Wednesday, July 12, 2006

BASEBALL'S NEW TV DEAL

FOX GETS BASEBALL AGAIN

Last night during the All-Star Game, baseball fans at home let out a collective groan when Joe Buck and Tim McCarver broke the news that FOX Sports was going to be the home of Major League Baseball coverage for the next seven years.

I'm sure quite a few disgusted fans were hurling their autographed baseballs at the TV set. I keep hearing so many complaints about the bells and whistles of Fox's coverage, about how loud the announcers are, and so on. It seems all the fans out there are still in national mourning over the fact that the Game of the Week isn't on NBC. It's been seventeen years, already, man, and people still can't get over it! People keep wishing it was Bob Costas doing the games, or Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola! Anyway, everyone can finally give up. The bottom line is FOX keeps the Saturday Game of the Week, the All Star Game, LCS action and all the World Series for the next seven years. It sure looks as if baseball will never be back on NBC in our lifetimes. Certainly, it will never be back as long as the NFL is on NBC; their money is all tied up.

USA Today has the full story on the new TV deal, which includes a new cable package with Turner Sports with big implications for TBS and the Atlanta Braves. ( ESPN did its deal with Major League Baseball last fall, which runs until 2013). Not too many big changes to report, certainly nothing like the big switch to CBS in 1990 or the switch to FOX and NBC in 1996. But there are quite a few important implications for TV viewers:

(1) NO MORE AMERICA'S TEAM

TBS is picking up 26 Sunday afternoon national games, and they will carry the entire first round of the post-season. But they are giving the boot to all their Atlanta Braves games! The Braves were moving most of their games to FSN anyway, but there were hopes the Braves would keep at least a few games on TBS. What's happened is they're going to show 45 Braves games in the Atlanta market on TBS locally, but these Braves games won't be shown nation-wide. As of 2008, the Braves will not be shown nationally on Superstation TBS except as part of this new national package, and not every week.

You know what this means, folks, this is the end of America's Team. The Braves aren't going to be beamed into TV sets all over America every day.

This is not good, folks. TBS were the Atlanta Braves, and the Braves were TBS! This team made that station. Showing the Braves games on TBS made Ted Turner rich, and financed CNN! But there's new ownership at both TBS and at the Atlanta Braves, and they don't care about tradition. My complaint is that by switching to a national package of games, TBS is simply going to give baseball viewers at home yet another opportunity to watch the crummy New York Yankees as far as I'm concerned. That's what these "national" packages do. They claim to be national, yet all they show are the Yankees and the Red Sox every week (especially in my area) and "who cares about the rest of the teams!" That's what you get from ESPN and especially from FOX: nonstop coverage of Boston and New York. I'm surprised FOX doesn't go around promoting the Yankees as America's Team, they carry them often enough!

At least by showing the Braves the folks at TBS gave you an opportunity to see something different. You could watch the National League and see the other ballparks. Now the folks at TBS, too, are probably just going to give us more of Boston and New York.

Maybe the folks at TBS don't want to be stuck showing a team that is going to be in the doldrums for the next few years. The Braves are having a terrible season and look to be in for some major rebuilding. But back in the 1980s the Braves stunk, too, and they were on TBS every day! And until this season, the Braves were good! For the longest time the Braves were winning and on top of their division, so every game they played on TBS was important! So the moment the Braves start losing, they immediately get dumped. I simply do not get it. Worse yet, with this new deal TBS will be showing fewer baseball games, period. They'll just do 26 regular season games and then a bunch playoff games, leaving lots of room to show reruns of sitcoms and other junk. A major reason to watch TBS and to subscribe to cable TV, period, is out the window.

If you're a Braves fan, this new TV deal stinks. In fact, people ought to write the Braves and protest this. It sure will be weird to see Skip Caray at Yankee Stadium in 2008, doing a Yankee-Red Sox game---- on TBS.

(2) FALL SEASON NO LONGER MESSED UP

The new FOX SPORTS deal calls for more regular-season baseball on Saturday afternoons and
fewer post-season games. The October disruption to the important fall launch of the prime-time lineup was always a big issue for FOX, and with this latest negotiation they've found a way around it. FOX is getting rid of its divisional series commitments. The entire first round of the playoffs is going to be on TBS instead, and FOX will only pick up one League Championship Series every year. Of course, they carry the World Series as usual.

This new schedule means less headaches for the entertainment people and these showrunners, wondering what impact baseball would have to the fall schedule. For all these years the folks in the entertainment division at FOX would be tearing their hair out, trying to schedule The O.C. and Prison Break and Bones and all these other shows when they knew full well they'd lose the entire month of October to major league baseball playoff games! They would resort to premiering The O.C. in August and launching their other shows in November, just to get around baseball. Shows that started strongly in September would be sidelined by baseball for a full month. Then, when the World Series wrapped up, these shows would have to completely start over from scratch. As for the new FOX shows that began their seasons in November, they had to contend with shows on CBS, ABC and NBC that launched way back in September and had already built up a loyal following. So they usually ended up being cancelled. It was a nightmare.

Well, fewer playoff games means more opportunity for FOX to air their new shows in October. Instead of taking all of October off, the new shows may be off for, say, a couple of weeks. And they will be showing fewer League Championship Series games, so that's a lot less disruption to the schedule right there. Overall, this arrangement works for FOX a lot better. Now they can launch a normal fall season like the rest of the networks and not worry about losing their audience.

That's it! Enough about baseball.

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