Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday Odds and Ends

Today, while also known as the most boring day sports day of the year, still provides a little forum for stories that seemed noteworthy.

Tru TV - In stories that I didn't see coming - the NCAA Basketball Tournament play in Games (now 8 teams) will be broadcast on Tru TV formerly known as Court TV. That can't be a good sign if your showing up on Court TV. I realize everything is cable but I don't have the first clue where Tru TV is on my tv lineup (channel 543?) and that's not good for ratings...

Lloyd Carr Retires - Associate Athletic Director Lloyd Carr announced his official retirement yesterday at the age of 65. I'll always (oddly) have a soft spot for Lloyd as he always carried himself with class and always seemed to care about his players. Carr retires with 30 years of service with the Maize and Blue, 5 Big Ten Titles, and 1 national championship.

NL Halts Streak The NL finally beat the AL for the first time in what seems like 35 years. I maintain the game would have been more entertaining (and better managed) if Japanese robots were in charge.

Old Soccer Star Comes to the MLS - Thierry Henry, of the famed Henry handball goal scoring technique, has signed a deal with the New York Red Bulls and will be coming to a soccer stadium near you. You may all now riot with joy.


Gutsy Goldberg said...

1) I'm excited about the "First four" if only because 2 of the games involve the last at-large bids. In all likelihood, that should be power conference teams going head-to-head I believe. Of course, it's also likely that this will be another way for tourney organizers to screw over the mid-majors and declare them as the "last 4 in". However, I think there's a much bigger rating bonanza to be had by pitting power conference teams against each other. I had no idea it will be on TruTV. I have no idea who has that channel.
2) I respect Lloyd Carr as well. I hope he enjoys retirement!
3) Henry still has some skill left... so that should be entertaining at least for the city of NY!

MJ said...

1) It should give the NCAA an idea of how little enthusiasm there is for these four play-in games when Tru TV is your broadcast partner. If CBS or ESPN (or one of the many channels those entities control) passed on carrying these games...well, why should I be inclined to watch the games on a channel I didn't even know existed.

1a) Incidentally, TruTV is owned by Turner Broadcasting which is a subsidiary of Time Warner. Considering this media empire also owns TBS -- one of the most mainstream and important cable channels and arguably one of the most historically-significant cable channels of all time -- it tells you how disinterested even Time Warner is in carrying these games. They could've put them on TBS as part of their existing sports coverage (NBA, MLB) and driven ad revenue. Instead, they hid these games on a channel no one cares about because they don't think anyone wants to pay premiums for play-in games.

2) I had no idea Lloyd Carr was still employed by UM. Knowing this now, I honestly wonder what he thinks of the disaster that UM football has become under Rich Rodriguez. I wonder if he thinsk to himself "I sustained a great program only to be replaced by this loser?" In any case, happy trails Lloyd. Enjoy retirement.

3) As an AL fan, boo to the NL for winning for the first time in over a decade. On the flipside, homefield advantage in the World Series means next to nothing so the results of last night's exhibition game are insignificant.

4) As long as the MLS keeps on trotting out has-been European/Latin American soccer players in a misguided effort to drive fan interest in their league, soccer will never get the attention people want it to receive in the United States. The only way to grow American soccer and to make the MLS a viable league is to improve the talent pool and to pay better salaries. Until then, this is a league where careers either go to die or just a holding tank for the less talented.

Gutsy Goldberg said...

In response to MJ's 1) or 1)a), I will try to give you my belief on the theory of Turner broadcasting (as well as others in the industries). This strategy of putting less meaningful games on a channel that most people don't have is eerily the same as the strategy for the Big Ten Network or the NFL Network (when they would get rights to certain games in the middle of the season). The strategy is that people will suddenly want to watch your channel, and suddenly Turner can ask for more money per subscriber. So... placing these opening games is a calculated decision designed to raise the value of TruTV.

As for 4), I agree that the MLS does not have a good long-term strategy when it comes to plugging players like Thierry Henry into the system. MLS has a long way to go... so I think acquisitions like Henry will continue because its easier to generate money off someone who is relatively known rather than cultivating your own talent. Anyways, when they cultivate their own talent, MLS usually sells them off for their transfer fees (Dempsey, Altidore, etc.)

Mighty Mike said...

So I had to look it up but TruTV is part of the standard cable package - i.e., everyone with cable has it already. (if everyone/anyone remembers people watched the OJ trial on that channel) so it's not a Big 10/NFL network get people to get this channel strategy. It's nobody will watch this so put it on random basic channel with no programming strategy. Ah the things you learn....

MJ said...

Mighty is correct here. As I said, this channel is part of the Time Warner family of channels and, as Mighty said, this is on most basic cable packages.

The fact that these games have been hidden in plain sight on TruTV tells you just how little value they have to profit-hungry broadcasters.

The NCAA should heed this warning and not attempt to further dilute what is one of the best televised sports properties in the US.

Hitman said...

NCAA "First Four":

- I'm not sure that Gutsy's wrong, even though he incorrectly surmised that this was an attempt to drive up subscriptions. First, I don't know if TruTV is a part of standard basic everywhere; perhaps it isn't in some markets? Second, even if it is on basic everywhere, Turner still has an interest in driving up TruTV viewership to enhance advertising, and maybe it thinks that these games are an easy way to do just that.

- Beyond that, it's also possible that Turner is concerned (perhaps rightly, if MJ's comments above are shared by the general public - which does happen every now and again) that these games won't be popular, and so it's putting the first season or two on TruTV as a trial run. You can bet that if these games are successful, they won't be on TruTV for long.

- Finally, MJ asks "Why should I be inclined to watch the games on a channel I didn't even know existed?" and cautions the NCAA against "attempt[ing] to further dilute" the NCAA Tournament. Time will tell, but if history is any indication, these games ought to be very exciting, especially the games between the last at-large teams (likely to be big conference squads). If what we used to know as the First Round is so damn exciting, why would we have any reason to think that a few more of these games won't also be exciting? And is the addition of four more teams really a dilution of the Tournament? I don't see it that way.

MLS: I totally agree with the comments above. Further, it astounds me that 16 years after the US-hosted World Cup, MLS has still failed to come anywhere close to making it big here, especially considering the NHL's significant drop in popularity for the first 10 years or so of the MLS' existence, and the downturn in MLB attendance in the first few years after the 1994 strike. Kids everywhere play soccer, and yet nobody really pays much attention to this professional league - hell, I played soccer for 12 years and I've never been to an MLS game, and although I wouldn't turn down a ticket, I'm not itching to go, either. Now MLS has to fight its perceived mediocrity, even more competition for sports fans' attention, a booming NFL (even with its own labor problems looming), and relative resurgence in the far better-established MLB and NHL. So not only do I not see MLS with a good plan to build its brand, I don't see it with much hope for the near future, either.

Gutsy Goldberg said...

I just want to clarify something else. Obviously, I'm trying to play devil's advocate here and get inside the TV network's decision here, which is probably irrational. My example included channels that people didn't already have... but part of how cable works is that for each cable subscriber, ESPN may get like $5 per person. Channels like Discovery may only 30 cents per person. So, in theory, they could be leveraging TruTV to increase the amount of money they can demand from cable companies.

-I tend to agree with Hitman... I don't see these 4 additional games as a dilution. I do see an entire 96 teams as a dilution. But, I don't see 4 additional games as a dilution. It's line-drawing, and it may be arbitrary, but that's my opinion!

-The MLS is in a tough spot. I think their plan is "slow-and-steady." Eventually at some point, they have to get enough income such that they can pay minimum players more than they would make as manager at a Bob Evan's. In addition, they have to one day get to a point where they can keep talents like Dempsey when they are in their prime. It's a chicken-and-egg problem, and I know MLS doesn't want to over-extend themselves, so they are being more cautious with their money than the 1970s predecesor to MLS.

MJ said...


1) Considering the original plan for NCAA expansion was to open the field to 96 teams, this "First Four" plan is a compromise to lay the foundation for future expansion. Count on it. So, yeah, ths "First Four" is dilution by way of preparing us for a greater expanion in a few years' time.

2) Further, why add the three additional play-in games at all? Did anyone feel like the tournament was lacking in excitement? I don't particularly care who plays in these games, be it bubble teams from big-conferences or the usual assortment of Arkansas-Pine Bluff/Tennessee State afterthoughts. The entire premise is idiotic.

3) If the networks were inclined to have a trial run, they wouldn't stuff these games on a non-existant channel. The best way to build a sports property is to market the hell out of it by blasting it in places where you know people are watching. Trying to see if people will come to TruTV isn't how the TV industry works. You put something on a channel people like to watch if you want it to succeed. By putting it on TruTV, you're announcing a vote of no confidence in the product.


The TV industry doesn't work that way. You can't try to increase subscriber fees based on a one-time hit in viewership.

Let's assume for a moment that the play-in games are wildly successful, everyone loves them and they become ESPN Instant Classics. You still have to assume that viewership for those games will be down simply by virtue of being on TruTV instead of on USA Network, ESPN, etc. Even if TruTV registers the highest ratings in its history, cable providers won't renegotiate fees based on "special occasion programming." You need to prove sustainable growth in order to have that kind of leverage. It's why most Americans don't have the NFL Network: because despite the popularity of the NFL, there's no track record to prove that people will actually watch 24 hours of NFL programming from January-August when there's nothing on that channel worth watching.

Gutsy Goldberg said...

@MJ - Every point you make about the TV industry is probably correct and accurate. I'm just racking my brain also for why they would bother stuffing these games on TruTV... and this is the best theory I've got and it's got some holes. Swiss cheese style.

I suppose they may argue that by just having the games on, that increases the liklihood of people watching the other shows, which increases, which increases the amount they can get from cable companies per subscriber. It's a longshot, no doubt.