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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

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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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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Sports TV News

ESPN Assigns Broadcast Teams for MLB Wild Card Round

In preparation for the postseason, ESPN has assigned the broadcast teams for the series forthcoming.

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There are just a few games left in the MLB season and the postseason begins this weekend with the Wild Card round. In preparation, ESPN has assigned the broadcast teams for the series forthcoming.

Andrew Marchand reports that the team assigned to the presumptive New York Mets Wild Card series will be Karl Ravech, David Cone and Eduardo Perez. The Mets still mathematically can win the NL East but they trail the Braves by two games with three to play.

He also reports that the St. Louis Wild Card series will be called by Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. The Cleveland series will be broadcast by Boog Sciambi and Doug Glanville while the Toronto series will be called by Dave Flemming, Jessica Mendoza and Tim Kurkjian.

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Stugotz: ‘Sean McDonough Hates The Aaron Judge Cut-Ins’

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

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College football fans are not being shy with how they feel about Aaron Judge. Whether it is private conversations or social media posts, people are making their disdain for the cut-ins to college football games on ESPN networks when the Yankee slugger comes to bat known. On Monday morning, Stugotz added that it isn’t just fans that are unhappy.

The Dan Le Batard Show discussed the second straight week of cut-ins on Monday morning. Stugotz pointed out that one of ESPN’s primary college football voices sounds just as annoyed as fans are.

“Sean McDonough hates the toss to Aaron Judge,” he said. Hates it!”

Last week, ESPN and ABC cut into games when Judge was sitting on 60 home runs. This week, he was sitting on 61. A 62nd home run would be the most in American League history.

Stugotz added that has to be part of McDonough’s frustration.

“In his defense, what are we cutting in for? I have no idea if [Aaron Judge] is breaking a record, what record he’s breaking, if he’s clean. I have no idea!”

Producer Mike Ryan Ruiz said the fact that Judge is yet to deliver is making the cut-ins more frustrating for fans.

“I think what hurts the whole thing is that Aaron Judge has been terrible during these cut-ins,” Ruiz said. “He’s been God awful during these cut-ins. I haven’t seen a single home runs during one of these cut-ins. There was genuine fury at a watch party I was at. Fury! At Aaron Judge.”

A popular criticism of ESPN has been that this kind of attention would not be paid to Aaron Judge if he was chasing a mark that wasn’t the home run record if he played anywhere other than New York. According to Ryan, the mistake is bigger than that. Why would regular season baseball ever interrupt college football?

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

There are four games left in Major League Baseball’s regular season. You can bet college football fans will make plenty of signs for College GameDay if Judge cannot hit number 62 before the playoffs start.

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