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MLB Lockout Making Regional Sports Networks Nervous With Canceled Games

RSNs were counting on live baseball games to fill up their primetime and daytime schedules, to sell air time to their advertising partners.

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The first week of Major League Baseball’s 2022 season, comprising each team’s first two series of the year, has already been canceled due to the team owners’ lockout. A second week will now follow with MLB and the MLB Players Association still not reaching a labor agreement after Tuesday’s negotiations.

As you might expect, cancelling games and an entire season apparently in jeopardy because of MLB’s labor dispute has the league’s TV partners concerned. Obviously, those include national networks like ESPN, Turner, and Fox. (And probably baseball’s new streaming partners in Apple and NBC.)

But regional sports networks have the most to lose with MLB’s work stoppage. Sinclair’s Bally Sports Networks and NBC Sports Networks will suffer, along with the New York Yankees’ YES Network, Chicago Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network, and Los Angeles Dodgers Spectrum SportsNet LA.

Those networks were counting on live baseball games to fill up their primetime and daytime schedules, to sell air time to their advertising partners. RSNs can’t just put another sporting event or a movie in those in those time slots. Maybe a classic game, but how many will tune in for that?

As Variety’s Jennifer Maas points out, Sinclair is already fighting to stay on satellite providers like DISH, cable platforms like Charter, and streaming hubs such as YouTube TV and Hulu Live. Not having any live baseball games to carry won’t help them resolve these carriage disputes.

Media buyers and insiders that Maas spoke to said networks have become accustomed to adjusting on the fly during the pandemic, when games could be postponed or canceled with a moment’s notice due to COVID breakouts and protocols. But this is a potential long-term stoppage.

Yes, the entire 2020 MLB season was in danger because of COVID. But that was a circumstance beyond anyone’s control. That is certainly not the case with the MLB lockout, which could be resolved at any time if owners and players agreed to a deal. The labor dispute has created anger among fans that might be irrevocable for many.

How long before RSNs begin asking for make-goods and refunds? What about cable providers seeking restitution for angry customers? That could be the next step as MLB’s work stoppage grows longer.

Sports TV News

Outside the Lines Won’t Return to ESPN Weekend Schedule

The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017.

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ESPN has decided to not return Outside the Lines to its weekend lineup, ending the show’s linear television run.

A report from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal claims ESPN told OTL staffers that the show wouldn’t return to the network after the Super Bowl.

The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017. Outside the Lines was often regarded as the “moral compass” of ESPN, and was often the source of some of the more investigative reporting employed by the network.

Outside the Lines — which was airing at 9:00 AM on Saturday mornings — averaged 303,000 viewers in the timeslot. Meanwhile, SportsCenter: AM has seen an average audience of 572,000 in the same window.

The Outside the Lines brand will continue being utilized during the Noon ET SportsCenter, as well as ESPN digital platforms, including the network’s YouTube page.

Jeremy Schaap will continue to host the Outside the Lines segments during SportsCenter, but will also be the host of a new iteration of The Sports Reporters that will air on ESPN’s YouTube channel. Schaap’s father, Dick, was the host of the ESPN Sunday morning program from 1988 until his death in 2001. The show aired on ESPN from 1988 to 2017.

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Sports TV News

CBS: Calling Meeting With Tony Romo ‘Intervention’ is ‘Complete Mischaracterization’

“We meet regularly with our on-air talent.”

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An opening question in broadcasting circles is ‘What happened to Tony Romo?’, with even CBS reportedly pondering the issue.

During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast earlier this week, The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand claimed CBS attempted “an intervention” with its lead NFL analyst.

The intended mission of several alleged meetings with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and CBS NFL producer Jim Rikhoff was to return Romo to his previous heights, which were widely regarded as the best NFL analyst in the business.

CBS Sports has responded to the insinuation that the meetings would be classified as an “intervention” with a strong denial.

“To call this an intervention is a complete mischaracterization, we meet regularly with our on-air talent,” CBS Sports spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle told Marchand

Marchand added that CBS Sports officials plan to attempt to rectify the issues it sees with Romo again this offseason. Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS Sports in 2020 — is slated to call Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 with Jim Nantz.

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Cameron Maybin Joining Detroit Tigers TV Booth

“All of us at Bally Sports Detroit are energized about this upcoming season and watching all the excitement unfold.”

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After being dropped from the New York Yankees booth on YES Network, Cameron Maybin has a new television home with the Detroit Tigers.

The 35-year-old Maybin had three separate one-year stints with the Tigers during his 15-season big league career. Maybin was drafted by the franchise with the 10th overall selection of the 2005 MLB Draft.

A report from the Detroit Free Press adds that the Tigers will rely on Craig Monroe as its primary color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer Matt Shepard. Monroe played six of his nine MLB seasons in Detroit and was a member of the team’s 2006 World Series club.

Additionally, former Tigers relief pitcher Todd Jones will also join the broadcast crew on Bally Sports Detroit as an analyst for the 2023 season. Jones pitched for Detroit from 1997 through 2001 and also from 2006 through 2008.

“Tigers baseball is always a winner,” Bally Sports Detroit Senior Vice President and General Manager Greg Hammaren said Thursday in a statement. “All of us at Bally Sports Detroit are energized about this upcoming season and watching all the excitement unfold.

“Our crew behind the scenes and our engaging talent on camera are the best in the business. Starting with spring training, we are committed to bringing Tigers fans the absolute best coverage all season long.”

The news of Maybin and Jones joining the Bally Sports Detroit booth comes on the heels of the network failing to reach an agreement with Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Morris to return to the network. The Free Press report claims Morris was offered a reduced role with the television broadcaster, but declined.

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