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MLB Considers Bidding on Fox RSNs

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Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred recently sat down for an interview with the JohnWallStreet blog. He was asked his opinions on Disney’s sale of the 22 regional sports networks it acquired from Fox. His answer is raising a few eyebrows in the sports media world.

JWS: The Yankees are going to re-acquire control of the YES Network. The Cubs have discussed doing the same in 2020. Does MLB want its teams to control their broadcast rights? Does the league care who ends up buying the other 21 Fox RSNs?

Manfred: We’re very interested in the RSN sale process and have preferences in terms of who the owners are going to be. Candidly, we’re looking at the RSNs ourselves.

JWS: MLB renewed its media rights partnership with Fox Sports (includes World Series), with a +39% increase in value 3 years early. As teams’ current deals expire, would you expect local broadcast rights to grow at a similar rate?

Manfred: Yeah, I think that content is going to continue to increase in value as we move forward. It may be different bidders, different companies that are involved, but I think the most important point is that content has durable value.

The obvious questions are 1) “Who does MLB prefer own the RSNs?” and 2) “What would it take for MLB to make a bid of their own?”.

Does Manfred have concerns over streaming rights and how an Amazon take over of those regional sports networks could effect the future of MLB.TV? Does the Major League Baseball office fear what an association with the heavily scrutinized Sinclair Media Group would do for its brand image? There is no real way to know those answers without Manfred saying who he prefers win the bidding and why, so let’s instead talk about the idea of Major League Baseball bidding for those networks.

There are plenty of cost factors to consider. Not only would a new bidder likely drive up the price, but there would be a whole new set of production costs the league and its teams would be responsible for. There is also the question of what exactly MLB wants to buy. If the Yankees want to reacquire the controlling interest in the YES Network, would that be part of this deal or would YES exist outside of this deal?

There are advantages too, particularly in the streaming world. Awful Announcing‘s Andrew Bucholtz points out that “it would make it a lot easier to do cross-RSN initiatives, such as in-market streaming, and would also give the league a whole lot of control over over-the-top options; if MLB controls both the local rights and the national rights, that could potentially allow for MLB.tv subscription levels that ignore in-market blackouts.”

Another question worth asking is how would acquiring 22 regional networks effect the MLB Network. Surely the league wouldn’t want to create a scenario where they own two networks in a market that are essentially simulcasts of each other.

These questions may be a lot of consternation over nothing. Although the first round of bidding is over, it is still not entirely impossible that Fox or Comcast don’t find a way into the bidding in the second round. Surely groups that MLB already has working relationships with would ease Manfred’s mind and reduce the league’s desire to make a bid. This could also be posturing to make sure whoever wins the bidding is prepared to treat the league’s teams the way they feel they deserve to be treated.

 

Sports TV News

Pat McAfee Feels Good About His College Football MegaCast Debut

“I feel good going into the next one. I feel like we’ve learned from this first one,” he said.

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The College Football MegaCast featuring Pat McAfee and his daily YouTube show’s cast debuted on ESPN2 over the weekend, and McAfee is looking forward to the next edition.

On his show Monday, McAfee told co-host A.J. Hawk that he felt good about how the show went considering it was uncharted territory to be in.

“We had no idea how successful it would be,” McAfee said. “Like this is the first time we’re being judged in a different fashion. I don’t think we marketed it much, you know, because I don’t think we knew how it was gonna go.”

The alternate feed is being produced for ESPN by Omaha Productions, which is also responsible for the ManningCast which runs alongside the traditional Monday Night Football broadcast.

McAfee said this first show turned out to be a learning experience and that they started off on the right foot.

“I feel good going into the next one. I feel like we’ve learned from this first one,” he said. “We had no idea, it was very much of a roll of the dice. Going into the next one I think we’re gonna try and make it even grander and bigger, and I’m very excited for it.”

As for the style in which they covered the Clemson/N.C. State game, McAfee added that the giveaways and guest interactions added a lot of value.

“I think it’s the right way to watch a game, and to be honest I think it’s keeping us all invested as much and even more,” he said.

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Sports TV News

LA Clippers Sign New Contract with Bally Sports

The multi-year agreement will go into effect this season. Bally will carry 63 of the team’s 2022-23 regular season games.

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The Los Angeles Clippers will continue its relationship with Bally Sports, completing a new deal over the weekend to keep Bally as the team’s regional sports network.

The multi-year agreement will go into effect this season. Bally will carry 63 of the team’s 2022-23 regular season games. Additionally, 11 games will be carried by KTLA, giving the team some additional viewership reach. The remaining eight games will be broadcast on national television.

Brian Sieman will continue on as the play-by-play broadcaster for games, with Jim Jackson and Mike Fratello swapping the analyst chair. Jamie Maggio and Kristina Pink will be reporting.

According to the Los Angeles Times, all signs pointed to the team and the network hashing out a new contract.

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ESPN’s NFL Programming Sees Big September Growth

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

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NFL Studio

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

Sunday NFL Countdown is averaging 1.4 million viewers per show thus far in 2022. That up 15% from 2021’s first three shows of the NFL season. The season premiere – Sunday, Sept. 11 – averaged 1.6 million viewers, tying the network’s best Week 1 audience for the show since 2016 and is up 35% year-over-year.

NFL Live experienced large growth too. The episode airing after the first NFL Sunday, on Monday September 12, averaged 664,000 viewers which beat every NFL Live episode last season, including the most-watched episode on 2021 (December 17) which grabbed 635,000 viewers.

Monday Night Countdown is averaging 1.3 million viewers for its two, non-staggered September episodes, which aired in its traditional timeslot (6-8 pm).

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