News Corp. is “considering revamping its Fox Soccer cable channel into a general entertainment network,” according to sources cited by Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. The sources said that plans are “in a preliminary stage and are not definite.” With News Corp. “planning to convert its Speed channel into a national sports cable network later this year and Fox Soccer recently losing some marquee events to rival outlets, the long-term viability of the network is uncertain.” The remaining Fox Soccer programming “could easily find its home on Fox Sports 1, which is the tentative name of the new national network.” The new channel could become “a sister channel of FX," and the net "may even be called FX2." The challenge for News Corp. with Fox Soccer will be “convincing cable and satellite distributors to let it rebrand the channel” (LATIMES.com, 1/15).
The Braves are "six years into a bad 20-year local-TV contract that might put the team at a competitive disadvantage as other major league teams sign significantly more lucrative deals that increase revenues and enable larger payrolls," according to David O'Brien of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. However, Braves Chair & CEO Terry McGuirk said that he is "not worried because the organization is positioned to stay competitive by enhancing other revenues and maintaining a strong minor league system." McGuirk: "We pride ourselves in understanding our business long-term, and we’ve seen exactly where we are. We saw it coming years ago. The marketplace does change, but it’s not change we don’t know or understand or actually predict. We really made our zigging and zagging long ago, to get positioned correctly the way we are today." The Braves' TV deal, negotiated as the team was being sold by Time Warner to Liberty Media in '07, is "believed to be worth less than $20 million annually to the team." But some have said that the figure "is closer to $10 million annually, which would place it at the bottom of the major league scale." The Braves' current deal "covers all local-rights broadcast entities -- Fox Sports South, SportSouth and Peachtree TV, owned by Turner Broadcasting." McGuirk said, "It was done simultaneously (when the team was being sold to Liberty). It was to Turner’s advantage, obviously, to do it that way. They were parting with the team and they were able to structure a long-term relationship with Fox." McGuirk said that "neither the $10 million nor the $20 million figure was accurate." McGuirk: "That deal was an iron-clad deal. We are constantly trying to figure ways to improve it" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/17).
As MMA promotion Bellator makes its live debut on Spike TV tonight at 10:00pm ET, CEO Bjorn Rebney is “gambling that Spike's reach and influence can take his burgeoning mixed martial arts company to the top of the industry,” according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. It will be a “long and difficult road” for Bellator. The UFC is “almost universally regarded as the major league of MMA and, indeed, it was UFC programming that helped build Spike's brand.” Bellator's shows for the last year were broadcast on Spike's website and on MTV2 as Spike TV's non-compete clause with the UFC "prevented Spike from broadcasting any other promotion's fights.” Bellator tonight “returns to the big-time, so to speak, as it debuts its newest season on Spike to its nearly 100 million television homes.” Neither Rebney nor Spike TV President Kevin Kay is “willing to say the long-term play is to overtake the UFC as MMA's dominant promoter.” But viewers in the "coveted male 18-to-34-year-old demographic" have the potential to make Bellator "a major player in the marketplace.” Rebney said, "Younger male consumers who identify themselves as MMA fans identify Spike as the home of televised MMA." But Iole wrote the question remains whether those viewers are "looking for UFC content specifically or simply MMA from any promoter.” That is a “critical difference that could mean success or failure for Bellator as well as millions of dollars won or lost.” Rebney and Kay are “counting upon the consistency of having live Bellator fights every Thursday at 10 as a way to build an audience.” It is “what Rebney calls the ‘same time, same place, same channel’ concept” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16).
BEHIND THE SCENES: SI.com’s Loretta Hunt noted Bellator has worked with Spike for “more than a year to prepare for its live debut, and a lot has been accomplished in that time,” with the two companies “planning and refining" their product. Bellator less than a month after its deal with Spike was announced “signed into an agreement with Fremantle Media to distribute the promotion's televised events in 107 countries.” Bellator in July “moved its headquarters from Chicago to Southern California to be closer to Spike” in L.A. There has been a “re-branding of both Bellator's logo and name” as there has been “more exposure for Bellator fighters, who have popped up at celebrity events such as Spike's ‘Video Games Awards.’” Spike also has “hooked a big fish in reality TV master Bertrand Van Munster,” who is “producing a Bellator reality series to debut later this year" (SI.com, 1/16).
RAISE THE CURTAIN: In N.Y., Marc Raimondi noted tonight's Bellator fight card will “feature two title fights,” with lightweight champion Michael Chandler defending his title against Rick Hawn in the main event. The card also will “mark the debut" of UFC veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral. Bellator, which “operates more like a TV show, will air weekly cards every Thursday night on Spike until April.” There will be “three ‘summer series’ events in June, July and August before the ninth season begins again in August.” Welterweight Karl Amoussou said, “Bellator is already the second organization in the world. I think it’s gonna be huge now. It’s going to be way bigger with Spike” (NYPOST.com, 1/15).
MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Todd Spangler reported Google in an FCC filing claimed Time Warner Cable has "backtracked from any willingness" to license its Metro Sports RSN in K.C. for Google’s IPTV service. Google argued that the MSO’s actions "underscore the need for the FCC to strengthen program-access rules for operator-affiliated RSNs." Google in the filing said TWC initially "signaled a willingness to contract with Google Fiber," but added that the cable operator backtracked "after delaying negotiations for months" (MULTICHANNELNEWS.com, 1/15).
FIRST TIME, LONG TIME: Blogger Ed Sherman noted CBS Sports Radio “can be heard in 250 markets,” but some of those markets “only carry the morning show” or Jim Rome’s 12:00-3:00pm ET show. CBS Sports Radio in order to be successful "needs to be available to the masses." CBS Radio Senior VP/Programming Chris Oliviero said, “Our goal is to clear every major market. ... We’re going to try to get into as many markets as quickly as possible.” Oliviero added, “We have no business plan based on being on satellite” (SHERMANREPORT.com, 1/15).
DOCTOR-PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY? Butler Univ. athletic officials and team doctor Thomas Fischer said that NBC Sports Network’s coverage of Butler G Rotnei Clarke’s injury during Saturday's men's basketball game against the Univ. of Dayton "was intrusive and inappropriate.” In Indianapolis, David Woods wrote the images broadcast “weren’t as disturbing as the microphone picking up conversation between Clarke and medical personnel.” Clarke was heard to say, “I can’t move, I can’t move.” Fischer said it was “morally, ethically wrong” to broadcast such eavesdropping (INDYSTAR.com, 1/15).