speed

    1995

    Speedvision launches on Dec. 31 under the ownership of Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, Continental Cablevision, AT&T and Times Mirror.

    1998

    Fox/Liberty Networks purchases a one-third stake in Speedvision and Outdoor Life Networks for about $100 million.

    2001

    News Corp.’s Fox Cable Networks Group obtains a majority ownership of the channel.

    2002

    The Craftsman Truck Series moved to Speed Channel from ESPN and ESPN2 in 2003.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Speedvision changes its name to Speed Channel in February and moves its headquarters from Stamford, Conn., to Charlotte.

    Speed Channel earns a 1.02 rating for live coverage of NASCAR Winston Cup practice at Talladega, the first time the network broke 1.0 for a single airing of a program.

    2003

    The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series moves to Speed Channel from ESPN and ESPN2.

    2005

    Speed debuts in 500,000 homes in Latin America on July 1.

    Speed showed its first live in-season Nextel Cup event, the Nextel All-Star Challenge, in 2007. Kevin Harvick celebrated after winning the Charlotte race.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    2006

    Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Hammerhead Entertainment and Speed reach a deal for Earnhardt to host “Back in the Day,” a 30-minute television program.

    2007

    The first live in-season NASCAR Nextel Cup event, the Nextel All-Star Challenge, is broadcast on the network. The Gatorade Duels were shown live earlier in the year.

    2008

    Speed relocates its offices across town to its current headquarters in north Charlotte.

    Speed and Phoenix International Raceway unveil the first Speed Cantina, a branded bar, grill and entertainment center near Turn 2.

    2010

    Speed Australia is unveiled in November.

    Speed launches its Speed2 broadband network.

    2012

    In October, Fox Sports and NASCAR extend the channel’s broadcasting deal through the 2022 season for more than $2.4 billion over eight years.

    Speed loses Formula One broadcasting rights in the U.S. to NBC, ending a 17-year run on the network.

    2013

    On March 5, Fox Sports announces it will relaunch Speed as Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17.

    Source: SportsBusiness Journal research

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  • Channel filled a hole in market

    Speed launched on Dec. 31, 1995, as the brainchild of one-time ESPN President Roger Werner, who ran the channel, then known as Speedvision, for five years before selling it to Fox. Werner spoke with SportsBusiness Journal media reporter John Ourand about the last days of Speed, which is being rebranded Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17.

    How do you feel about Fox Sports 1? Do you view Speed as your baby? Or is it just business?

    WERNER:
    It’s both. It is my baby. I was very proud of it and really enjoyed watching it. But I certainly understand the financial pressures and objectives that face a large public company like News Corp. It didn’t shock me. It’s disappointing to me as a television viewer not to have a unique destination channel like Speed, but instead to just have an ESPN Ocho. In my opinion, it’s a little late in the day to go up against them. It’s primarily driven by the realization that they can get a larger subscription fee for something that looks like ESPN. I wish them good luck. I understand why they’re doing it. I hate to see the industry over time becoming an oligopoly, where all the players are just offering their own versions of everybody else’s stuff.

    What do you mean?

    WERNER: All the networks I’ve designed and built tried to be unique and offer something that was differentiated from broadcast. What’s happened now is that as the difficulty in getting increased subscriber fees increases, most programmers are becoming more dependent on the Nielsen meter and on ad sales for the bulk of their top line growth. The industry is devolving into a bigger version of the old three-network broadcast model, where everybody knocked off everybody else. If one sitcom worked, within months there were two more on the other two networks that looked just like it. Everybody is just chasing gross ratings points. As a guy who’s been in the industry from its earliest days, that’s somewhat disappointing. I always thought the opportunity here was to create things that were new and unique and exclusive and had real tangible value to the audience, not just more of the same.

    How did you develop the idea for Speedvision?

    WERNER:
    Back in the early 1980s, when I was COO at ESPN, we were trying to find some programming franchises that we could build that were unique and that could establish us as a leader. One of my personal passions was motorsports. There was very little on television other than the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500 back in the early 1980s. So we acquired the rights to Formula One and IndyCar and a number of NASCAR events and sports car series events. We had short-track racing live on Thursday nights. We launched a weekly racing news and highlight program. We effectively dominated that category. That was one of the programming decisions that I feel was instrumental in the development of ESPN and its early success.

    How did that turn into Speedvision?

    WERNER:
    Over the course of the 1990s, ESPN slowly walked away from the motorsports franchise to get bigger and stronger in things like football and baseball. I thought that there was an opportunity for a dedicated motorsports channel since a lot of the stuff that ESPN had done was not being done anymore, certainly not being promoted. I felt there was a hole in the market, and I could go back to my old friends in the racing industry and build a product that would satisfy them and the millions of consumers that liked that stuff.

    How will Speed be remembered?

    WERNER:
    That original channel was the most successful consumer product that I’ve ever been associated with in 40 years of being in the packaged goods and media business. That product resonated with its target audience like nothing else I’ve ever seen.

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  • You want fun shows, Fox Sports 1? Take a chance on these

    John Ourand
    No phony debate. More reporters reporting. Fewer ex-athletes spouting clichés. Cut the canned laughter.

    These are some of my wishes for Fox Sports 1, as the Fox Sports Media Group prepares the channel’s Aug. 17 launch.
    The success of any sports network depends on its live rights, which consistently will bring in the biggest audiences. Still, the main way for a channel to stand out from its competitors outside of live rights is with studio and shoulder programming.

    Fox Sports is emphasizing “fun” as a way to differentiate Fox Sports 1 from ESPN. Here are some ideas for shows that I think would be fun. I’m sure most won’t see the light of day. But if these shows made Fox Sports 1’s schedule, I’d tune in.

    > Watching games with David Hill

    Fox Sports’ biggest personality isn’t Terry Bradshaw or Jay Glazer. It’s former Fox Sports Chairman David Hill, who recently agreed to oversee Fox’s “American Idol” and “The X-Factor.” For me, must-see TV would be a monthly show where Hill talks about Fox Sports and shows off his personality and knowledge of the business.
    I would have him answer fan questions about Fox’s telecasts. Why has Fox kept Tim McCarver in the MLB booth for so long? Hill would use footage from Fox games to show why he thinks McCarver still is effective as a baseball analyst. Fox could use this platform to introduce McCarver’s replacement, show viewers the different announcing teams covering NFL games, preview and review game productions.

    The show also could be part “Sport Science.” It would be fascinating to watch the broadcasting legend who oversaw the launch of the Fox Box and the introduction of the glowing hockey puck talk about new production tools in the business.

    > Battle of the Fox stars

    Could you imagine Jason Whitlock racing Regis Philbin in a 100-yard dash? How about Andy Roddick swimming against Troy Aikman or maybe Michael Strahan and Bradshaw playing soccer against Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole?

    Is this a cheesy idea? Absolutely! But the old “Battle of the Network Stars” is one of TV’s most endearing shows. Fox Sports has hired enough talent for this channel to create its own version. Fox could bring in stars from its other networks (Would Simon Cowell race Bill O’Reilly? Would he box O’Reilly?). Maybe Fox executives would view “American Gladiators” as more emblematic of the Fox attitude. Either way, I’d check this show out.

    > Behind the scenes

    How does Fox Sports decide what to cover on its NFL pregame show? Why did “Fox Sports Live” lead with one highlight over another? Packaged into a weekly half-hour, this would make for interesting TV that I’d watch.
    A behind-the-scenes show should interest Fox, too. Some of the new network’s biggest stars are on Fox’s NFL pregame show and FS1’s 11 p.m. “Fox Sports Live.” Fox needs them on camera, and a behind-the-scenes look at how they create each show is an easy way to do it.

    > Wide World of Sports

    Barrel jumping? Australian rules football? Curling? Why not? Fox can piggyback off the TV sports relationships News Corp. has developed across the globe to bring viewers “the constant variety of sport.” This type of show gives Fox Sports 1 an opportunity to present sports that typically don’t make it onto U.S. TV screens. But it’s also a chance for Fox Sports 1 to focus on non-NFL programming. NFL shows get such high ratings that it’s easy to see why there are so many of them on so many networks. But enough! This type of show can help Fox Sports 1 be different from its competitors and move away from an all-NFL, all-the-time mentality.

    > TMZ-ification
     
    “TMZ on TV” is a guilty pleasure. I won’t admit to watching a similar show focused on athletes. But I’d be well aware of what it covers. This is a show that will create buzz and is tailor-made for creating viral hits. Video of athletes or sports executives leaving nightclubs and answering questions at airports almost certainly would be picked up by sports blogs.

    > “Hell’s Kitchen,” football style

    Fox found a hit by having Gordon Ramsay whip wanna-be chefs into shape. Why not produce a similar show with Fox NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson? I envision a show with Johnson spending time with perennially losing high school football teams, taking over practices and offering advice to coaches and players to try to play better and win a game.

    > Meet the (New) Press

    What’s a sports channel without a sports reporters show? But instead of most sports reporters shows, this would focus on the under-30 crowd. I’d invite bloggers or young reporters — nobody over the age of 30 — to talk about the sports issues that interest them. Get Whitlock to host the show, which would guarantee it will have strong opinions.

    > Hard-hitting newsmagazine show

    OK, there’s nothing “fun” about this type of show. And every other network has its own version, from ESPN’s “OTL” and Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports” to HBO’s “Real Sports” and NBC’s “Costas Now.”

    But if Fox Sports 1 is going to be positioned as the network of fun, it needs at least one signature show that shows off its journalistic chops. It needs to hire the types of reporters who can do these types of investigative stories (Ken Rosenthal is not enough). I will watch to see whether Fox’s executive ranks have the nerve to run the type of stories that upset their network partners.

    John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

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  • Trask, agent look for broadcast role

    Former Oakland Raiders front-office executive Amy Trask is shopping for an on-air TV gig.

    Trask hired an agent, Maxx Sports & Entertainment President Mark Lepselter, who has contacted the NFL’s network partners on behalf of the former executive.

    Amy Trask was president of the Oakland Raiders before leaving in May.
    Photo by: AP IMAGES
    “We’ve started the process,” said Lepselter, who counts Donovan McNabb, Rodney Harrison and Mike Pereira among his broadcasting clients. “There is no one who would have the perspective of Amy Trask in the NFL broadcasting business.”

    Several network sources acknowledge the contact but say talks are still early. Trask still would have to go through an audition process before any decisions are made, they say.

    Trask’s potential move to TV would continue a trend of sports networks hiring former NFL front-office executives. ESPN hired former Colts executive Bill Polian last year, and NBC hired former Chiefs executive Scott Pioli in June to appear on its pregame show, “Football Night in America.” NFL Network hired former Redskins and Texans executive Charley Casserly to be on its studio shows, and he also has worked for CBS.

    Trask, though, would be better versed on the business side than other front-office executives who are solely focused on player personnel. ESPN, for example, uses Andrew Brandt in this role.

    “There’s no question that front-office executives are entering the broadcast industry,” Lepselter said. “It’s an area that’s beginning to get tapped into.”

    Trask resigned as the team’s president in May after 26 years with the franchise. She wore many hats with the team, most recently focused on improving the in-stadium fan experience and making Oakland home games more family friendly.

    Trask became the NFL’s first female front-office executive when she was hired in 1987. She hopes to blaze a similar trail in sports TV.

    “If Amy has the on-air ‘it’ factor, she could legitimately be a game changer,” Lepselter said. “There’s not a retired former female executive talking NFL at any of the networks.”

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