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Volume 23 No. 13
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Ask the experts: Here’s the sports media stories you need to be watching in the months ahead

One top-of-mind issue is how the media will incorporate sports betting into its programming.
Photo: getty images
One top-of-mind issue is how the media will incorporate sports betting into its programming.
Photo: getty images
One top-of-mind issue is how the media will incorporate sports betting into its programming.
Photo: getty images

Every summer as I head out on vacation, I ask some of the smartest minds in sports business to help write this column. They always answer the same question: Name the most intriguing sports media story to follow over the next four months. Each year, this column serves as a personal editorial calendar, identifying stories that I plan to report and write about through the end of the year.

 

Affiliate Deals

“This year’s big challenge in sports media lies with the ability of over-the-air TV broadcasters to renew carriage agreements in a timely manner with the top distributors, like the AT&T/DirecTV-Nexstar/Media General dispute that could last beyond the start of college and professional football. This has a cascading effect on sports media as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC all have affiliated stations with Nexstar that carry premium sports content. Further, an even larger fight in this space is lurking around the corner when Sinclair’s TV station carriage deal with Dish/Sling TV expires at the end of the year. The opening shot in this battle was fired two weeks ago when the 21 RSNs Sinclair intends to purchase went dark on Dish/Sling TV.”

Matt Cacciato
Executive in residence, director, masters of sports administration program, Ohio University

The Evolving Digital Landscape

“I will be watching stories about personalization of sports media for various audiences. Do sports fans want to hear influencers ‘narrate’ live games? Do they want long- or short-form highlights instead of (or in addition to) live games? Do they want ‘Twitch-like’ engagement for live sports or real-time highlights? How will mobile betting be integrated into the live game experience? There are so many amazing tech platforms trying to seize on these experiences. Which will rise above the rest, and which league or sport will embrace this change?”

Leslie Gittess
CEO, founder, Blue Sky Media

RSNs

“I’m interested to see what Sinclair has in store for the RSNs. The RSNs are a cash-flow play for Sinclair, as opposed to a growth play. Given the low purchase price, the RSNs will need only 2%-3% annual growth to reduce debt and generate cash flow. I assume that Sinclair will focus on the equity revenue share component in team rights deals to mitigate significant subscriber erosion issues, and I won’t be surprised if they explore sports wagering as a new revenue stream. Look for how Sinclair packages its local stations with the RSNs to create leverage in driving revenue from retransmission consent in distribution negotiations and more ad revenue from political advertising next year.”

Dean Jordan
Managing executive, properties/media, Wasserman

New Fox

“I am excited to see the ‘New Fox’ in action this fall. There’s never been a broadcast network with the flexibility to focus on sports and live events exclusively. Now there’s Fox — and they have two NFL packages, the baseball playoffs and World Series, half-packages with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12, Big East basketball and Friday night WWE. Next year brings the Super Bowl, XFL and the first half of NASCAR to the network. That’s an excellent rights portfolio. What are they going to do with that? Can they make it bigger than the sum of these great properties?”

John Kosner
President, Kosner Media

NFL Storyline

“We may be entering the ‘Age of the Black Quarterback.’ Black quarterbacks are on the verge of becoming the faces of the NFL, and of redefining the position. The league’s reigning MVP, Pat Mahomes, is a black QB. So is the No. 1 draft pick, Kyler Murray, and the NFL’s highest-paid player, Russell Wilson. Black quarterbacks are some combination of the leaders, saviors, thrillers, future of multiple franchises — from Cam Newton to Deshaun Watson, from Dak Prescott to Lamar Jackson to Dwayne Haskins. And then there is one black signal caller, Colin Kaepernick, who is out of football right now but still looms large as an emblem of social justice in sports. What will become of him?” 

Kevin Merida
Senior vice president, editor-in-chief, ESPN

Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images
Photo: getty images

Direct-to-Consumer

“We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about the implications of the ever-increasing role that OTT platforms are playing in sports media. Virtually all of the incumbent networks have their own offerings and strategies (e.g., ESPN+, B/R Live, NBC Sports Gold, CBS All-Access, etc.), while “pure play” companies like DAZN and FloSports have emerged as serious bidders, and the digital behemoths like Amazon, Facebook and YouTube continue to loom large. This is going to have serious implications for the sports business, as it will undoubtedly impact consumer viewing (and buying) habits, rights fees, etc. It’s a story with many angles that we intend to focus on this fall and beyond.”

Doug Perlman
CEO, Sports Media Advisors

Sports Gambling

“I’m most curious about how media, in all forms, will be impacted by, and will impact, sports gambling. My main question: How will the media incorporate (or not) sports betting into their programming? Will we see an increase on the reporting of sports betting lines? What networks have the appetite to carry advertising from sports gaming enterprises? We saw a few years ago how the fantasy ads became dominant. I also will be monitoring to see how live commentary handles betting lines in real time. Could this new commentary impact coaching decisions and player performances?”

Kenneth L. Shropshire
CEO, Global Sport Institute; Adidas distinguished professor of global sport, ASU; professor emeritus, Wharton School

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ and read his twice-weekly newsletter.