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Media conglomerates benefit all

Competition in sports goes beyond playing field

By Jude Dsouza
On February 20, 2013

  • Questions rise if Jim Rome will save CBS Sports Network after leaving ESPN and Premiere Radio Networks. Photo courtesy timesunion.com

Do you love watching sports? Do you enjoy Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless duking it out at the debate desk? Or do you want to live out your childhood dream of working in sports journalism? Well, there is good news my friends: competition in the sports world has gone beyond the playing field and into the board room to satisfy your sports driven needs.
 During the past 20 years, when people talked about sports, ESPN was usually the first word that came to mind. The multimedia company, owned by Disney, has monopolized the television, radio and Internet markets. In the 2011 book "Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World of ESPN," ESPN is worth more than the NFL by itself, and the NBA, MLB and NHL combined.
 ESPN's success has caused CBS, NBC and FOX to diversify their business model.
 In April 2011, CBS rebranded CBS College Sports Network as CBS Sports Network. Recently, the corporation launched CBS Sports Radio in January. A year earlier, they lured the hottest name on the sports media market, Jim Rome, away from ESPN and Premiere Radio Networks. The company paid a steep price to make "King of Smack Talk" the face of CBS Sports. They gave him his own weekday television show "ROME" on CBS Sports Network, his own radio show, a monthly show on Showtime and a regular analyst spot on the NFL, NCAA Final Four and the United States Open Championship on CBS network television. Additional big names on CBS Sports Radio include former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber and former ESPN veterans Doug Gottlieb and Dana Jacobson.
After the NBC Universal/Comcast merger, NBC Sports Group rebranded Versus to NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2, 2012. The national sports network has a list of A-list sports personalities, notably Emmy award- winning broadcasters Bob Costas and Michelle Beadle. Additional television channels include the Golf Channel and 11 regional sports networks in the United States. Not to be outdone, the company, in conjunction with Dial Global Sports Network, launched NBC Sports Radio on Sept. 4, 2012, with high profile contributors such as Donovan McNabb and Rodney Harrison.
Fox Sports plans to join the national sports network party by rebranding the Speed Channel as Fox Sports 1. They already have a nationally syndicated radio network in collaboration with Premiere Radio Networks, one of the biggest syndicated radio networks in the United States, with big name personalities such as Dan Patrick, Jay Mohr and Andy Roddick.
Additionally, sport-specialty channels include NFL Network, NBA TV, MLB Network and NHL Network.
As competitive as the sports media market seems on paper, there are a variety of issues that should raise the eyebrows of these executives. First, accessibility. The ESPN family of cable networks is available in approximately 115 million homes, compared to CBS Sports Nework's 100 million and NBC Sports Network's 75 million homes, respectively. This became a problem during the Stanley Cup playoffs, where some hockey fans did not know what channel NBC Sports Network was on. Viewers know what channel ESPN is on. The same cannot be said about the other networks.
Another lingering problem is over the name brand. ESPN has been in the business for more than 33 years. CBS, NBC and prospectively FOX are have gotten their feet wet in the cable sports network business in the past year. It will take some growing pains before they can establish their brand and identity.
With that said, there are plenty of positive aspects to come about the evolution of sports media. It gives sports fans a variety of choices. ESPN's success has not gone without controversy. Many criticize the network for anything ranging from their journalistic practices to their preference for big market sports franchises. The expansion of cable networks gives the fan a voice in dictating what they want to see on their television.
Another plus is employment. The competition among sports media companies leads to more jobs in communications, marketing and sales, to name a few. This also leads to more internship opportunities for college students who are looking to get their foot in the door.
What will ultimately determine whether these sports media firms will sink or swim is the broadcasting rights to live sporting events. ESPN has assets that the other networks drool about: the rights to the NFL, NBA, MLB and major college sports (including the BCS National Championship and the upcoming college football playoffs).
Although Turner Sports (TNT and TBS) has rights to a few NBA and MLB postseason games, and NBC Sports Network has broadcasting rights to the NHL, the other networks have to settle for mostly unpopular niche sports, like lacrosse and auto racing.
2013 will not only be a great year in sports, but it will be a great year to sit back and enjoy on your couch.
 


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