English Premier League Finds a New Cable TV Home: NBC Sports Network

According to the sports media blog Awful Announcing, NBC has made a stunning bid to win exclusive rights to what is generally regarded as the best soccer league in the world, the English Premier League. NBC’s three year deal starts next year with the 2013-14 season and runs through the 2015-16 season, and shows a commitment to bringing wide-ranging soccer coverage to the US, both on broadcast television, on the flagship NBC network, and on cable television on NBC Sports Network, as well as other NBC owned channels such as CNBC, MSNBC, USA and Bravo. NBC and its family of networks will have the rights to all 380 EPL games each year, meaning other channels like Fox Soccer, ESPN, and beIn Sport are left without.

The plan is to air 18-20 EPL games live on NBC broadcast television, a first for televised soccer in America. NBC Sports Network, as the main broadcaster for the league, will air multiple games each weekend, and all games that are not televised will be shown on NBC Sports Live Extra, their online platform, so every game will be available in one fashion or another.

While this is a good thing for soccer fans, as more games will be available to view, it’s a shame that ESPN is getting out of the soccer market, as that was one of the few sports of which they actually offered fantastic coverage. After the World Cup in 2014, ESPN will no longer have rights to that property, and losing the EPL entirely is a big blow. Fox Soccer is also a big loser in this deal, as they currently air about 50 hours a week of EPL coverage between games and highlight shows. They will have to gain access to other international leagues to fill out their portfolio.

More on this as it develops at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

World Series Ratings a Concern for Major League Baseball

Before Sunday’s clinching game, when the San Francisco Giants closed out the World Series in sweeping the Detroit Tigers four games to none to win their second title in three years, this World Series had been the lowest-rated ever, according to USA Today. Final numbers for the last game are not yet calculated, but seeing as it was going up against Sunday Night Football on NBC, normally the most highly-watched program of the week, things are not looking good for what was once America’s pastime.

This is not a new trend. The past seven years have brought the seven lowest-rated World Series; even so, MLB TV rights have been secured for the next eight years with Fox for broadcast television and TBS and ESPN on cable TV. Some are presupposing that the low ratings are due to the lack of a major moneymaker franchise in the mix, like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs, but the series does not lack in star power; the likely MVPs for each league, San Francisco’s catcher Buster Posey and Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera were both present in this series, as well as American League Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander. The ratings would likely have been higher had the Yankees or Sox been involved, but it’s more of an indication of a complete shift in sports loyalty by many Americans: football is now the favorite sport to watch in America, bar none.

Why has football taken over? Fantasy football and gambling are the major reasons, but also there are only 16 games a year per team, compared to 162 for baseball, allowing each game to be presented as an event. By the time the World Series rolls around, many sports fans have baseball fatigue; and if your team’s not in, why continue to watch, especially when football’s on?

Time Warner Strikes Deals with Other Cable Providers to Carry Lakers Games

According to the Los Angeles Times, Time Warner Cable Inc. has struck deals with cable TV providers Charter Communications and Verizon Fios, along with AT&T U-Verse and that company’s 450,000 subscribers in the area, to carry Time Warner’s new SportsNet and Deportes channels, which will broadcast many of the Los Angeles Lakers’ regular season games this year. Time Warner still has not reached agreement with DIRECTV, DISH Network or Cox Cable, leaving many Los Angeles area viewers without Lakers game as the season quickly approaches.

The season begins Wednesday with a game against the Portland Trail Blazers, and Time Warner is scrambling to get deals in place with the other companies in the area before tipoff. Lakers fans with Cox, DISH and DIRECTV, which combined have more than 3 million subscribers in the area, are worried they may not get to see their favorite team, with new stars Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, because both companies are playing hardball with Time Warner. DIRECTV and Cox have both agreed to carry the new Time Warner sports channels on a specialty tier, which customers would have to pay extra to receive, and that’s a non-starter for Time Warner, who struck a $3 billion, 20 year rights deal for the Lakers and need the games in as many homes as possible to maximize subscription fee revenue and advertising revenue.

Typically, these disagreements between programmers and distributors go down to the wire, and then a resolution is reached. Before the weekend, when the agreements with Charter and Verizon were reached, many more fans were waiting in the balance. But three million or so are still waiting to see if they’ll get to see the games they got to see last year on Fox Sports, Prime Ticket and KCAL 9. They’ll know this Wednesday.

NFL SUNDAY TICKET Week 8 Schedule

The NFL season is heating up, and the only way to get every game, every Sunday is with NFL SUNDAY TICKET, exclusively available from DIRECTV. Watch up to eight games at once with the NFL MIX channel on 702, or upgrade to SUNDAY TICKET MAX to be able to watch the RED ZONE CHANNEL, which shows every scoring drive of every game on 703.

Last week saw an epic battle between NFC East rivals in the last minute win by the Giants over the Redskins. What will this week bring? Tune into NFL SUNDAY TICKET to see all the action.

Here is the channel lineup for Week 8:

  • Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears – 1pm – Channel 704
  • Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions – 1pm – Channel 705
  • Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles – 1pm – Channel 706
  • Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers – 1pm – Channel 707
  • San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns – 1pm – Channel 708
  • Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers – 1pm – Channel 709
  • Miami Dolphins at New York Jets – 1pm – Channel 710
  • New England Patriots at St. Louis Rams – 1pm – Channel 711
  • Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans – 1pm – Channel 712
  • Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs – 4pm – Channel 713
  • New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys – 4pm – Channel 714
  • All times Eastern time

Our Game to Watch: Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1pm, Channel 707. The league’s most exciting rookie this year is without a doubt the Redskins’ first-year quarterback, Robert Griffin III, also known as RG3. Playing a hybrid style that makes one wonder if a running quarterback really can be a success in the league, he’ll be going against the league’s favorite defensive franchise, the Steelers. Both teams are struggling a bit, but both have a chance to make waves this year, and this should be a good matchup of differing styles.

Wyoming Governor Pushes Broadband High Speed Internet as Key for Economic Growth

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead sees broadband high speed internet access as a key for economic growth in the state, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Currently, about 80 percent of all homes in Wyoming have access to broadband services through telecommunications, cable, or wireless providers. Governor Mead wants to continue expanding that access to encompass the other 20 percent as a means of spurring growth in the state’s economy, seeing expanding internet access the same as expanding roads, railroads, and interstates were in the past.

Wyoming is one of many states looking to expand broadband high speed internet access to its most rural areas through governmental intervention. Many rural areas in Wyoming and throughout the United States do not have access to the internet because it is not profitable for companies who provide internet access to run lines to sparsely populated areas. Governor Mead and other officials are seeking ways to make it more desirable for companies to do so, through government grants, Department of Transportation rights-of-way so companies can install fiber lines, and other measures. The key will likely be federal grants which will create public-private partnerships between governmental organizations and the internet service providers in the area.

It is true that internet access is essential for businesses to survive and thrive in these economic times. It is also important for individuals, as many people use the internet for job searching, shopping, and educational purposes. Satellite internet options are often far more expensive and slower than their wired counterparts, and satellite internet is often the only option in rural areas. Perhaps further development of satellite internet technology is the way to go, but no matter what, it is good that Governor Mead and like-minded politicians throughout the United States are taking this truly important issue to heart.

Final Cable TV Presidential Debate…on ESPN?

According to the sports media blog Awful Announcing, the campaigns of both sitting President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have reached out to ESPN to have their candidates appear on Monday Night Football on ESPN the night before the presidential election. This follows 2008, when both Obama and then Republican nominee John McCain were both interviewed by Chris Berman in segments that ran during halftime of the Steelers-Redskins game the night before that election. Both candidates also appeared on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning.

So why do the presidential candidates want to appear on a show that has nothing to do with politics? It’s simple: Monday Night Football is the most-watched television program on cable TV, bar none. It’s the night before the election, many people are watching, and taking softball questions from Chris Berman about who their favorite football teams are, some of their Super Bowl memories, and maybe even what they think about player safety in the NFL will make both candidates look more like “regular guys.” The only way this can really backfire is if one of the candidates says something stupid or comes off entirely like a robot.

Still, it is disappointing that of all the sports media personalities that will get a crack at the presidential candidates, it’s Chris Berman, who used to be one of ESPN’s main attractions and is now one of the cable sports empires main downfalls. I personally would prefer seeing Scott Van Pelt talk to Obama about old hip-hop, or maybe even Darren Rovell talk to Romney about finance. Instead, we’ll get Berman lobbing softballs, possibly tossing in a few of his catchphrases, and trying to get the presidential candidates to do highlights in his signature style. C’mon, man.

AMC and DISH Network Come to an Agreement

According to reports from Sunday, satellite TV provider DISH Network has settled a lawsuit with AMC Networks and its sister company, Cablevision Systems Corp. over a now defunct programming service. DISH Network will pay $700 million in cash to Cablevision and AMC Networks, with about $80 million of the cash to be used for the purchase of Cablevision’s multichannel video and data distribution services licenses in 45 metro areas across the United States. As part of the agreement, DISH also has agreed to resume carrying AMC, IFC, Sundance Channel, WE TV and other AMC Networks cable television channels.

This ends the several month long blackout for DISH’s more than 14 million subscribers for the popular AMC channel, which carries the cult cable TV hit Breaking Bad as well as cable’s biggest hit drama, the zombie show The Walking Dead. AMC ran a long ad campaign about how its popular shows were not available on DISH, encouraging DISH subscribers to move to their local cable provider or a competitor like DIRECTV. AMC claimed that as much as 13 percent of its subscriber base was affected by the blackout on DISH.

As part of a multiple year agreement, AMC will be on DISH Channel 131 starting Sunday. Other AMC Network programming will return to DISH on November 1, with the Fuse music channel also beginning on November 1 as well. Dave Shull, senior vice president of programming for Dish said in a statement that a multiyear deal delivers a “fair value for both parties and includes digital expansion opportunities for AMC Networks’ programming.”

Earlier in the summer, there was a blackout on DIRECTV of Viacom channels that, while similar in nature, was resolved much more quickly. It is not clear, since reports have not yet come out, how many people switched from DIRECTV due to that struggle or from DISH due to the AMC blackout.