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Leonsis Strikes Mega-Deal With CSN Mid-Atlantic

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Local sports mogul Ted Leonsis is in the final stages of a media rights deal with Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic that, if concluded, could give his organization a one-third ownership in the regional sports network, which has carried his Wizards and Capitals games for years.

The outlines of the agreement, confirmed by people familiar with the negotiations, would provide Monumental Sports & Entertainment something Leonsis has wanted since investing in the sports properties and the Verizon Center more than 16 years ago: equity in a sports television network spanning Washington and Baltimore.

Just two years ago, when Leonsis formed Monumental Network, a digital site that carries his teams’ content, the former AOL executive spelled out his ultimate target

“The long-range goal is to own our own means of distribution,” Leonsis said at the time. “The most successful sports teams right now are successful because they own their own regional sports networks.”

The competition for live sports programming in the digital era has given professional teams an edge in negotiating new rights deals, with several other sports teams owning all or parts of regional sports networks, including baseball’s Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox and Cubs, to name a few.

Equity in regional sports networks gives teams a chance to own a growing business that it can sell either as part of, or separate from, the team.

It also adds another revenue stream from ads sold around college and minor league sports, feature shows and other programming.

In addition to the financial incentives, “ownership allows teams and ownership groups to control and manage any messaging necessary around the team,” said David M. Carter, executive director of the Marshall Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California.

Through a spokesman, Leonsis declined to comment Monday. As chairman and largest shareholder in Monumental, he holds a strong hand in the negotiations with Comcast because his two professional teams are part of Comcast’s regional winter sports program. Those describing the tentative deal did so on the condition of anonymity because the terms are not yet final.

The new deal was first reported by the Sports Business Journal. The agreement,which would extend Comcast’s current media deals with the two teams, would run through the 2031-32 seasons.

The Leonsis sports empire is one of the few that own both an arena and teams. The negotiations have become public at a time when sports rights deals have been making headlines in Washington.

To read more visit the Washington Post where this article was originally published

Sports TV News

NFL Considers Ending Pro Bowl Amidst Low Ratings

“Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.”

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The NFL is obsessed with TV ratings. It isn’t a surprise that the league may not be willing to tolerate the Pro Bowl underperforming for much longer. 

In 2022, the NFL’s all-star game produced it’s lowest ratings in 16 years. Fewer that 7 million people tuned in to watch the game across ABC, ESPN and DisneyXD. 

“The (Pro Bowl) game doesn’t work,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday after the owners’ meeting in Atlanta. “We need to find another way to celebrate the players.”

There are two proposed alternatives that have been reported. The Washington Post says the league is considering launching a seven-on-seven competition. It would not include tackling or full clocks. The other report comes from Ian Rapport of the NFL Network. He says the league is considering hosting a series of skills competitions over the course of what would be branded an all-star week. The NFL has partnered with DirecTV in the past to present similar events during Super Bowl Week. 

No details have emerged or final decisions made. Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.

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Former Hulu Exec Michael Schneider Hired To Run Bally Sports+

“Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.”

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Sinclair Broadcast Group and Diamond Sports Group have tapped Michael Schneider as the chief operating officer and general manager of Bally Sports+ when it launches this year.

Schneider will oversee the direct-to-consumer platform that will also be the hub for Bally Sports live programming.

Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.

“Throughout his career, Michael has successfully launched and developed DTC streaming and service platforms and created immersive engagement experiences,” said Sinclair COO and president of broadcast Rob Weisbord. “He is a terrific addition to the team as we build out the Bally Sports+ offering, its exclusive content and passionate fan community.”

Even before Hulu, Schneider had a hand in streaming. He was a founding member of the PlayStation Vue launch team.

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Sports TV News

Marquee Sports Network Weighs Streaming Options Outside of Bally Sports+

“Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.”

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As Sinclair Broadcast Group prepares to launch Bally Sports+, its direct-to-consumer platform that will be home to Bally Sports live events, the Chicago Cubs are weighing their options for Marquee Sports Network, which the team co-owns with Sinclair.

Despite being under the Sinclair umbrella, Marquee is its own free-standing RSN from the rest of the Bally Sports networks across the country.

Marquee is readily available on a number of cable providers, but the only thing that’s really missing is its own standalone streaming platform for games. Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.

“We’re always interested in being on the cutting edge with the ultimate deliverable to our consumer,” McCarthy said. “But there isn’t any contractual clock ticking to make us feel that way. It’s how we’ve approached things from the beginning. Between our two ownership groups, there’s a lot of aggression to get it right. And I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”

The TV ratings will always be of top interest for MLB, especially regional ratings. But as the league has worked to embrace more streaming options for games, striking deals with Apple and Peacock for rights this season, it’s all about providing what the fans and viewers want.

“We now have the ability to do so much more, to properly tell the story of a 162-game season,” said Crane Kenney, Chicago Cubs president of business operations. Kenney was instrumental in the launch of Marquee. “We love baseball, we love the game, and we love the opportunity we have to share it with our fans in really deep ways.”

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