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Sports consumption facing seismic shift
And what was Bill Russell thinking?
Good morning, all. I hope your week is off to a great start. For many in the United States, it is a short work week, as Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. We here in the USA have plenty about which to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.
Regional sports networks in trouble?
For some, this may be flying below the radar screen, but it is not a stretch to proclaim regional sports networks (RSNs) are in trouble. I’m talking about the networks that carry your favorite MLB, NBA or NHL teams. This cable-team-consumer symbiotic relationship has been based on revenue earmarked for the cable companies and individual clubs from your monthly cable television bills. In many cases, sports channels have been packaged with other channels, so that even if you are not a sports fan, you are paying for sports channels. Part of that monthly bill goes toward underwriting the salaries of professional athletes.
Well, a funny thing has happened on the way to the hockey rink. Cable television subscribers are “cutting the cord” in record numbers, reducing that much-needed revenue stream for the RSNs, cable television companies, and professional teams. This dynamic trio has long feared this day would come, which is why the cable television lobby is one of the strongest, romancing your favorite U.S. Representative and Senator to deny ala carte pricing. Such a format would permit customers to subscribe to individual channels, rather than a package.
As the 21st Century continues, streaming technology is affording consumers the chance to pick-and-choose their channels, leaving the cable TV industry and their lobbyists in a bind, Congress be damned. The very system they have tried to preserve is crumbling faster than the 1960s Yankees.
CNBC reports 25 million households have cut the cord since 2012 with another 25 million expected to tune out cable within the next four years. RSNs are scrambling and continue to raise the cost for cable companies to carry their channels. However, many companies are refusing to pass the cost along to their subscribers and are dropping the channels from their systems. The entire paradigm is dying a death by a thousand clicks.
It is why, everywhere you turn, the big boys like ESPN, NBC, CBS and FOX are touting their streaming services. RSNs, however, are struggling to do the same, although YES - which carries the Yankees and Nets - constantly pushes its app.
No one knows how this will all play out. Maybe the consumer will be the winner. Maybe sports fans will have to pay even higher prices to follow their favorite team. It might even mean the days of outlandish player salaries will come to an end. But make no mistake, how we consume are sports is undergoing a seismic shift.
What of the New York football Giants?
By the time you read this, the New York Giants will have played Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Bucs on Monday Night Football. It is a winnable game for New York, coming off of a bye week. If the Giants lose, they will fall to 3-7. Since winning their last Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2012, the Giants have made the playoffs once and have a record of 21-52. The Jets are just as pathetic and have one Super Bowl appearance in their history, that memorable win over the Colts in Super Bowl III.
How is it that the USA’s most populated region, a sports-craved region no less, fails to produce champions? And in the case of the most popular league, the NFL, cannot even produce a perennial contender. Heck, the NFL became the nation’s number one sport thanks to the success of the New York football Giants. Now, they are a laughingstock. It boggles the mind.
Meanwhile, if the Giants beat Tampa Bay, the New York media will start hyping their playoff chances with a 4-6 record. If they lose, the “Joe Judge is gone” story line will be hyped on every sports website. These websites need content and clicks after all, so expect the rumor mill to be churning out one unfounded story after another. The Twitter universe will also be ablaze.
I could be wrong, but a Giants loss to Tampa Bay, or another losing season, will not cost Judge his job, but GM Dave Gettleman better not be sending out the laundry. In only his second season as a head coach (itself mystifying, despite Bill Belichick’s glowing recommendation), Judge will be permitted another shot in 2022. But if the Giants fail to show marked improvement next season, Judge will join the long line of ex-Giants head coaches.
The Game lived up to its hype
Harvard and Yale met for the 137th time in The Game last Saturday. The two clubs did not play last year because of COVID. With 37 seconds left, Harvard - with no time outs - drove 66 yards and stunned Yale with a 34-31 win on a 12-yard TD pass from Luke Emge to Kim Wimberly.
This was college football. No FBS (Division I) hype here, just a good, old fashioned football game, between two arch rivals.
By the way, the attendance at historic Yale Bowl was 49,500. At a time when another Connecticut-based school, UConn, is attempting to revive a flagging FBS program, it was heartening to read that nearly 50,000 could turnout in my home state to watch a college football game, an Ivy League college football game. Their allegiance to the sport and history of these two schools was rewarded.
Where’s the sizzle?
Speaking of “rivalries”, the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers renewed theirs on Friday night at TD Garden. There at court side, taking in the action, while munching on some peanut M&M’s, was the great Bill Russell, now 87 years old. I wonder what was going through his mind?
The game had some sizzle to it, until the Lakers petered out midway through the fourth quarter. But to expect the rivalry of the old days is hoping against hope. Long gone is the time when the Celtics and Lakers were regulars in the NBA Finals. And sadly, these two teams only meet twice in the regular season. In the old days, when Russell played, the Celtics and Lakers would battle 10 times per season. I know, I know, there are more teams today, but one way a rivalry is built or maintained is to go up against a team more than twice in a regular season. Can’t the NBA powers at least have the Celtics and Lakers meet four times in a season?
Oh well, I can dream, can’t I? The NBA regular season is nothing more than a drawn out audition for the post season, although in many ways the league is more popular than ever, especially in other corners of the world. I just wonder what the great Russell was thinking, as he took in a Celtics-Lakers game in 2021.
Well that is it for the latest newsletter. As always, thank you for subscribing and have a stupendous rest of the week.