Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The First Victims Of The Sports TV Bubble
So where in the world did this come from? ESPN is monstrously profitable and we hadn't heard a word about this until this morning. Well, ESPN has been gobbling up live rights to events left and right, and those rights are really expensive. We've heard they needed to reduce costs as a result. Also: ESPN's parent company Disney is apparently asking all divisions to cut costs.That's right. Presaging the squeeze between RSNs and the teams they depend on for content, ESPN has fired a bunch of people responsible for packaging and dispensing said content. ESPN employees have no pull in these negotiations, or at least less than the teams hitting ESPN for revenue streams. And according to the e-mails from now ex-employees following the piece, the bulk of the layoffs hit older, more expensive workers. (Hey, Disney, maybe you should ask Circuit City how that worked out.)
"But ESPN isn't an RSN!" you protest, correctly, which brings me to Maury Brown's latest reportage on the topic, a missive in which Jim Crane and the Astros have lost leverage with Comcast Sports Net Houston.
The issue is one of conflicting interests. The owners of CSN Houston, knowing that carriage deals of up to 20 years carries with it the need to get the most while they can, are sticking to their guns on getting the best rate possible. According to reports, that could be as high as $3.40 per subscriber—a lofty sum, especially in light of the dismal performance by the Astros....Because the Astros are negotiating from weakness, it seems likely they'll eventually have to settle for a lower price than they had hoped. There's only so far you can push these deals before either the RSNs or the cable companies they're selling to push back. As it is, the Astros have a similar problem to that which our neighbors to the south suffer from, namely, non-carriage on a large fraction of the local cable outlets. In fact, only 40% of the Houston area cable customers even have access to Comcast Sports Net Houston, a number that makes the Padres' 78% penetration look positively fantastic.
... it’s not like having Jim Crane say that CSN Houston is going to have to make “tough decisions” doesn’t add more leverage to those carriers that the RSN is trying to get top-dollar for. Ask yourself: if you know that an RSN is wounded, that ratings are down, and public perception of the club is low, why would you give in and offer a high rate that you are stuck with for 20 years?
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Mauling All Angels: Astros 5, Angels 0
Some years ago, when the A's were wretched and the Angels on what now appears to be the final season of their long post-2002 competence, Philip Michaels wrote that the A's are like Lourdes for other teams: they'll cure what ails ya. So the Angels now, afflicted by bad pitching, starting (as last night with Tommy Hanson) and relief, and offensive offense.
I'll be taking some days off from the park. Maybe they'll figure it out; maybe they won't. But this isn't their year, and the sooner they stop letting contracts like Hamilton's, the better.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
As If 2012 Never Ended: A's 9, Angels 5
C.J. Wilson's annoying habit of exploding one inning of every single start continued, and right away with the first, in which he surrendered three runs in a horrid mess of walks and singles, as a drunk man might keep retching long after disgorging the contents of his stomach. But then — and only after surrendering a solo homer to Coco Crisp to start the second — he settled down, and actually managed to outpitch the A's starter, Jarrod Parker, the latter only lasting 3.1 innings.
Usually when you can chase the other team's starter, it's a pretty good sign you've got a shot at a win. But by this point, the Halos were still down 4-2. They eventually turned that around in the sixth to make it 5-4 in an inning that saw the dubiously hired Josh Hamilton make his lone contribution, a sac fly to tie the game.
So the end of hope. The Angels held the A's at bay through two outs of the seventh, with Scott Downs — who has been dreadful this year, mostly — posting a very respectable inning, to give way to Kevin Jepson, who had been doing fairly well. As it happened, that was a horrible mistake, for as the Register's Jeff Fletcher tweeted, pinch hitter John Jaso hits righties better over his career by about .250 points of OBP (.789 vs. .539). While it wasn't exactly predictable that Jaso would homer, he did, and so, later, did Brandon Moss, who uncharacteristically hit 21 last year. A lesson, perhaps made starker by the enthusiastic boos that accompanied Jepson when he slunk back into the dugout after finally retiring DH Nate Freiman, four batters after his entrance into the game.
The game featured a mess in the offense, too, as the Angels stranded thirteen base runners, and headliner Josh Hamilton went 0-for-4 with a sac fly as duly noted before. Not a propitious start for the homestand, or the season. It is the sort of thing that makes you wonder whether the owner can be fired.
- The sudden Dodger Stadium-length concession lines at the park that I expected were a Freeway Series, early season anomaly continued unabated. People I know at certain concession stands who were competent and fast (the bartender Chet at the tequila stand in my section, 530 or thereabouts) are gone, replaced by someone I do not know who is vastly his inferior. And everywhere, long, long, slow lines.
- Verizon data is finally slow and awful during the game. My 4G LTE WiFi card is next to useless during the game, constantly downshifting to 3G, though AT&T is scarcely better.
- I haven't done a thorough look-see at the concessions, but the Chronic Taco in the Pavilion section is woefully understaffed and painfully (and to my eye, unnecessarily) slow. That's too bad, because it's probably the best food in the house at the moment. I recommend their same-branded stand in the third base entryway.
- In case you missed it: Jered Weaver will be out 4-6 weeks thanks to a comebacker in his last start that nailed his elbow.
I wonder, given how badly he pitched Sunday in Texas, whether it wasn't a stress fracture worsened by impact.Update 4/11: Duh, injury was to his non-pitching elbow.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Vernon Wells Traded To The Yankees
Update 3/25: Via BTF (and who doesn't love them for the wonderful commenters, a fine exception to the usual proscription on reading comments on the Internet), USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that the Angels will eat $28-29M of his deal. Still a net plus.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
John Perricone On Steroids
I have worked in construction for almost 35 years. I live in constant pain. I’ve already had surgery on my right elbow, I am going to have surgery on my left in a couple of months. I am getting HGH injections in my right shoulder, the left is next. I have just begun a topical cream regimen of steroids, oral DHEA, and a variety of supplements and vitamins, all in an effort to keep working. To provide for my family. In a way, I have done whatever it takes, I have lived a “win at all costs” life. There were times where I knew I was damaging my body in unfixable ways, all the days that I took pain killers, the multiple times I asked my doctors to give me corti-steroidal injections so I could finish the job. I’ll be paying the price for those choices for the rest of my life. I knew it at the time, and I know it now.Speaking as someone who strongly believes we each own ourselves — bodies, minds, and work — I find this highly compelling.
Were I a football player, baseball player, or a professional cyclist, my “job” would require me to win. To keep my “job” I would have to produce, I would have to be at least as good as the worst player in my field. And I can guarantee you that I would have been availing myself of every medical advance known at the time. It is absurd to me to suggest that I would have had to consider whether somebody else approved of my life-altering decisions.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Dodgers, Time Warner Form New Cable Network
The addition of a new Dodgers network would bring the number of local sports channels in Los Angeles to six, the most in any major city in the United States. Besides Time Warner Cable's SportsNet and Deportes, and Fox's Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West, the Pac-12 Conference also has its own channel here. Fox Sports West carries Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Angels games.Ganis has been something of a go-to guy for quotes about the business of LA teams for the Times dating back, at least, to the McCourt acquisition of the Dodgers. And while he's been kind of a gloomy Gus about the crazy nature of these deals, I share his skepticism that this is going to go off without a hitch. "The Dodger agreement with Time Warner Cable may be a tipping point", the LAT piece reads, as far as the willingness of cable networks to pony up for a sports channel that is double what Fox Sports West is charging ($5/user*month for the proposed network).
"That's too many channels," said Marc Ganis, a sports industry consultant in Chicago. "I can't imagine that is sustainable on a long-term basis."
Friday, January 18, 2013
Trying And Failing To Sell The "Cable TV Isn't Ripping Off Non-Sports Consumers" Myth
Here is where the LA Times and the others go very wrong – they reason that $30 of the $40 charged is due to sports so each person is paying $7.50 for football ($7.50*4=$30) and $2.50 for Top Chef ($2.50*4=$10) and, therefore, the Top Chef viewer is being ripped off because 3/4 of their bill is going to support programming they never watch!Yet this does not change the underlying truth that the bill is still what it is! More of a sports fan's bill goes toward the things they prefer to watch, while less of someone who likes "Top Chef", say. The LAT article can be found here:
Conceptually it’s much clearer to say that each person is being charged $10 for the programming that they most want to watch.
So far, people seem willing to pay. But the escalating costs are triggering worries that, at some point, consumers will begin ditching their cable and satellite subscriptions.As much as Taberrok might like to elide this, he can't ignore what's happening in San Diego with the Padres, which is a precursor to the whole house of cards falling down.
"We've got runaway sports rights, runaway sports salaries and what is essentially a high tax on a lot of households that don't have a lot of interest in sports," said John Malone, the cable industry pioneer and chairman of Liberty Media. "The consumer is really getting squeezed, as is the cable operator."
A key concern is that the higher bills driven by sports are being shouldered by subscribers whether they watch sports or not. National and local sports networks typically require cable and satellite companies to make their channels available to all customers.
"I pay $98 a month for cable and half of that is for sports?" said Vincent Castellanos, 51, a fashion stylist who lives in Los Feliz. "I've never once gone to a single sports channel. I wasn't even aware I was paying for it. I want my money back. Who do I call?"