Making Sports 'Worth' ItFrom live-stream viewing to Fox’s worst kept secret, 2013 could shake up how we watch our games 1/07/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
In 2012, we found out that networks will
seemingly pay anything for sports and
that for two weeks in the summer, NBC’s
Olympics head man Jim Bell may have been
the most hated person on Twitter.
Despite the backlash NBC received from
the Twitterati over its Olympics coverage, its
decision to live-stream many events signaled a
growing reliance on networks’ ability to provide
sports fans with viewing options that go beyond
the traditional television set. Plus, NBC appeared
to be crying about it all the way to the bank.
“The model worked,” Jon Litner, group president
for NBC Sports Group, said at the recent
B&C/Multichannel News OnScreen Summit.
“Now the question is, how do you apply that
model and migrate it across not just national
business, but also regional sports networks?”
Grabbing TV Everywhere rights is now considered
a must for TV partners, as the use of
digital properties has increased, including huge
events such as the Super Bowl. Last year’s game
was the most-watched single sports event ever
on the Web, with more than 2.1 million unique
visitors combining to stream 78 million-plus
minutes. This year’s game could break that mark.
Rights to stream games either through online
or mobile were included in nearly every media
rights pact—and there were a lot of them—that
was signed in 2012.
Speaking of Those Rights Fees…
Between Major League Baseball, English Premier
League soccer and college football’s BCS
bowl games, 2012 saw media rights fees soar to
MLB’s new deals will net a combined $12.4
billion between Turner, Fox and ESPN over
eight years. That’s a more than 100% increase
from their current deals. While the majority of
these new rights pacts don’t kick in until 2014,
subscribers’ TV bills may be affected earlier.
It’s not just being felt on the national stage
either: The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking at a
huge payday as incumbent Fox battles for rights
with newcomer Time Warner Cable. Regional
sports networks have been charging cable and
satellite operators more to offset the rising price
of sports, and DirecTV is charging subs an
extra $3 in areas that carry multiple RSNs. A
DirecTV representative said it “is a way of recovering
some, but not all, of the skyrocketing cost
of sports in certain markets.”
The Worldwide Leader’s
The year 2012 began with NBC rebranding
Versus as NBC Sports Network, joining CBS in
having its own all-sports cable net. This year, Fox
is expected to join the fray with Fox Sports 1,
its rumored sports channel that has become one
of the industry’s worst-kept secrets.
Fox officials have remained coy on the network.
“We continue to evaluate the potential
for a national sports channel,” Fox Sports Media
Group copresident Randy Freer said when
Fox renewed its rights deal with MLB. Published
reports argue that the plan is for Speed to be
rebranded beginning in August, with Fox also
using its coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII in early
2014 as another launch point.
While NBC and CBS have struggled to challenge
ESPN, the acknowledged leader in that
space, Fox has properties that the other two
don’t, namely Major League Baseball.
Meanwhile, CBS is hoping to give its own allsports
net a “Super”-sized boost next month.
The network will house all of its properties under
one roof in Jackson Square, as it sets up shop
in New Orleans for Super Bowl week.
NHL Season on Thin Ice
The NHL became the latest league to have a
lockout—except theirs doesn’t look like it will
have a happy ending. At presstime, 625 games
had been lost, which translates to roughly
51% of the season, and time is running out. It’s
likely that if a deal is not in place by Jan. 11,
the league will lose the full season, its second
complete cancellation in eight years. Should
the NHL ice its entire season, Litner said he
will sit down with league officials to discuss
Outside of Canada, nobody wants the NHL
to return to the ice more than NBC, which has
struggled to fill NBC Sports Net’s schedule without
it. Reinforcements are coming though, as the
net will begin airing Formula One racing and
the English Premier League this year.