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Hollywood Reporter: Which Channels Will Be Victims Of Streaming Sports?

“The website used NBCSN’s 80 million subscribers as the threshold for what networks could be faced with uncertain futures.”

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NBCSN will be no more by the end of the year. Live sports and studio shows are a major part of the strategy to differentiate Peacock from other OTT services in what has become a crowded marketplace. On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter asked what other sports cable networks may soon shudder their linear operations.

HBO Max and ESPN+ are both going to stream games as part of their parent companies’ deals with the NHL. CBS won the TV rights to CONCACAF tournaments, but seems more focused on putting those soccer matches on Paramount+ than on CBS Sports Network. It makes sense then that The Hollywood Reporter is thinking this way.

The website used NBCSN’s 80 million subscribers as the threshold for what networks could be faced with uncertain futures. ESPNEWS and Big Ten Network both fall short of the mark with 62 million subscribers and 57 million subscribers respectively. The chart also highlighted Discovery’s Destination America which doesn’t even have 50 million subscribers. It has carried professional wrestling in the past, but is not a true sports network.

'On the Bubble' chart showing major cable channels carriage deals

It isn’t hard to imagine that Big Ten Network would go away anytime soon. FOX has not put a focus on creating a streaming platform for sports the way it has for news content. Plus, conference networks are a status symbol of the bond between the most powerful college sports properties and the TV networks they are partnered with.

ESPNEWS would seem like a possible candidate for extinction. The network’s programming could easily be folded into ESPN+ especially as more and more replays tend to populate its dayparts.

The Hollywood Reporter also quotes Pete Bevacqua, NBC Sports Chairman, on what shutting down NBCSN and moving more live games to USA Network would do for that outlet, saying that sports could make it “an extraordinarily powerful platform in the media marketplace.”

That could be another key to some smaller sports networks leaving the cable landscape. Moving live games to company’s largest cable outlets could be a better play for generating revenue.

Right now, no other studios have announced plans to shut down their sports networks, but at some point it is likely. The focus on streaming rights and the abundance of games that can fit on a streaming service as opposed to linear television will make it cost-effective to move sports to those OTT services exclusively.

Sports TV News

Lisa Byington Named New TV Voice Of The Bucks

“Lisa Byington acknowledged that there will be talk of history related to her hire. She said it was addressed with her, but never made the focus of any discussions with the team.”

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The Milwaukee Bucks are following up a world championship by making a little history. The team has hired Lisa Byington as it’s new TV play-by-play broadcaster on Bally Sports Wisconsin. Byington becomes the first woman to serve as the full-time voice of a men’s team in a major professional league.

“I’m absolutely thrilled for this opportunity, and the ability to work with a first-class franchise and a championship organization like the Milwaukee Bucks,” Byington said in a press release. “My sincerest appreciation and thanks go out to so many, but, in particular, Bucks President Peter Feigin and Bally Sports Wisconsin Executive Producer Tony Tortorici for making this such a smooth process from start to finish. I know that I will be stepping into the role long-held by Jim Paschke, and I appreciate his passion for the team and the memorable moments his voice will always be a part of. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge his work and commitment to the franchise, and it’s my honor to be the one who takes the baton from him. I’m particularly excited to work with such an amazing team of Marques Johnson, Zora Stephenson, Steve Novak and everyone involved with Bucks games at Bally Sports Wisconsin.”

It has already been a busy year for Lisa Byington. She worked for CBS and Turner calling games in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. She also recently returned from Tokyo, where she called men’s and women’s soccer games during the Olympics.

“We are so excited to welcome Lisa to the Bucks family and to bring such a talented play-by-play announcer to our broadcast team,” said Bucks and Fiserv Forum President Peter Feigin. “Lisa’s extensive television broadcasting background, including her play-by-play work for high-level NCAA basketball on several national networks, makes her the perfect choice to take on this major role. While we appreciate the significance of selecting Lisa, and we celebrate this historic moment, Lisa earned this position based on her extraordinary skills and experience. We look forward to Lisa becoming the voice of the Bucks.”

Lisa Byington acknowledged that there will be talk of history related to her hire. She said it was addressed with her, but never made the focus of any discussions with the team.

“I applaud the Bucks for taking the first steps toward making hires like this more of the norm in the NBA. Because it’s time,” she said.

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Sports TV News

Joe Buck: John Smoltz, Troy Aikman Make My October Schedule Possible

“That personal relationship that I have with both guys is what makes that month not only work, but fun.”

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FOX Sports

Next month, Joe Buck will be calling both Thursday Night Football games and MLB postseason games for FOX. October has to be a crazy month for Buck because he is constantly traveling to call some of the most-watched events on the sports calendar. 

On the latest episode of the Just Getting Started with Rich Eisen podcast, Buck got into his broadcasting journey that started about the same time Eisen started his career in Northern California. Buck mentioned that his relationships with both John Smoltz and Troy Aikman are never more important than they are in October.

“I know that if I’ve been gone from Troy and I walk in and I do a Thursday game and I’ve been doing Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday baseball, he’s ready to go and he knows I’m ready to go. I can lean on him a little bit that week. Then, I come back to baseball, and either I’m tired leading into the game. If I’m trying to scramble and get ready, I can lean on John on the baseball side. That personal relationship that I have with both guys is what makes that month not only work, but fun.”

Joe Buck got to call his first World Series for FOX at 27-years-old. While he was extatic to be in New York and Atlanta for that World Series, that was never his goal.

“I wanted to be my dad and to me in my mind, being my dad meant being the Cardinals announcer. Anything beyond that was stuff I never even thought of.”

Buck began calling football games for FOX in 1994. He told Eisen he had never called football before. Fortunately, there was his dad…and this time, his mom too.

“I had done MLB at that point for 4 years, I did minor league baseball for 2 years prior to that, I had done some other things, but I’d never done football. When FOX got the rights, they sent a call out to agents, to people to have their clients audition. I went out there for an audition based on my mom giving my soon-to-be boss, Ed Goren’s wife, Patty, my baseball tape…That  got me in the door for the audition and then I worked on calling football with my dad in his living room at spring training 1994.”

“I flew to LA and I went into the studio and Bob Stenner is talking to me in my headset and I’m sitting next to Tim Green and we call a game off a television monitor. I knew it was going well, but I walked out of the audition and George Krieger, who was one of the bosses at the time at FOX, said you better get an agent because we are going to hire you…It was kind of crazy.”

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Sports TV News

Disney Exploring Kid-Friendly NFL Broadcast

“It’s clear that there is a marketplace for engaging younger fans, and the league isn’t getting in the way.”

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Courtesy: Disney

Get ready for more niche broadcasts from the NFL’s partners. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports that Disney is exploring their own kids-themed NFL broadcasts to match the Nickelodeon broadcast during the Wild Card Playoff game.

ViacomCBS, Nickelodeon’s parent company, instituted the new format for last year’s Chicago Bears Wild Card loss to the New Orleans Saints. It was a big hit for Nickelodeon, which is now diving deeper into NFL coverage with a weekly show dedicated to the sport. They are also bringing the “slime game” back in January.

“Look, Disney invented kids’ entertainment,” a source told Front Office Sports. “They’ve had to sit back watching Nickelodeon and CBS pound their chests all year. Well, Disney thinks they can do it better when it comes to reaching kids and families.”

The options for Disney are wide-ranging, from a Star Wars-themed broadcast that could pit the Rebels against the Empire or a similar format to their Avengers NBA broadcast from earlier this year. Disney afforded ESPN access to Marvel properties for their “Arena of Heroes” game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors on May 3.

Disney and the NFL declined to comment on the report to FOS as the mouse house works to finalize their plan to use during a Monday Night Football broadcast down the line or for their Wild Card game.

Whatever they end up agreeing to, it’s clear that there is a marketplace for engaging younger fans, and the league isn’t getting in the way. McCarthy noted that the NFL’s chief media and business officer, Brian Rolapp, is encouraging broadcast partners to dive into their imagination with alternate broadcasts.

“Collaboration across Nickelodeon, CBS Sports, and NFL Media will allow us to deliver authentic and fun NFL coverage all season long,” Said Amanda Herald, vice president of NFL marketing strategy and insights when the league expanded their Nickelodeon relationship.

Traditional and new media lines are blurring more and more every day, making it inevitable that Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader, or Iron Man gets involved in the gridiron action.

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