Sorry I have not written in over a year. My new jobs have taken most of my time. I got the inspiration to write today from an interview I just heard with Norby Williamson an Executive Vice President at ESPN. What sent me off on this rant was his answer to a question about taking sports events away from ABC Sports like the Open Championship golf (British Open) and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 at Indy and put them on ESPN. Norby said that the company wants to make ESPN the destination for sports and that there are some sports like the NBA Finals and the Indy 500 still on ABC Sports. My problem with this is that ABC Sports has a long and glorious history that goes all the way back to the 60’s and Wide World of Sports with Jim McKay and Roone Arledge. Why throw away this history? My second observation is that weekends are for sports on the network. I guess I’M old school.
In other news on August 1 Comcast announced that its Venus Network would be rebranded NBC Sports Network starting next year. NBC has already started this year to put weekday programming on Venus and weekend coverage on the NBC. This is what I hope that ESPN can do with ABC Sports. You can still have a wrap around coverage of the big events on sportscenter, just put the events on the main channel on the weekends.
Speaking of the NBC Sports Network. They have made there first major sports rights deal to televise Major league Soccer for the next 3 years starting next year. This deal includes that 3 national team games will be on the mothership NBC. I think this is a great move for MLS as ESPN has focused on the international game and has buried the domestic league.
This summer NBC retained the broadcast rights to the Olympics until 2020. They outbid ESPN and FOX to keep the Games on the network. Also it was announced that my boy Dan Patrick will have a host role at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and unlike Vancouver, Mr. Patrick will be in London for all 16 days of glory.
I do want to compliment ESPN for their coverage of the Women Soccer World Cup from Germany. Great job giving it a big event feel and giving women’s soccer the big stage it deserves by showing all games and not just the United States matches. For the short-term women’s soccer will have a increase in interest but I think in the long term it will not get the respect it deserves. This is a problem for women’s sports in general, unfortunately.
Staying with soccer, on Friday October 21st ESPN lost the rights to televise the 2018 and 2022 World Cup to FOX. ESPN does have the rights to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. FOX also gets the rights to the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. The big question is, will they cover the Women’s tournament like ESPN? When it comes to the Men’s tournaments, my question is where are they going to put the games? Their main cable outlet is not in ever area and their other cable channels are under a pay wall. The only other choice is FX. Also, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated makes a good point in that it is unknown if FOX will go after US Soccer rights. That piece could help both FOX and US soccer. As Grant says “the narrative of World Cup qualifying can help build the audience for World Cup broadcasts.” I guess we will see. Six years is a long time and a lot can change, but I am not happy.
Besides the Women’s World Cup this summer, ESPN has done a great job covering soccer. I’ve been very impressed that they have shown the two youth World Cup’s (under 20 and under 17) and the United States didn’t ever qualify for the Under 20 competition. ESPN even covered two competitions that were not on their air; the Gold Cup that the US lost and the South America champion. This almost never happens. I guess because the Gold Cup and Copa America are qualifiers for the 2013 Confederations Cup (that is on the ESPN family of networks) is why they covered these tournaments, but good job any way. Remember, FOX will take over the Under 20 and Under 17 World Cups in there new package.
The announcer I have been most impressed with over the last year has been ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. I started to watch his radio show which is simulcasted on ESPN2. He has a very understated style and does not yell at the audiences that I like. He also did some play-by-play at the Open Championship (British Open) and was very good. I can see Scott hosting the golf broadcasts in the future.
In other sports media news, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is leaving it’s long time TV home of Spike TV and signing with the FOX network. This is reportedly a 7 to 8 year deal. Yes, this gives the UFC a much needed and wanted network TV presence to grow the sport. According to the report, the UFC’s flag ship show, the Ultimate Fighter and all other programming will be on the FX cable network. Also the press release states that all UFC programming will be on Friday night. I know that FX is in more households then Spike; I just think a lot of people will have a hard time finding the new channel. The problem I also have is that the UFC is popular with the 18 to 34 demographic and Friday night for this young crowd is party night. The press release does not say if FOX will continue showing the preliminary bouts before Pay Per View cards. I know this show has sold a lot of Pay Per Views over the last year. For these reasons I think it’s a bad deal but I’M willing to wait and see.
The last note, Thank you Comcast New England for picking up The Dan Patrick Show this month. It’s great to have a real alternative to ESPN in the morning when I have power.
All right I’M done. It’s good to get it out. Hope to write more when it warrants.