Entertainment Industry

Category: Sports

More sports on cable is usually followed by bigger bills

Turner Broadcasting's deal to snag a majority of the NCAA's March Madness college basketball tournament is likely to give it leverage to charge more money to the cable and satellite distributors that carry its cable channels. The distributors then turn around and pass the costs on to you know who.

As part of its $10.8-billion pact with CBS to share the rights to the NCAA tounament, Turner will put games on TNT, TBS and TruTV. By doing this, viewers will be able to see all the games. Currently, CBS has the exclusive rights to the tournament, but with only one channel it could not show every game in the event from start to finish. It tried to make up for that by offering the early games online.

That's the good news for sports fans. But the downside is that in a few years Turner will go out and ask the companies that carry its channels to cough up. The channel that Turner is most likely looking to help the most is TruTV, formerly known as Court TV. Turner renamed the channel and is trying to broaden its focus.

According to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan, cable and satellite operators only pay about 10 cents per subscriber per month for TruTV. That pales in comparison to the $1 that TNT gets and the 50 cents that TBS is averaging. Both TNT and TBS have lots of sports on them. Starting to get the idea?

Conspiracy theorists are already speculating that the reason Turner doesn't get the rights to either the Final Four or the NCAA championship until 2016 is because it is around then that many of its distribution deals come up for renewal.

That might also be the time to take out a second mortgage.

-- Joe Flint

USOC, Comcast no longer training for an Olympics Channel

The U.S. Olympic Committee and Comcast are dropping a deal brokered last summer to launch an Olympics network, according to a report in the online edition of Sports Business Journal.

Patrick Sandusky, chief communications officer for the USOC, told the Journal, “The USOC and Comcast have decided it’s currently not the right time to create an Olympic channel.”

For more information, check out The Fabulous Forum blog.

Tiger Woods' spin is big number for Fox News and ESPN

Apparently when it comes to Tiger Woods, it really is a matter of "we report, you decide."

Yes, Fox News drew the biggest audience among cable networks for its coverage of Tiger Woods' press conference. Actually, because he didn't take any questions and there wasn't really a whole lot of press there, can we really call it a press conference?

Anyway. For the 15 minutes or so that Woods apologized for being a professional athlete who enjoyed all that comes with that lofty position, Fox News averaged almost 2.1 million viewers. ESPN was a close second with 1.7 million viewers. Way back in the pack was CNN with about 900,000 viewers.

The Golf Channel probably got some of its biggest numbers for a non-golf event with almost 750,000 people tuning in to hear that Woods doesn't know when he's coming back to the game.

Bringing up the rear were Headline News (we're not ready to call it HLN yet) with 531,000 viewers and MSNBC with 414,000 viewers. All numbers are from our friends at Nielsen.

-- Joe Flint

New Olympics channel already creating headaches

Will the U.S. Olympic Committee grab the gold or suffer one of those crushing "agony of defeat" moments?

A controversy over the U.S. committee's plans to launch its own cable channel intensified today when the International Olympic Committee, the worldwide organization that organizes the games, jumped into the fray. The IOC said in a statement that it doesn't want the U.S. group's proposed new cable channel to interfere in dealings with its powerful television partner, NBC Universal.

"The proposed channel raises complex legal and contractual issues and could have a negative impact [on] our relationships with other Olympic broadcasters and sponsors, including our U.S. TV partner, NBC," the IOC said.

NBC Universal's parent company, General Electric, has committed $2.2 billion to broadcast the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games and owns a minority stake in a start-up venture, Universal Sports. That new cable channel, available in 45 million homes, is designed to shine a spotlight on off-season events, lower-profile Olympic sports and other "lifestyle sports" programming.

But if the U.S. Olympic Committee succeeds in launching its own channel, then Universal Sports might find itself without some of the key Olympics programming that it is banking on. NBC Universal owns the venture along with InterMedia Partners, a private equity firm.

Another concern for the IOC is whether the U.S. committee's efforts will become an unwanted wrinkle in the bidding for the next round of television rights for the 2014 Olympics and beyond. Already, NBC Universal, Disney's ESPN and News Corp.'s Fox Sports have expressed an interest in bidding on the Games.

The flap exposes more friction between the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee, which have had an ongoing feud over their revenue sharing plan. 

"The IOC's cooperation with USOC includes working together on Olympic sponsorship and broadcasting agreements within the United States,'' The IOC said in its statement. "We were aware that the USOC had been considering a new 'Olympic broadcast network,' but we have never been presented with a plan, and we had assumed that we would have an opportunity to discuss unresolved questions together before the project moved forward. It is for this reason that the IOC is disappointed that USOC acted unilaterally and, in our view, in haste by announcing their plans before we had had a chance to consider together the ramifications."

-- Meg James

[Updated] NFL signs new TV deals with Fox and CBS

Updated as of noon, May 19. As expected, the NFL has settled its feud with Comcast and struck renewal deals with Fox and CBS.

The National Football League is wrapping up two-year extensions on its current TV deals with CBS and Fox. An announcement could come as early as this afternoon, people close to the talks say.

The price tag will go up, but not through the roof. Currently, Fox pays about $712 million annually for its NFC Conference package and CBS shells out about $620 million for the American Football Conference. The increases this time around, according to Sports Business Journal, which has been following the story closely, will be in the 3% to 5% range. That is in line with the last deal, and Company Town confirmed those figures. For non-sports fans, Fox pays more for its deal primarily because the NFC has more big-city teams than does the AFC.

Although their current deals run through the 2011 season, both the league and the networks have incentives to ink new contracts rather than wait. While there are not too many bright signs in the economy, if it turns around in the next year or so, the league would have leverage over the broadcast networks to jack the fees higher. Better for the networks to renew now and not risk that.

Conversely, the NFL is trying to resolve its bitter dispute with Comcast over carriage of the league's cable network. Peace is near, and how this is being settled requires the broadcast networks to let the league throw Comcast and other cable operators a bone. Specifically, the league's Red Zone channel, which is currently seen only on satellite broadcaster DirecTV, will be made available to cable operators. The league hopes that by doing this it will boost carriage for its cable channel, which is not widely distributed yet. The NFL could also be facing labor unrest after the 2010 season and wants to have its TV revenue locked in for the foreseeable future.

— Joe Flint

Ticketmaster digs deeper into the secondary market

Treyanastasiohadfaukf_2 Phish may not jam to it, but the secondary ticket market is getting bigger all the time.

The band gave its cultish followers something to swoon over today — a fairly cheap-seats three-night reunion — and something to (potentially) whine about — no resales on tickets sold through the band's site, with the risk of being turned away at the gates for showing up with a scalped stub, as Ticket News reported.

The announcement came the same day Ticketmaster-owned TicketsNow officially launched a service that makes it easy for individuals to resell their tickets. The site, formerly dominated by brokers, follows the model of other resellers by promising authentic tickets, handling buyer-seller communication, offering prepaid shipping labels, and pocketing a 15% commission from the seller on each ticket sold. (It's more upfront about the fee than some rivals, making sure sellers see it before they begin the ticket-posting process.)

On the similarities, StubHub spokesman Sean Pate says that this is old hat for his company.

“StubHub revolutionized the ticket market eight years ago by offering this level of service,” he notes in an e-mail.

The one thing it doesn’t have so far is a last-minute selling option for individuals. TicketsNow sellers have to have enough time to FedEx tickets to the buyer, so the sale ends well before the show. StubHub, which leads the secondary ticket sale market, can keep sales going until just before showtime, as long as a seller has mailed the tickets to StubHub in advance.

Companytown Ticketmaster acquired TicketsNow in February, and has said the company helped boost Ticketmaster revenue by 30% in the quarter ended June 30, to $382.4 million from $293.4 million. Ticketmaster purchased the company for $265 million, which is $45 million less than eBay paid for the larger StubHub in 2007.

And although Ticketmaster may have once been the biggest critic of reselling tickets — pursuing legislation to restrict brokers who sought big profits, among other efforts — it’s now playing the game.

But it still allows artists who may want to restrict resales to do so. AC/DC made select fan-club tickets for its upcoming tour “paperless,” which is less about being green than about keeping others from making green, whether for the sake of preventing fans from being priced out of up-close seats, or for the sake of keeping band-unaffiliated resellers from making big bucks, or both. Tom Waits and Metallica have used the technology too.

--Swati Pandey

Photo: Trey Anastasio of Phish. Credit : Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times

Countdown to a curse: How long until Madden NFL coverboy Brett Favre is screwed?

Brettphotogal Are the New York Jets in for a surprise?

Brett "Gunslinger" Favre, Green Bay Packer icon, recently announced he was joining the Jets after a storied 16-year run with the Packers.

But was New York's score ill-timed?

On Aug. 12, Madden NFL '09 comes out with Favre on the cover. And we all know what that means...he's doomed.

Last year's cover model Tennessee Titans' Vince Young told Jimmy Kimmel that he prayed about not falling victim to the Madden NFL curse, which is said to take down some of the league's finest in injury or performance stats.

Seattle Seahawks' Shaun Alexander, 2007, foot injury; Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb, 2006, sports hernia; Baltimore Raven's Ray Lewis, 2005, broken wrist; Atlanta Falcons' Michael Vick, 2004, injured fibula and is now serving time for hosting a dog-fighting ring.

The list goes on.

Poor Jets. Poor Favre. Will the 38-year-old's rifle arm come out of its socket? Or will his new AFC rivals, the Patriots and Colts, inflict some hideous damage that will ruin his perfect attendance record?

The countdown is on ...

-- Denise Martin and Jevon Phillips


Photo Gallery: 10 Worst Pop Culture Curses

And below we posted one of our favorite Brett Favre movie cameos, on screen with Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon and Cameron Diaz in "There's Something About Mary."


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