Catching up on the sports television wars

I stopped doing my Sports TV Wars posts in an attempt to reserve all my blogging time for football posts, so let’s not wait any longer to catch up on the developments from the last two months.

The World Cup bidding ended in a double upset, making the Wars far more interesting: Fox stealing the World Cup from ESPN (and indirectly NBC) and Telemundo stealing the Spanish language rights from Univision. I had thought Fox’s lack of MLS coverage, the main motivating factor behind their bid, would ultimately kill it because of FIFA’s desire for the winner to go all out to promote the sport in the US. I also thought NBC still had more motivation to grow Versus and establish their soccer brand. Instead, Fox sent a strong message that they are not to be ignored. I would expect most non-broadcast World Cup games to air on FX; the main value for Fox Soccer Channel will be all the lesser tournaments they now hold the rights to, filling the spring and summer programming time MLS left behind. Time will tell if this presages an effort to steal the MLS contract out from under both ESPN and NBC in a few years.

I was also surprised Telemundo even went ahead with a bid without corporate sibling NBC picking up English language rights, but apparently it may have been the other way around. (Which shouldn’t be surprising, considering Telemundo paid $100 million more than Fox.)

Also:

  • The Tennis Channel extended their rights agreement with the WTA Tour through 2016. ESPN3 reached an agreement with the WTA in the same deal. I’m not sure whether to count that half-and-half between Tennis Channel and ESPN or all Tennis Channel, but I’m going to do the latter for now.
  • Nearly a year after announcing it was dropping the “College” from its name, CBS Sports Network has finally picked up a non-college contract! Sure, it’s with super-tiny Major League Lacrosse, but still!
  • We then had a slow period through the rest of November and into December until just the other day, when ESPN extended its agreement with the NCAA for its non-men’s basketball championships, swiping some lesser women’s championships from CBS Sports Network and making me pine even more wistfully for what might have been had ESPN trumped CBS and Turner for March Madness.

Yes, I know I’m ignoring a far greater prize that was just awarded. But despite being essentially a formality, it’s a deal that’s far too big not to deserve its own post, for reasons that have nothing to do with who won them. More on that later.

Sport-Specific Networks
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