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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

Robert Griffin III: ESPN Provided Chances to Showcase Versatility

“ESPN has put me in spots that have allowed me to showcase that and put me with the right teams to really fully maximize my own ability and add to the broadcast.”

Ricky Keeler

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Robert Griffin III

Former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III never really thought he would be in broadcasting at this stage in his career. However, fans would not get to hear him on Saturdays analyzing college football games or on Mondays doing Monday Night Countdown on ESPN if it weren’t for one person.

Griffin III was a guest on The Dave Pasch Podcast this week and he said that broadcasting was never really on the radar and after a few years, he finally gave in to his current agent to give it a try.

“To be honest with you, this was never on my radar whether I played 20 years or 5 years. It wasn’t something I ever thought this was going to be an avenue for me. I say this with all good intentions. I was bothered for 3 years by my current agent, Mark Lepsetler out of New York. He just saw something in me, felt like I could do this and do it at a really high level for a long time.

“After 3 years, I finally gave in. I did an audition with FOX. ESPN heard about the audition. I did an audition with ESPN and the rest is history.

“I just think you have to be yourself. Whenever you step foot on screen or in a TV booth, you got to be yourself because that is the easiest thing to replicate. Over the last year and a half, I’ve been able to do that, have fun, do it in a unique way that is unique to myself. I am beyond blessed to work with Mark Jones, Kim Belton, and Quint Kessenich on that crew because we make it fun and you kind of see that on the broadcast.”

Belton is the producer on the Saturday games that Griffin III calls with Jones and Kessenich and Griffin III mentioned that he has impressed with how he and Belton see the game the same and he credits Belton for helping him transition to being in tbe booth.

“Kim has been in the business 41 years. He’s been doing it, doing it for a long time. My agent told me when I was partnered with Kim that this was the  best possible scenario. He does an amazing job of helping guys transition from going on the field into the broadcast booth. I looked at him as a teacher.

“As I’ve gone on to work with other producers in other studio shows or other aspects, there’s a defining quality about Kim. He is like the boss, but he just commands a certain level of respect that I enjoy the conversation with Kim throughout the game. When we are talking and I see something and he sees it, we see the game eerily similar. For a basketball guy to really see football the way that he does, it is extremely impressive and I enjoy that part of it.”

Griffin III told Pasch that he enjoys both calling games as an analyst and doing studio work as well as he knows the more versatile a broadcaster can be, it can only help them.

“For me, I enjoy both studio and the games. It’s extremely fun doing NFL and also being able to do college has been really fun. As you know in this business Dave, the more you can do, the more versatility you can have, the more opportunities that come your way. I’ve just been blessed enough that ESPN has put me in spots that have allowed me to showcase that and put me with the right teams to really fully maximize my own ability and add to the broadcast, whatever broadcast it might be, whether it’s studio or on the games…I’m here to entertain, add to the games, and be a storyteller.”  

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Sports TV News

Tom Crean Returns to ESPN As College Basketball Analyst

“You look around, you realize everybody is working at an extremely rapid pace. I might get emails for the next morning’s ‘SportsCenter’ at 2:30 in the morning.”

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Tom Crean is returning to ESPN as a college basketball analyst.

A report from Front Office Sports details Crean returning to the worldwide leader after previously working for the network during the 2017-2018.

“The game has changed completely,” Crean said. “There’s a 1,000-foot level of what people want you to think this is all about. But here’s the 10,000-30,000-foot level of what it really is. I don’t think I will have any fear of talking like that. There’s so many things changing around the game with how you recruit. And I had to live it.”

Crean was fired as the head coach of Georgia after four seasons on the job. He added that the work ethic shown by ESPN employees is a motivator for working for the network.

“You look around, you realize everybody is working at an extremely rapid pace. I might get emails for the next morning’s ‘SportsCenter’ at 2:30 in the morning.”

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ESPN Plans 20 Hours of College Football Playoff Selection Coverage

The College Football Playoff teams will be unveiled at 12:15 PM ET, with the rest of the New Year’s Six matchup being revealed at 2:30 PM.

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ESPN has more than 20 hours of studio coverage planned for the selection of the College Football Playoff.

The College Football Playoff teams will be unveiled at 12:15 PM ET, with the rest of the New Year’s Six matchup being revealed at 2:30 PM. Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Joey Galloway, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack will be on the main set as the selections are revealed.

Several other personalities will join the show including analysts Greg McElroy, Robert Griffin III, and Dan Mullen, in addition to Paul Finebaum, Matt Barrie, and Chris Fowler.

ACC Network and SEC Network will also separately produce shows discussing the bowl selections.

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