Now that major league baseball teams, including the Yankees and the Mets, have — at least — offered fans refunds or future credits for games that have not been played because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s time for cable operators and satellite providers to give refunds to subscribers who are paying 20% of their cable bill for LIVE games that are not being played.
The distributors (like Comcast, Spectrum and DirecTV) and networks (like ESPN, FS1, YES, MSG and SNY), are already butting heads over who should pay the bill. Should the networks still be able to collect the same rights fees from distributors for providing less live programming? While these companies pretend, er, try to work out their own problems, they let the consumer, many who have lost their jobs, twist in the wind.
ESPN, in its own version of three-card monte, is hyping (on all its outlets) and presenting “The Last Dance,” the Michael Jordan/Bulls documentary, as if it is premium programming that somehow represents a substitute for live games. To some extent, the game of smoke and mirrors has worked. Inside the Valley of the Stupid and in other media precincts the documentary has hypnotized the Gasbags and is being discussed, and analyzed, as if it were a game.
Yet, there’s hardly a word about how cable outlets and networks are ripping off consumers by not yet offering any refunds or rebates for live programming they now can’t receive because of the pandemic. Let’s face it, ESPN’s “First Take” bloviators are not going to get into a debate on how their own company is a major player in the greedy world of sports programmers.
All Gasbags are too busy discussing the latest fantasy plan, leaked by MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL, concerning when a sport is going to start, or re-start its seasons. Fans are reluctant to complain because they are used to being shafted by their local cable distributor or national/regional sports network programmer.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James is speaking out. She has called on seven of the largest cable/satellite operators to prepare and provide “plans to the attorney general’s office for how they will provide financial relief to consumers until live sports programming is resumed.”
We wish the AG well in her pursuit of consumer justice. No one should hold their breath waiting for her to succeed. Over three decades of following the Wild West of cable, we’ve seen how adept the industry is in lobbying and lawyering-up to protect its turf and bottom line, even in situations where they are clearly charging fees for programming they are not providing.
It’s ironic that during a time, when these companies are producing public service ads, featuring talent saluting our first responders and urging everyone to “stay safe,” they can’t provide relief to folks they are quite capable of taking care of.
Their own customers.
BUCK CAN FAKE IT
Joe Buck can’t live without the noise — crowd noise.
On the recent edition of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” the Fox voice said doing play-by-play in an empty stadium (because of the coronavirus) during a crucial moment of a game would be “daunting” and “scary.”
Compared to what’s happening in our country now, calling a game under unusual circumstances would neither be “daunting” nor “scary” So, Buck is guilty of a very miserable choice of words.
Yet his take on a fan-less stadium shows just how important he thinks crowd noise and emotion is to what he does for a living. “What they are going to have to do is put in some fake crowd noise like a laugh-track that has been put on shows,” Buck said. “Just to give a little bit of support. That’s way more appetizing than just [being] flat on your broadcast.”
It’s understandable why Buck needs simulated noise to juice his p-b-p.
Still, it might be more interesting — and unique — to viewers if extra sensitive microphones could be positioned where the audience could clearly hear the sounds of the game, players talking trash, coaches communicating, and, in the NFL and NHL, sounds of violent collisions.
If Bart Scott ever decides to enter politics, he will have the support of sports owners and commissioners.
Judging by his recent commentary on ESPN-98.7, they have a friend in the former NFL tough guy. Scott said he’s all for the government bailing out baseball. Why? So, franchises worth billions can collect corporate welfare at the expense of a business or industry that’s legitimately in bad shape?
Scott’s theory is more emotional than well thought out.
Remember, MLB, or any other pro league, one way or another, will eventually collect all or a portion of the TV money the networks owe them. They have a backstop, a huge safety net.
Besides, the “government” already showed what they thought of a pro team looking to cash in when the Lakers were recently forced to give back the federal funds they received.
THE JORDAN RULES
It’s stunning that Michael Jordan does not have an executive producer/executive editor credit on ESPN/Netflix’s “The Last Dance.”
Once the two companies paid NBA Entertainment roughly $20 million for the rights to their video archives of Jordan and the Bulls, which Jordan got a piece of (he’s donating it to charity), you would think they would have total control of the project.
Nonetheless, Curtis Polk, Jordan’s business partner since 1989, serves as executive producer of the 10-part documentary. While the piece has been somewhat revealing, it’s unsettling that Jordan, through Polk, has his finger deep in the pie.
Already, we’ve seen Jordan use the documentary to settle old scores.
The most recent episode was a takedown of Isiah Thomas. Zeke’s on-court reputation was sullied. The handshake story (after the Bulls finally defeated Detroit in the 1991 Eastern Conference Final) was blown out of proportion. Yet it served to make Thomas look bad to those who did not know the true hate that existed and how the game was played back then.
Another Jordan target, the late Jerry Krause, is depicted as an insecure buffoon in the documentary. Krause can’t defend himself now.
And there is no one featured in the doc, so far, who will.
AROUND THE DIAL
Next time we try breaking into a safe, Brandon Tierney and Tiki Barber will be in on the caper. The CBS Sports Radio Network Gasbags cracked the Joe Judge code Thursday. The talkies actually got the Giants new head coach to mention Daniel Jones by name. They also got Judge to open up more than he has in previous interviews. They all connected. The results of the spot had Tierney pumped. “Loved, that as a national show, we were able to do what locals have not,” Tierney (aka Mr. Modesty) said. ... These strange times must be affecting the powers that be at YES. In a stunning move, they actually are going to replay two Yankees classics the Bombers lost; Game Seven of the 1960 World Series vs Pittsburgh and Game Seven of the 2001 World Series vs Arizona. Unfortunately for Yankees fans, neither ending will be edited. ... Is it me, or is ESPN’s Chris Carlin prematurely preparing Sam Darnold’s ticket out of town. ... And Carlin’s old partner, FAN’s Maggie Gray, for reasons only known to her, sprung a gasket when Leon Rose decided to give GM Scott Perry a one year extension. It wasn’t that big a deal. Then again, their ain‘t much to get excited about around here these days.
Amid much skepticism, the league, with a lot of help from ESPN, pulled off an incredible virtual draft event. Sheriff Goodell, working from his bunker, defrosted his icy image and provided a rare human touch. The necessity of keeping everybody sheltered in place resulted in giving millions of eyeballs a chance to see the NFL “family” in its truest sense.
The second most prolific team in NBA history, with a multi-billion TV deal, gloms a small business loan designed for Mom & Pop outlets. Only after Lakers brass was outed for gaming the system, and thoroughly embarrassing the NBA, did it decide to give the money back to the Feds.