The Braves today announced that FS South and SportSouth are acquiring the 45 games that previously aired on Turner's Peachtree TV and will become the team's exclusive local TV outlets. FS South will broadcast 72 games this season, while SportSouth will air 80 games (Braves). In Atlanta, Tim Tucker writes Turner will be "out of the Braves TV business for the first time since the mid-1970s." It also means "the last of the Braves’ telecasts are moving from a free over-the-air station" to cable. The change "completes a long trend of the team’s games moving away from Turner networks," as the company moved from 70 Braves games to 45 in '08 following its national TV deal with MLB. Neither the Braves nor Fox would reveal terms of the deal, but the Braves "acknowledged it will somewhat improve their local TV revenue, which has been a source of concern because of long-term contracts signed before a recent explosion in rights fees." Turner Senior VP/Corporate Communications Misty Skedgell in a statement said the company reached the agreement with the Braves “in exchange for other consideration" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 2/28).
Padres President & CEO Tom Garfinkel said he was "not terribly optimistic" Time Warner Cable would pick up the team's games before Opening Day. Garfinkel appeared yesterday on XEPRS-AM's "Scott & BR" show to talk about the ongoing carriage talks with TWC. He was asked if the team had been in negotiations with TWC and said, "They haven't really moved off their position from a year ago. Yet Cox, DirecTV, now AT&T and Dish have all chosen to pick up the games, much to the credit of Fox, frankly, and consumers, fans have choices now. For 12 years there was about over 30 percent of the market that couldn't get the games and didn't have a choice. They had no one to switch to. Now it's about … 22 percent of the market are Time Warner customers and they do have a choice. ... Time Warner, we want them to pick up the games. We asked them directly, but they gave us really no indication that right now they plan to pick up the games. In fact, they suggested it's not likely unless there's a critical mass of their customers who leave to their competitors." Garfinkel was asked about TWC's offer to Fox and said, "Fox made them an offer and said, 'Hey, here's what it cost to carry the games.' And Time Warner came back and said, 'Here's what we're willing to pay.' And Fox came back with a counter offer that was then accepted by the other four carriers and Time Warner hasn't really moved off their position from a year ago." Garfinkel: "We're trying to understand their position better and just let them know how we felt, and that we are arm in arm with Fox on the thing, and that we're disappointed they haven't chosen to pick up the games, and we wanted to hear from them why" ("Scott & BR," XEPRS-AM, 2/27). FSN VP/Communications Chris Bellitti said, "There are no current talks" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/28).
FANS WANT MORE: In San Diego, Bill Center notes the Padres yesterday "announced a webcast expansion of spring training broadcasts," while DirecTV said that it would "telecast the nine remaining spring training games" scheduled by FS San Diego and pick up the RSN's total lineup on April 1. The Padres are "going to offer an additional 12 spring training exhibitions via audio webcasts." The webcasts will "raise the number of games available through television, radio or webcasts to 32." Garfinkel said, "We heard from our fans that they wanted all of the games broadcast, so we found a solution to close the gap for them." The webcasts will be on Padres.com with play-by-play "provided by either" Bob Scanlan or Andy Masur (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/28).
The Astros today play the team's "first exhibition game on its new television partner, Comcast SportsNet Houston," and with that, the RSN's carriage issues "enter a new era that may not be more intense for fans but certainly will be more widespread in its impact," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Unlike the Rockets' broadcast territory, which is "limited under NBA rules, Astros games can be seen on CSN Houston across a five-state area … except in areas where they're not available, which at the moment is most of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico." Money remains the issue "for companies that service about 60 percent of Houston's 2.2 million TV households that don't carry CSN Houston." Providers are "unwilling to pay CSN Houston's monthly subscriber fee, estimated to be an average of $3.40 per month." Meanwhile, Dish Network earlier this month inked a deal to carry FS San Diego, and CSN Houston President & GM Matt Hutchings said, "No disrespect intended to Fox and the Padres, but why would providers launch a network with essentially one pro team in a smaller geographic location and not launch this network?" He added, "They are not valuing the local fan base." Astros President George Postolos said that he is "determined to keep negotiating for what he feels is a fair market rate for the network." Postolos: "It has to be right for the long term. We need to get a fair market rate" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/28).
BLOOMBERG NEWS' Don Jeffrey reported Dish Network asked a jury to make ESPN pay at least $153M in damages for "allegedly breaching a contract by offering competitors, including Comcast Corp., better licensing terms for sports programming.” In closing arguments yesterday in N.Y. federal court, Dish “accused ESPN of violating a so-called most-favored-nation clause in their distribution agreement” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/27).
Y'ALL COME BACK NOW, HEAR? SI.com’s Lars Anderson wrote it “hurts the image of NASCAR to use announcers who are grammatically challenged and fail to speak in clear, complete sentences, because it feeds the worst stereotypes that many stick-and-ball fans have of NASCAR and those who participate in the sport.” Anderson: “That said, I think (Fox analyst Darrell Waltrip) is still at the top of his game and, years from now, he'll be remembered as much for his broadcast career as his driving. Could younger, fresher voices lure younger sets of eyeballs to the sport? Perhaps, but that's pretty far down the list of what needs to be done to reinvigorate NASCAR” (SI.com, 2/27).
VARSITY BLUES: MEDIA BISTRO’s Jerry Barmash reported Cablevision has “laid off dozens of employees in a major restructuring for MSG Varsity.” A source said that the layoffs “took place two weeks ago.” Cablevision at the time said in a statement “it is combining MSG Varsity with Optimum Local, the company’s local programming unit.” But the source “intimates that the sale of Cablevision will take place in the summer” (MEDIABISTRO.com, 2/27).
WAVE RUNNERS: Good Karma Broadcasting has agreed to acquire a signal in Palm Beach County and Florida's Treasure Coast from Palm Beach Broadcasting. ESPN Radio 760 West Palm Beach now will be simulcast on the new signal, ESPN 106.3 FM, under a loan marketing agreement until the sale is finalized. The new station will be known as ESPN 106.3 and will broadcast the same local and national sports programming as ESPN 760 (ESPN 760).