Friday, February 12, 2010

The ABC's of broadcast sports

We've seen more and more sports content show up on cable outlets, specifically ESPN, TNT and TBS. For the first time in its long history, the Rose Bowl will be broadcast on ESPN in 2011 rather than on ABC. Cable and satellite have become so ubiquitous, audiences don't seem to care much, except when their outlet does not offer the game they want to see (such as the lack of availability of NFL Sunday Ticket on cable outlets and the much-discussed problems with the NFL Network).

But what about the broadcast outlets that now lose these valuable sports properties? This week, ABC network affiliates complained loud and long about losing more sports to Disney-partner ESPN. Not only the Rose Bowl will move, but also the 2011 British Open and perhaps even more important to many affiliates in the south, eight NASCAR races this fall. It's a double whammy for the affiliates--not only do they lose the sports programming and the ad revenue that goes with it, but now they have to compete with a corporately-owned sibling to attract viewers in those time slots.

Such actions make sense at the corporate level, but may eventually sound the death-knell of sports on broadcast television. And although it sounds rather apocalyptic, perhaps even the death of broadcast TV itself. Two of the main revenue generators at affiliates are local news and sports. The problems of local television news have been well documented, and now sports is slowly shifting from free network TV to cable. As penetration rates for cable and satellite continue to increase, and technology offers new platforms to distribute the content, is there any reason to show sports content on broadcast TV? Other than the FCC's desire to keep free TV alive, what is now stopping broadcast television from simply slipping down the slope into oblivion?

2 Comments:

Blogger Robbie said...

The FCC needs to step up to the plate and tell ESPN that what they are doing on a broadcast network is totally wrong and damaging to cable operators and subscribers and to the health of broadcast television. They needs to be fined heavy for this practice and told to give the identity of sports on the network back instead of a stupid bug. Ever since this practice started, cable prices have gone up and it is all because of ESPN on free television.

12:49 PM  
Blogger ravi said...

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