NBA Lockout Watch, Day 104: Networks Preparing Alternative Programming
With the first two weeks of the NBA season canceled, TNT "will lose six games," but it has a "large library of movies and reruns, as well as original programming that it can use to plug holes," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. Media consultant Chris Bevilacqua said, "There is probably a lot more at stake at the regional sports network level than the national level." A Comcast spokesperson said, "We will air a mix of college sports, hockey, original programming and selective classic NBA games in the meantime." Flint noted Comcast "has the local cable rights to seven NBA franchises," including the Celtics and 76ers. RSNs "are often one of the most expensive channels for multichannel video programming distributors" to carry. Bevilacqua said that if enough games "are lost, the distributors will likely seek some sort of discount on the fees they pay to carry local sports channels." Bevilacqua said that it "was likely that at least 50% of the NBA season would have to be canceled before distributors might think of reducing cable bills or offering some sort of rebate to subscribers" (LATIMES.com, 10/11).
BACKUP OPTIONS: ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said the net will air "mostly college football and college basketball in November" to replace the scheduled NBA programming, but execs are "still finalizing it" (USA TODAY, 10/12). Many networks are "maintaining diplomacy while solidifying plans for alternative programming." So far, Turner Sports released a statement that read, "Our schedule will consist of the network's regular primetime entertainment lineup." CABLEFAX DAILY cited a source at an RSN that said the "company doesn't have to pay rights fees when teams aren't playing, and that although NBA advertising contracts vary by party, 'in the short-term it's not an issue.'" But the source added, "As time goes on, the effects become more meaningful" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/12). A spokesperson for YES Network, which carried Nets games, said, "Among the top-shelf programming we could add to our lineup is more soccer (along the lines of our existing Arsenal package) and live college basketball" (N.Y. POST, 10/12).