Depending on where your sports passion lies, you may be already counting the days until the fall when your college or NFL team's aspirations start anew. With that in mind, here is a look at things to ponder on the sports media landscape as we wind our way to the start of the 2012 season.
10) Will Fox Feature Gus Johnson More?
You can debate it both ways. In some regards Gus Johnson at Fox and FX elevated his status as he called big time games like the Big Ten Championship and the Cotton Bowl. At the same time, he's almost completely disappeared from the NFL scene and was totally off the radar when this year's NCAA tournament rolled around. It's not hard to imagine that a good chunk of sports fans haven't seen/heard from him in over five months.
This year, Fox will have substantially higher quality and quantity of games thanks to their new agreement with the Pac 12 and will even have some games on Fox opposed to FX. This bodes well for Johnson, but the big question will be how many double duty weekends Johnson will pull as he was only rolled out once for an NFL game last year.
Johnson was basically the 8th string announcing team and with more games going to the Thursday night package, if things stay the same, the 8th string announcing team will probably get as much play as a 3rd string holder.
While Johnson's appeal can be divisive, the fact of the matter is that Fox's announcing talent is lacking across the board (play by play and analyst). Johnson and his partner, Charles Davis, on merit and fan sentiment alone would immediately be the #1 or #2 team based solely on quality and likability.
With more Pac 12 games on their plate in NFC markets, I'm clamoring for Johnson to get more NFL games. Nobody is really craving for announcers on the lower end of Fox's totem pole - Dick Stockton, Chris Myers, Sam Rosen, etc. If Fox lets Johnson waste away for another year away from the NFL as well as the NCAA tourney, it's going to leave many disappointed once again.
9) Where Will Hard Knocks Land?
We know that a handful of NFL teams have declined. We also know the Jaguars are game although I think NFL Films and HBO are probably hoping they find a team with a bit more intrigue and star power than Jacksonville. You'd also assume HBO would like to avoid a repeat team so that would rule out Dallas, Kansas City, and Cincinnati.
HBO's successful seduction of an NFL franchise isn't always a given but coming off a one year hiatus, you'd think that we'll hear something definitive by the end of June on a new team and perhaps something in the next couple of weeks.
Some teams that haven't been tied to rumors that I'd like to see pursued would include:
- St. Louis
I can't fathom another year without Hard Knocks so let's hope we get our answer to the question sometime in the coming weeks.
8) A Return To NFL Films Presents For Steve Sabol
In our Sports Media Wish List for 2012, we were cognizant to wish for a healthy return for NFL Films President, Steve Sabol. A quick Google search will show that Sabol has been releasing various statements and quotes but most statements by any organization can be cooked up by a PR or marketing department and signed off later on. It's been quiet in regards to Sabol's health and we'd be remissed if we didn't say we were certainly wondering and hoping that he'll return to one of ESPN's hidden gems in NFL Films Presents. Last year just wasn't the same without him and I'm hoping his health improves to the point we he'll be back full time doing what he loves.
7) Will Extended Thursday Night Package End NFL Network Carriage Stalemates?
We broke down the winners and losers of the NFL extending the Thursday Night schedule of games from 8 to 13. At that time we pegged the NFL Network as the big winner and the remaining holdout cable and satellite operators as the big losers. The extra five games adds more meat on the bone as depriving consumers of 13 NFL games is a substantial competitive shortcoming.
Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, and Cablevision are among the larger holdouts still not carrying the channel. Currently only ~65 million people get the channel, which is roughly 35 million less than ESPN and their 100 million threshold.
If the league can work out agreements with some of the larger holdouts remaining, the channel could easily reach 85 million households by the start of the season, which would be a windfall of revenue on both the carriage fees and advertising revenue fronts. Such gains would validate not packaging and bidding out Thursday Night Football to the likes of NBC Sports Network, FX, ESPN, and Turner.
Like any media negotiation these days, any new discussions will likely go down to the wire so we're unlikely to have an answer until sometime in late September.
6) Will Peter Berg's Mike Leach Documentary Become A Reality?
We've waxed poetic about Peter Berg and his ability to move mountains within the network and studio ecosystem to get great sports projects into production. That said, we're still waiting on final confirmation for the Friday Night Lights movie and the proposed documentary on Mike Leach at Washingon State. Berg always sells his projects hard, so it's wise to wait until these things become official to begin looking forward to them happening.
Given his track record working with HBO with On Freddie Roach, you would think the Leach show specifically would get the green light to add to their impressive portfolio of sports docs. However we're 90 days away from the start of camp and still waiting for the final word. Our most recent update comes from Coug Center who indicates that Berg did send a crew to Pullman for a test shoot, which is a positive sign. The quantity and quality of sports documentaries has vastly increased in recent years, but Berg's profile of Mike Leach is one of the most anticipated of the bunch.
We'll be back later in the week with The Top 5 questions looking ahead to the fall.....