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MLB Lockout Making Regional Sports Networks Nervous With Canceled Games

RSNs were counting on live baseball games to fill up their primetime and daytime schedules, to sell air time to their advertising partners.

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The first week of Major League Baseball’s 2022 season, comprising each team’s first two series of the year, has already been canceled due to the team owners’ lockout. A second week will now follow with MLB and the MLB Players Association still not reaching a labor agreement after Tuesday’s negotiations.

As you might expect, cancelling games and an entire season apparently in jeopardy because of MLB’s labor dispute has the league’s TV partners concerned. Obviously, those include national networks like ESPN, Turner, and Fox. (And probably baseball’s new streaming partners in Apple and NBC.)

But regional sports networks have the most to lose with MLB’s work stoppage. Sinclair’s Bally Sports Networks and NBC Sports Networks will suffer, along with the New York Yankees’ YES Network, Chicago Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network, and Los Angeles Dodgers Spectrum SportsNet LA.

Those networks were counting on live baseball games to fill up their primetime and daytime schedules, to sell air time to their advertising partners. RSNs can’t just put another sporting event or a movie in those in those time slots. Maybe a classic game, but how many will tune in for that?

As Variety’s Jennifer Maas points out, Sinclair is already fighting to stay on satellite providers like DISH, cable platforms like Charter, and streaming hubs such as YouTube TV and Hulu Live. Not having any live baseball games to carry won’t help them resolve these carriage disputes.

Media buyers and insiders that Maas spoke to said networks have become accustomed to adjusting on the fly during the pandemic, when games could be postponed or canceled with a moment’s notice due to COVID breakouts and protocols. But this is a potential long-term stoppage.

Yes, the entire 2020 MLB season was in danger because of COVID. But that was a circumstance beyond anyone’s control. That is certainly not the case with the MLB lockout, which could be resolved at any time if owners and players agreed to a deal. The labor dispute has created anger among fans that might be irrevocable for many.

How long before RSNs begin asking for make-goods and refunds? What about cable providers seeking restitution for angry customers? That could be the next step as MLB’s work stoppage grows longer.

Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Paying Nearly $45 Billion For Rights Fees Through 2027

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually

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The last year or two has been evident that the price of rights to airing major college and professional sporting events on television are only going up. But the various networks either with longstanding relationships with leagues and conferences or looking to break into the media rights landscape are willing to pay up. That’s no more evident with Disney, which will be shelling out tens of billions of dollars to have regular season and postseason events air on ESPN.

According to Sportico, which reviewed Disney’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESPN is set to spend $44.9 billion on sports media rights through 2027.

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually. Additionally, ESPN will pay $1.4 billion through the 2024-25 season for NBA rights.

The Sportico report noted ESPN will generate more than $8.1 billion in affiliate revenue to help offset those costs. The network will soon be entering talks to renew its media rights deal to be the exclusive home for nearly all NCAA Division I championships, as well as engaging in new NBA rights negotiations.

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Sports TV News

Return of Bob Iger Puts Pac-12 ‘Not Exactly In A Great Place’

“I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12.”

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The Pac-12 is currently in a media rights negotiation with partners for its next TV deal after the departure of USC and UCLA. The conference has remained committed to the stance that it feels it can match the dollar amount given to the Big 12 from FOX and ESPN. However, Andrew Marchand of The New York Post isn’t so confident.

During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Marchand said the recent return of Bob Iger as Disney CEO, coupled with recent layoffs from Amazon, could spell bad news for the PAC 12’s quest to match what the Big 12 received.

“Do I still think they can get the same number as the Big 12? I do, but you start thinking about where this is going and that’s not exactly a great place to be if you’re the Pac-12. They might get the number, but the idea that they’ll get a lot more than the Big 12 — which I’ve already said is not gonna happen — I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12…I think there’s some rough waters out in the Pacific.”

Marchand said if the University of California Board of Regents won’t allow UCLA to join the Big Ten as expected, the conference would then set its sights on Washington and Oregon, which would continue to decimate the Pac-12.

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