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No Live Sports Could Lead To Providers Demanding Refunds

“According to Josh Kosman of The New York Post, Dish Network has already attempted to break the chain, by working to get out of the $80 to $100 million in rights fees owed to ESPN for the month of April.”

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Billions of dollars are still being spent on sports, but those shelling it out are without a return as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force an indefinite suspension of all major leagues.

Networks are paying sports rights fees, cable companies are paying networks and subscribers are paying cable companies. There’s a chain reaction of dollars being spent while the product remains on hold. According to Josh Kosman of The New York Post, Dish Network has already attempted to break the chain, by working to get out of the $80 to $100 million in rights fees owed to ESPN for the month of April. 

Dish likely won’t be the only TV provider looking for a rebate on their rights fees agreements, says a report from analyst Rich Greenfield of LightShed Partners.

“US multichannel video subscribers effectively paid ESPN $650 million in April to watch one original series with literally no live sports on TV or for their talk show hosts to even talk about,” Greenfield said in the report.

“The multibillion dollar question becomes: what is stopping distributors from invoking force majeure? We believe there has to be a tipping point where enough sports have not occurred that distributors will refuse to pay sports network programmers.”

Currently, cable companies are still charging customers for sports channels because most sporting events haven’t been canceled, just postponed. My personal cable subscription with Optimum still includes a monthly regional sports network fee of $10.47, even though RSN’s have not aired a new game in six weeks.

It’s hard to anticipate any rebates being handed out as long as sports leagues aren’t planning on canceling their seasons. Providing customers with a rebate for lost games now, might mean charging them more later, if and when those sporting events are played.  

Similarly, sports teams are hesitant to offer returns on ticket sales until league’s determine how and when seasons will be played. If games are officially canceled or if seasons resume with no fans in attendance, it will be the team’s right to hold onto the money and offer tickets to a later event, essentially acting as an interest free loan.

Dish Network’s attempt to break their rights fees agreement with ESPN comes at a time when Disney has already been hit hard financially by the global pandemic. The Walt Disney Company recently furloughed a significant number of employees from their twelve theme parks, including 43,000 at Florida’s Walt Disney World alone. 

ESPN reduced executive salaries by 20 to 30 percent, also asking their top on-air talent to accept a 15% pay cut during the next 90 days. If TV providers such as Dish do back out of their rights agreements, those potential nine-figure losses could certainly have additional impacts on employee salaries. 

Sports TV News

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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Sports TV News

Laura Rutledge Celebrates Chemistry Of NFL Live

“It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

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Laura Rutledge is very happy with where NFL Live is as the current lineup gets set to enter its third season together. She told The Big Lead that there is genuine chemistry between herself, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes, and Dan Orlovsky and that is why she doesn’t feel the need to emulate any of sports television’s many debate shows.

“You don’t want to see people yelling at each other all the time and I’m really proud of the chemistry that we have struck and just letting that breathe on air and having so much fun. It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

The 2022 NFL season will have a very different feel for ESPN. The addition of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for Monday Night Football adds new expectations to the network.

Rutledge said that the attention on the network means that she and her colleagues have to raise their respective games, but that shouldn’t be hard. There is always material to work with in this league.

“We’ve seen this offseason, we saw the previous offseason, how the NFL news cycle never stops. It’s funny because the news cycle becomes such a big piece of the story, but we’re like, we can’t wait for the games,” she said.

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