Category Archives: Fox Sports Numbs My Brain

Okay, this may not end in tears…

Why do I have the feeling this isn’t going to end particularly well?

Fox has signed what it feels, as one source put it, is a “Mount Rushmore of college football over the last 15 years,” for its new, yet-to-be-named Saturday morning pregame show that will air on network TV.

Sources say Fox has hired former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and one of the greatest running backs in the college game’s history, Reggie Bush, for its new team.

… Fox feels with Meyer, Bush, Leinart and Quinn, it has put together a similar team of college football legends and hopes they can develop a fun chemistry.

Sure, because the first word that pops into everyone’s mind when you say “Urban Meyer” is fun.

Although, now that I think about it, Corch and Thom Brennaman reminiscing about the GPOOE™ could be a real hoot.  In a nauseating sort of way, that is.

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Filed under Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

“If this comes off, the question is: Does he call games or work the studio?”

Oh, FFS.  Haven’t we suffered enough already?

Sports TV viewers may see a lot more of Urban Meyer on TV this year than they thought they would. Fox Sports is close to finalizing a deal to hire the former Ohio State head coach as its star college football analyst, sources tell Sporting News.

Meyer, who won three national championships between Ohio State and Florida, is being given the choice to work either as a color commentator in the game booth or as a studio analyst at Fox, sources said. Citing serious health concerns, the 54-year-old Buckeyes coach retired after the 2019 Rose Bowl.

A Fox Sports spokeswoman declined comment to Sporting News Thursday night.

Fox just wrapped its most-watched college football regular season ever. The network envisions Meyer as the kind of big-time coaching name/TV talent who could potentially put its “Fox College Football Pregame” show on par with Kirk Herbstreit’s “College GameDay” at ESPN.

Cool.  Maybe Corch and Thom Brennaman can reminisce fondly about the GPOOE™.

If CBS ever loses the SEC to Fox, I’m gonna be one bummed mofo.

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Filed under Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

Et tu, broadcast partner?

Is this good?  I don’t think this is good.

The Big 12 is in the marketplace with three of its conference championship football games, including one that kicks off in just 11 months.

The conference has been shopping the 2019, 2021 and 2023 games to media companies over the last several months after Fox told Big 12 officials that it was not interested.

The Big 12 had hoped that Fox, one of its two primary media partners, would pick up the rights to the championship games in the odd-numbered years. Fox carried the 2017 game as part of a mediated settlement around conference expansion, paying about $25 million for its rights. But the network and the conference could not come to terms on the other three available games. Sources said the last offer made to Fox valued the game in the high teens.

Maybe slapping a conference title game on after a round robin regular season schedule for the purpose of getting that last bit of selection committee attention isn’t such a great marketing strategy.

These guys keep telling themselves they’re geniuses despite all evidence to the contrary.

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Filed under Big 12 Football, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness

Politics and the art of broadcast consolidation

81Dog emailed me about this Wall Street Journal article, provocatively titled “How a weakened ESPN became consumed by politics”.  It begins with this:

John Skipper was furious.

One of his star anchors, Jemele Hill, had sent a tweet calling President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” Mr. Trump’s supporters called for her to be fired. Prominent black athletes defended the anchor, who is African-American.

Sitting in his office last September, Mr. Skipper, then ESPN’s president, lit into Ms. Hill, according to people familiar with the meeting. If I punish you, he told her, I’d open us up to protests and come off as racist. If I do nothing, that will fuel a narrative among conservatives—and a faction within ESPN—that the network had become too liberal.

Mr. Skipper chose to spare Ms. Hill. Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers.”

The president’s tweet was hyperbolic, but it tapped into real anxiety at ESPN. What was the way forward for a company shaken to its foundations by the cord-cutting revolution?

Ooh, Mickey’s doomed!  Is there anything Disney can do?

Before some of you snowflakes get too carried away with the narrative here, it’s worth remembering that the WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who’s not exactly anti-politics himself.  Murdoch, I doubt you need to be reminded, owns Fox.  And Fox just so happens to be a significant competitor in the sports broadcasting world to ESPN.  Let Andy Staples give you an example of that:

This all seems to suggest that broadcast networks NBC, CBS and Fox may be even more interested in college sports than they already were. Meanwhile, ESPN will continue to attempt to dominate the sport. (And games purchased by ESPN are actually being purchased by Disney, which also runs games on ABC using ESPN personnel and branding.) The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC could use their own cable networks as leverage as well by threatening to put the best games on those networks and demanding a higher subscription fee. (The ACC, which will launch its own network next year, won’t have this option because all its rights are owned by Disney/ESPN until 2036.) If even one streaming service such as Amazon Prime or YouTube Red decided to jump into the fray, the bidding could be frenzied. Dean Jordan, who has helped the ACC launch its channel with ESPN and who has worked with the Big Ten and College Football Playoff on media rights deals, believes the competition for rights could be fairly diverse in the next round.

I only see one entity referred to there as dominating.  As the Journal piece grudgingly admits about the WWL, “They have some enormous challenges but they have by far the best brand in sports…”  So what’s a little snotty political questioning between two rivals?

It’s even better than that.  The Murdoch empire is looking to sell a piece of Fox Sports and the front-runner for the purchase is Comcast.  However, there is another interested party.  Who might that be?  You guessed it.

The alternative to a Comcast/Fox deal is Disney buying the Fox properties, which would also boost the size of a TV sports empire by joining Fox’s sports properties with Disney’s national sports channels. The Disney-owned ESPN and ABC have TV contracts for the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, various soccer leagues, and other sports.

ESPN and the Fox regional sports networks “together would account for 30 percent of all affiliate fees for basic cable networks and RSNs and a massive 58 percent of affiliate fees for basic cable sports networks and RSNs,” S&P Global Market Intelligence said in a recent report that Comcast pointed out to Ars.

Either way, a Fox deal would produce a bigger programming giant that could demand higher fees from cable and satellite TV providers that buy access to sports channels.

Wrinkles, wrinkles everywhere.

The only politics any of these assholes are consumed with are the ones that make them the most money.  Buy into the nonsense narratives pushed by the likes of Clay Travis if you want, but realize you’re being played.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Political Wankery

What do fewer eyeballs on college football mean?

Richard Deitsch takes a look at broadcast numbers for the just concluded 2017 regular season and reports a decline.

Per Karp, here’s where the networks finished for average viewership for this year’s CFB regular season:

CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.

ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.

Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.

NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.

ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.

FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.

Some interesting thoughts from Karp in the piece: CBS’s SEC package was the most-viewed individual package for the ninth straight CFB season, but this year’s average was its lowest in well over a decade. ABC’s Saturday Night Football was down 4% from 2016, even though its window remained college football’s most-viewed window with 5.7 million viewers. ESPN was easily the most-viewed cable net for CFB—it has the most games so that lowers its average—but was down with fewer Big Ten matchups. FS1’s average was its best since the network launched but below what the cable net FX averaged for its games in ’11 (1.01 million viewers).

Let’s cut to the chase here:  is it panic time?  Well, far be it from me to speak for the geniuses who run the sport, but Karp seems to suggest that while the numbers are an indication of a problem, it’s not an existential one.

“I don’t think that meant less interest in college football,” Karp said. “If anything, I’d say the interest was higher this season compared to some prior years. If you look at total minutes viewed for college football, it had to be some sort of record this year. There were some really exciting matchups and Fox Sports really stepped up their game this year—the company’s first with the Big Ten regular season lineup. You could often find three college football windows on the Fox broadcast window this season, which never happened before. With a healthy dose on FS1, they are making themselves a destination for college football now. But this is a zero-sum game, particularly as it relates to the Power Five conferences. Fox Sports’ gain was ABC/ESPN’s loss, as the new Big Ten contracts meant Bristol had fewer options with regard to top teams. While Saturday Night Football on ABC still got some bigger matchups, there were just fewer options for Saturday afternoon windows. As good as a team like UCF was this season, matchups from the AAC just aren’t moving the needle.

“For CBS, the SEC was just too top heavy this season,” Karp continued. “They had some bad matchups on the network. Alabama is still a draw, but there is a limit on the number of Alabama games the network can air, and Georgia-Florida or any Tennessee game just aren’t what they used to be. For NBC, Notre Dame fans just didn’t watch early in the season, expecting some sort of repeat of 2016’s debacle. But NBC saw improvement over the last three game telecasts. I’d say college football fans were winners this season. There are options galore on TV, and that doesn’t even include improvement on the streaming front. Networks like CBS and ESPN need to see improvement from some big-time programs like Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska and maybe even an Oregon. That would increase the availability of bigger games for those networks.”

The SEC in particular hasn’t been doing CBS any favors of late.  When it’s mid-November and the schedule lines up to present Kentucky at Georgia as your game of the week, you haven’t been trying that hard to make sure your customers are getting prime matchups.  Sure, having more programs with a pulse certainly helps, but anybody looking at that week before the start of the season could have sensed that the conference wasn’t putting its best face forward then.

It’s not just CBS, of course.  Overall, this season has struck me on more than one occasion as one in which the networks loaded up primo games — as in plural — in the same time slot.  Some of that is no doubt due to schools and conferences trying to accommodate their fan bases who actually attend the games (quaint, I know), but you can’t help but question if there are other factors in play.

Aside from the top-heavy nature of this season’s landscape, as well as a certain amount of inept scheduling, I wonder if there are any other issues worth considering.  Those of you who swing right politically would no doubt cite ESPN’s social media missteps this season as a factor, although there’s a certain amount of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face involved with that.

I, though, think about whether we’re witnessing a certain canary in the coal mine doing a little chirping.  Deitsch prefaces his piece with the observation that “College football is a tougher game to analyze for ratings experts given a number of factors including the innate regionalism of the sport…” and it seems fair to ask if ESPN’s relentless promotion of the college football playoffs is already having an unintended, yet inevitable, impact on fans’ interest in the regular season.

Left to consider, then, are what the broadcast numbers for the playoffs look like and whether the conferences and the networks can get their collective acts together next season.  Maybe some better conclusions can be drawn then.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain

Behold, the new video journalism

So, this is how the next phase of sports media operates.  I have to admit outsourcing all your research is a real cost saver.

Good luck with that, Fox Sports.

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Life comes at you fast, Fox.

Damn, it seems like I just posted this and two things drop out of the blue today.

I doubt they’re related, but I wish they were.  What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on at Fox?

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Triumph of the booboisie

Lord knows, Stewart Mandel has made for a convenient foil on more than one occasion here at the blog, but the idea that ninety-second clips of Skip Bayless pontificating on any subject have more perceived value to Fox Sports than Bruce Feldman’s college football insight is nauseating.

This is what I was getting at in yesterday’s post about ESPN’s business model.  Those of you who insist on getting wrapped up in the bullshit about Mickey embracing liberal politics are missing the real point.  Irritating blather has value to these people.  It’s not about left or right; it’s about providing a platform for pundits to say something outrageous enough to make the average viewer want to pay attention.

Live sports may be what drives the train for most of us, but apparently there’s marginal value in insulting the intelligence of some part of the viewership.  While that may be profoundly depressing to those of us who are rational beings, you can’t argue with the reality that these are the bets these media giants are making.  After all, we live in a world where they keep spinning off “Housewives of XXX” like there’s no tomorrow, because there’s a reliably profitable viewership out there.  Why should we think the sports world — professional wrestling, anyone? — is immune to that?

I’m not trying to argue that to some extent the media hasn’t brought this on itself.  I mocked this development at the time, but since then it’s taken on a certain canary in the coal mine aspect that now seems as inevitable as it is sad.

Make no mistake, though.  The public is complicit, too.  Fox and ESPN are giving us what they are convinced we want, or at least enough of us want, such that it makes it worth their while to debase their product.  I’d like to believe they’ve lost their way, but the saddest point of all is that I can’t help but concede the merit of their cynicism.

Enjoy what’s left of actual sports journalism.  It’s hard to see a robust future for it.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Media Punditry/Foibles

I know you are, but what am I?

We’ve all seen the potshots taken at ESPN’s business model of late, but what if Mickey’s not exactly wrong about what it’s doing?  From a bottom line standpoint, here is how an 800-pound gorilla thinks:

“You have to build a deeper moat,” he often said when discussing competition. In Skipper’s folksy Southern style, that meant keeping ESPN’s enemies at bay. It meant identifying the rights ESPN wanted — the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, college sports, tennis — and paying a dollar more than anyone else to get them.

And while you may think in an era of decline cable subscribers, that’s a dumb strategy, the numbers disagree with you.

Distributors started creating low-cost packages as a retention method to keep their customers from cutting the cord. Many of those packages do not include ESPN, a move that surprised many cable veterans who assumed that the network’s contracts would not allow cable operators to keep ESPN off those packages. Standard cable contracts mandate that channels have to be in a certain percentage of homes — called “minimum penetration thresholds.”

Around 15 years ago, though, ESPN took those clauses out of its deals in exchange for convincing distributors to pay a higher license fee. Several distribution executives describe the move as a good one for ESPN at the time, as it made sure that the channel not only had the highest affiliate fee in the business, but its annual increases were bigger than other channels’ entire fee.

In 2016, for example, distributors paid ESPN $7.24 per subscriber per month, according to Kagan. In 2017, that fee increased to $7.89, an increase of 65 cents. Only 13 channels make more than 65 cents per subscriber per month, including four Disney-owned channels — ESPN, Disney Channel ($1.49), ESPN2 (98 cents) and SEC Network (72 cents).

Even though ESPN’s distribution is smaller, the network still is making more in affiliate revenue thanks to those increases. ESPN executives insist they like that trade-off, and distribution executives even privately agree that the 15-year old arrangement has been good for ESPN.

If the value in a live sports network is the control of live sports, then what Mickey has been doing with the layoffs and its rights bidding makes some sense, despite what such insightful figures like Jason Whitlock and Clay Travis insist otherwise.

One of ESPN’s top executives accused Fox Sports of advocating what he called a false notion that the network operates with a liberal bias.

“The whole narrative is a false one that was seeded and perpetuated primarily by a direct business competitor,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “We have no political agenda whatsoever.”

Fox Sports has given voice to many of the accusations of ESPN’s liberal bias. For example, Fox Sports 1’s afternoon studio show co-host, Jason Whitlock, wrote a May 7 editorial for The Wall Street Journal in which he accused ESPN of adhering to a “strict obedience to progressive political correctness.”

Whitlock is a former ESPN employee who spent two stints with the Bristol-based company before leaving for Fox. Fox Sports and The Wall Street Journal share a corporate parent in News Corp.

Another Fox Sports personality who continually questions ESPN’s business model has also taken on the ESPN-as-liberal topic several times. In an April post on his Outkick The Coverage blog, Fox Sports personality Clay Travis wrote, “ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.”

Again, is losing millions of viewers more important to ESPN than maintaining revenues?  That hardly seems likely.

The topper to all this is that the WWL isn’t the only live sports outlet that’s let reporting talent go lately in a search for the right kind of balance as the broadcast world copes with a changing market.

Fox Sports will eliminate about 20 writing and editing positions in Los Angeles and replace them with a similar number of jobs in video production, editing and promotion. Executives told staff in meetings Monday after outlining the new strategy in a memo obtained by Bloomberg. Affected employees will be encouraged to apply for the new posts.

The owner of Fox News and the Fox broadcast network has decided that paying writers to cover sporting events, pen columns or grade teams’ NBA draft moves is best left to ESPN and other news-focused sports sites. Fox is opting to divert those resources into producing online video that complements on-air shows, can be packaged into advertising sales across the web and TV, and has the potential to go viral on social media.

News outlets of all shapes and sizes are making a transition from the written word to video.

Nothing wrong with that; it’s just another indication that the networks are feeling their way around the best way to help the bottom line in a digital, video-based era.  I mean, this is some kind of echo:

… But this is only the culmination of months-long efforts by Horowitz to shift digital’s focus away from covering news and towards promoting FS1’s on-air personalities. In fact, writers sent to the Super Bowl in February were told once they arrived that they wouldn’t be writing for FoxSports.com, but would be ghostwriting copy for on-air talent instead. Digital executives like Pesavento and Mike Foss (both previously For The Win) have been pushed out as well, top writers like Bruce Feldman have been posting pieces on Facebook instead of on Fox’s site, and FoxSports.com has become more and more about what their debate show personalities say on-air…

If both sides are doing it, there’s nothing political about that.  But letting Clay Travis, who’s had a longstanding weak grasp of economic issues, gin up righteous indignation is a great way to attract the rubes, I suppose.  Maybe Travis can get Feldman to ghostwrite some college football pieces for him.

In any event, watch those subscription fees, peeps.  They matter a lot more than Caitlyn Jenner and Curt Schilling.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness

Sheer brilliance

College football broadcast rights sound like they’re this close to jumping the shark.

There is still no tangible momentum for Big 12 expansion at the moment, several sources said. CBS Sports reported last week there is a 50-50 chance the league won’t expand after an elaborate process that started in earnest in July.

Bowlsby acknowledged that one option with ESPN and Fox could be the networks paying the league not to expand. The current contract calls for those rightsholders to pay pro rata — current equal value revenue — to any new teams entering the league.

Mickey, when Bob Bowlsby cuts a deal that manages to make you look this stupid, perhaps it’s time to sack your negotiators.

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Filed under Big 12 Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain