The Baseball Network: Wikis

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The Baseball Network
Type Joint venture involving the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, and Major League Baseball.
Branding Baseball Night in America
Country  United States
Availability Defunct
Founded May 1993[1]
Slogan "Welcome to the show!"
Broadcast area See coverage section
Owner Major League Baseball
American Broadcasting Company
National Broadcasting Company
Key people David Alworth
Rick Clifford
Dick Ebersol
Eddie Einhorn
John Filippelli
Ross Levinsohn
Jon Litner
Jed Petrick
Ken Schanzer
Scott Schreer
Bud Selig
Dennis Swanson
Tom Werner
See list of announcers section
Launch date July 12, 1994
Dissolved October 28, 1995
Callsigns TBN
Affiliation ABC Sports
NBC Sports
Affiliates List of ABC television affiliates (by U.S. state)
List of NBC television affiliates (by U.S. state)
Official Website MLB.com
ABC Sports - MLB
NBC Sports - MLB

The Baseball Network[2] was a short-lived television joint venture involving the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and Major League Baseball. The Baseball Network only ran during the 1994[3] and 1995[4] seasons. Games were produced by Major League Baseball's in-house facilities while ABC and NBC for the most part, distributed the telecasts rather than producing them outright.

Contents

Background

After the fall-out from CBS' financial problems from their exclusive, four year long television contract with Major League Baseball (a contract that cost the network $500 million), Major League Baseball decided to go into the business of producing the telecasts themselves[5]. In reaction to the failed trial with CBS, Major League Baseball was desperately grasping for every available dollar.

After a four year hiatus, ABC and NBC (who last aired Thursday Night Baseball games and the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week respectively) returned to Major League Baseball under the umbrella of a revenue sharing venture called The Baseball Network.[6]. Under a six year plan, Major League Baseball was intended to receive 85% of the first $140 million in advertising revenue (or 87.5% of advertising revenues and corporate sponsorship from the games until sales top a specified level), 50% of the next $30 million, and 80% of any additional money. Prior to this, Major League Baseball was projected to take a projected 55% cut in rights fees and receive a typical rights fee from the networks. When compared to the previous TV deal with CBS, The Baseball Network was supposed to bring in 50% less of the broadcasting revenue. The advertisers were reportedly excited about the arrangement with The Baseball Network because the new package included several changes intended to boost ratings, especially among younger viewers.

Arranging broadcasts through The Baseball Network seemed, on the surface, to benefit NBC and ABC since it gave them a monopoly on broadcasting Major League Baseball games. The deal was similar to a time-buy[7], instead of a traditional rights fee situation. It also stood to benefit the networks because they reduced the risk associated with purchasing the broadcast rights outright (in stark contrast to CBS' disastrous contract with Major League Baseball from the 1990-1993 seasons). NBC and ABC were to create a loss-free environment for each other and keep an emerging Fox, who had recently made an aggressive and ultimately successful $1.58 billion bid for the television rights for National Football Conference games (thus, becoming a large player in the sports broadcasting game in the process), at bay. As a result of Fox's NFL gain, CBS was weakened further by affiliate changes, as a number of stations jumped to Fox from CBS. For example, in Detroit, WWJ-TV replaced WJBK.

Coverage

The Baseball Network kicked off its coverage on July 12, 1994 with the All-Star Game out of Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. The game was televised on NBC with Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, and Bob Uecker calling the action and Greg Gumbel hosting the pre-game show. Helping with interviews were Hannah Storm and Johnny Bench. The 1994 All-Star Game reportedly sold out all its advertising slots. This was considered an impressive financial accomplishment, given that one thirty-second spot cost $300,000.

After the All-Star Game was complete, ABC (with a reunited Al Michaels, Tim McCarver, and Jim Palmer as the primary broadcasting crew as joining them were Lesley Visser) was scheduled to televise six regular season games on Saturdays or Mondays in prime time. On the subject of play-by-play man Al Michaels returning to baseball for the first time since the infamous, earthquake interrupted the 1989 World Series, Jim Palmer said, "Here Al is, having done five games since 1989, and steps right in. It's hard to comprehend how one guy could so amaze." NBC would then pick up where ABC left off by televising six more regular season Friday night games.

The networks had exclusive rights for the twelve regular season dates, in that no regional or national cable service or over-the-air broadcaster was allowed to telecast a Major League Baseball game on those dates. Baseball Night in America (which premiered on July 16, 1994) usually aired up to fourteen games based on the viewers' region (affiliates chose games of local interest to carry) as opposed to a traditional coast-to-coast format. Normally, announcers who represented each of the teams playing in the respective games were paired with each other.

Every Baseball Night in America game was scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (or 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time if the game occurred on the West Coast). A single starting time gave the networks the opportunity to broadcast one game and then, simultaneously, cut to another game when there was a break in action.

Home games for the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos (now, the Washington Nationals), were not included in the Baseball Night in America package. Instead, the Canadian rights holders were allowed to broadcast the games. Naturally however, road games featuring the Blue Jays and Expos were included on Baseball Night in America, airing in the market of whichever team they were playing that particular night. When TSN (who owned the cable rights to the Blue Jays and Expos) covered the game in Canada, they re-broadcast the BNA feed across their network. Typically, if the Blue Jays were idle for the day, the Expos would be featured on TSN. Also, CBET (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation affiliate in Windsor, Ontario) would air Blue Jays games if the Detroit Tigers weren't at home that night or if the Blue Jays scheduled to play in Detroit.

All in all, the Baseball Night in America telecasts could be regarded as essentially being random, run-of-the-mill weeknight games transferred from local television to the regional feeds/affiliates of a major network (with a slapped together pair of announcers from each team for good measure).

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Postseason coverage

In even numbered years, NBC would have the rights to the All-Star Game and both League Championship Series while ABC would have the World Series and newly created Division Series. In odd numbered years the postseason and All-Star Game television rights were supposed to alternate. The networks also promised not to begin any World Series weekend broadcasts after 7:20 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. When CBS held the television rights, postseason games routinely aired on the East Coast at 8:30 p.m. at the earliest. This meant that Joe Carter's dramatic World Series clinching home run in 1993 occurred after midnight in the East. As CBS' baseball coverage progressed, they dropped the 8:00 p.m. pregame coverage (in favor of sitcoms such as Evening Shade) before finally starting their coverage at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The first pitch would generally arrive at approximately 8:45 p.m.

ABC won the rights to the first dibs at the World Series in August 1993 after ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson won a coin toss by calling "heads." Ken Schanzer, who was the CEO of The Baseball Network, handled the coin toss. Schanzer agreed to the coin toss by ABC and NBC at the outset as the means of determining the order in which they'd divvy up the playoffs.

What separated The Baseball Network from previous television deals with Major League Baseball was the fact that none of the postseason games outside of the World Series were guaranteed to be aired nationally. (Some playoff games were shown in 1995 only because other series had already concluded.) Because of this, games would often be played simultaneously. It also meant that fans everywhere could only see one game per night. This was done mainly in hopes of avoiding the possibilities of playoff games airing in the middle of the day (when most viewers would either be at work or at school). To put it in another way, the main reason why The Baseball Network did this was to maximize the total audience for each telecast by creating "destination viewing."

Major League Baseball was the only professional sport that played postseason games during weekday afternoons. The result was that ratings for daytime LCS games declined by 37% between 1985 and 1993. With The Baseball Network, hopes were high that games fans were most interested in would be available at a time when they were able to watch.

The Baseball Network in essence set out to create areas of "natural" interest. They scheduled all four first-round playoff games and both LCS for the same time slot, thereby preventing fans from seeing more than one game per night. But because so-called neutral markets summarily fell to one or the other league, the game a given viewer saw depended almost entirely on where that person lived. In cases where two teams from the same city made the playoffs, the networks agreed to show both games in their entirety on their owned-and-operated stations. Despite the frustration of not being able to see both League Championship Series on a national level, the 1995 LCS averaged a 13.1 rating.

Besides the 1994 All-Star Game and Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, arguably, the most famous Baseball Network broadcast was Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners, broadcast on ABC. It ended with the Mariners winning in 12 innings (via Edgar Martinez' game winning double), to clinch their first ever trip to the American League Championship Series.

Criticisms

A major problem with Baseball Night in America was the idea that viewers couldn't watch "important" games. Marty Noble put it in perspective by saying "With the Network determining when games will begin and which games are made available to which TV markets, Major League Baseball can conduct parts of its pennant races in relative secrecy."

What added to the troubles of The Baseball Network was the fact that Baseball Night in America held exclusivity over every market. This most severely impacted markets with two teams, specifically New York (Mets and Yankees), Greater Los Angeles Area (Dodgers and Angels), Chicago (Cubs and White Sox), and the San Francisco Bay Area (Giants and A's). For example, if Baseball Night in America showed a Yankees game, this meant that nobody in New York could see that night's Mets game and vice versa.

Things got so bad for The Baseball Network that even local broadcasters objected to its operations. KSMO-TV in Kansas City, the primary over-the-air station for the Kansas City Royals, went as far as to sue the Royals for breach of contract resulting from their broadcasts being "overexposed" and violating its territorial exclusivity.

Worse yet, even if a market had only one team, the ABC or NBC affiliate could still not broadcast that team's game if the start time was not appropriate for the time zone. For example, if the Detroit Tigers (the only team in their market) played a road game in Seattle, Oakland or Anaheim beginning at 8:00 p.m. PT (a late game), Detroit's Baseball Network affiliate couldn't air the game because the start time was too late for the Detroit area (11:00 p.m. ET). Detroit viewers only had the option of viewing the early game of the night.

Sports Illustrated[8], for one, was very harsh on The Baseball Network, which SI dubbed "America's regional pastime" and an "abomination." ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson, in announcing the dissolution of The Baseball Network, said "The fact of the matter is, Major League Baseball seems incapable at this point in time, of living with any longterm relationships, whether it's with fans, with players, with the political community in Washington, with the advertising community here in Manhattan, or with its TV partners."

Five years after The Baseball Network dissolved, NBC Sports play-by-play man Bob Costas wrote in his book Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball that The Baseball Network was "stupid and an abomination." Costas wrote that the agreement involving the World Series being the only instance of The Baseball Network broadcasting a nationally was an unprecedented surrender of prestige, as well as a slap to all serious fans. Unlike the NHL and the NBA, the so-called Big Two of North American professional sports leagues: the NFL and Major League Baseball had nationally televised all playoff games for decades. Costas believed that The Baseball Network fundamentally corrupted the game and acknowledged that the most impassioned fans in baseball were now prevented from watching many of the playoff games that they wanted to see. Costas added that both the divisional series and the League Championship Series now merited scarcely higher priority than regional coverage provided for a Big Ten football game between Wisconsin and Michigan.

According to Curt Smith's book, The Voice - Mel Allen's Untold Story, the longtime New York Yankees broadcaster and This Week in Baseball host was quoted as saying "You wonder how anything would be worse [than CBS]. What kind of show (in response to TBN's tagline "Catch the show!") cancels a twenty-six-week-season's first fourteen weeks?"

During the 1995 Division Series the fan frustration with The Baseball Network was so bad that the mere mention of it during the Mariners-Yankees ALDS from public address announcer Tom Hutlyer at Seattle's Kingdome brought boos from most of the crowd.

Downfall

The long term plans for The Baseball Network crumbled when the players went on strike on August 12, 1994 (thus forcing the cancellation of the World Series, and in the process depriving ABC of most and NBC of all its contracted games after the strike). As a result of the ABC and NBC decision to dissolve[9] the partnership of The Baseball Network on June 22, 1995, the two networks decided to share the duties of televising the 1995 World Series as a way to salvage some of their baseball-related costs (with ABC broadcasting Games 1, 4, and 5, and if it had been needed, Game 7, as they had won the 1994 coin toss, and NBC broadcasting Games 2, 3, and 6). They announced that they were opting out of their agreement with Major League Baseball. Both networks figured that as the delayed 1995 baseball season opened without a labor agreement, there was no guarantee against another strike.

Others would argue that a primary reason for its failure was its abandoning of localized markets in favor of more lucrative and stable advertising contracts afforded by turning to a national model of broadcasting, similar to the National Football League's television package, which focuses on localized games, with one or two "national" games.

Aftermath

Both networks (but not corporations) soon publicly vowed to cut all ties with Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 20th century, and Fox[10] signed on to be the exclusive network carrier of Major League Baseball regular season games in 1996[11][12]. However, NBC kept a postseason-only (with the exception of even numbered years when NBC had the rights to the All-Star Game) deal in the end, signing a deal to carry three Division Series games, one half of the League Championship Series (the ALCS in even numbered years and the NLCS in odd numbered years; Fox would televise the other LCS in said years), and the 1997 and 1999 World Series respectively (Fox had exclusive rights to the 1996, 1998 and 2000 World Series).

With ABC being sold to the Walt Disney Company in 1996, ESPN would pick up Division Series day and late-night games with a provision similar to ESPN's National Football League games, where the games would air on network affiliates in the local markets of the two teams only. ESPN's Major League Baseball contract was not affected then but would take a hit in 1998 with the new National Football League contract.

In the end, the venture would lose $95 million in advertising and nearly $500 million in national and local spending.

The Baseball Network announcers

As previously mentioned, announcers who represented each of the teams playing in the respective games were typically paired with each other on regular season Baseball Night in America telecasts. Also as previously mentioned, ABC used Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, Tim McCarver, and Lesley Visser as the lead broadcasting team. Meanwhile, NBC used Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, Bob Uecker and Jim Gray as their lead broadcasting team. John Saunders was the studio host for ABC's Baseball Night in America coverage while Greg Gumbel was the host of NBC's coverage in 1994 before being replaced by Hannah Storm a year later.

Ratings[13]

All-Star Game

Year Rating Share Households
1994 15.7 28 14,790,000
1995 13.9 25 13,260,000

1995 World Series

Rating Share
19.5 33

See also

References

  1. ^ The New York Times - 1993
  2. ^ The Baseball Network - SatelliteGuys.US
  3. ^ The New York Times - 1994
  4. ^ The New York Times - 1995
  5. ^ However, the ratings decline caused a major shake-up in the way baseball will be televised from now on. In May 1993 the owners signed a dramatically different TV deal. Instead of having the networks pay Organized Baseball for the rights to telecast games, the sport and the networks ABC and NBC became partners, forming The Baseball Network (TBN), sharing equally the TV revenues or losses. The new deal offered the fewest free TV games ever; TBN didn't begin its broadcasts until after the All-Star Game and offered only a dozen prime-time, regular-season games thereafter. (In 1994 that number was further reduced by the strike.)
  6. ^ For Sale: The National Pastime - Baseball worked out a risky new TV deal with ABC and NBC that puts the game in the business of selling advertising
  7. ^ In 1993, Major League Baseball cut a deal with NBC and ABC. The league got no rights fees. Instead it was given all the ad time to sell and only gave the networks a percentage of those sales.
  8. ^ The Baseball Network—the mutation created by baseball owners, ABC and NBC that will be Kevorkianized after this year—plans to cut away from one game to another for updates. A baseball game, especially a championship game, is a beautifully crafted novel full of plot and character development. Don't insult us with Cliff Notes. TBN, which completely ignores the first half of the year, also makes a mockery of regular-season telecasts. On July 24, for instance, TBN dumped a dreadful Cub-Met matchup on the New York and Chicago markets rather than an Atlanta Brave game with Greg Maddux pitching or first-place Cleveland playing at first-place California.
  9. ^ All this happened because baseball did what it does best—drag its feet. NBC and ABC last week angrily announced they were leaving The Baseball Network, their television partnership with Major League Baseball, after this year because the owners refused to make a decision on extending the deal, which expires with the conclusion of the 1995 World Series. And as they left, both NBC's Dick Ebersol ("We've been treated like scum") and ABC's Dennis Swanson ("Major League Baseball seems incapable of giving us an answer on anything") fired beanballs. Some baseball owners are not upset that TBN is finished, because they believe that either CBS or Fox will throw millions at them in a more lucrative deal than the one they had with TBN. But in baseball's current perilous public-relations predicament, it should not have surrendered an established relationship for possibilities that are, at best, nebulous. CBS, a.k.a. the Can't Buy Sports network, after all, hasn't forgotten that it lost $500 million in four years on its misguided $1.06 billion baseball deal from 1990 to '93.
  10. ^ BASEBALL; ABC Issues Warning to Turner and Fox
  11. ^ The New York Times - 1996
  12. ^ New Season, New Networks
  13. ^ postseason Division Series was to have been regionalized, so that no fan would have been able to see all of the games live. As a rookie, TBN showed some promise. The 15.7 rating for the All-Star Game was the highest in recent years, and, reportedly, ad sales for the later games exceeded expectations. But in terms of spreading the baseball gospel through TV, some contended that, with TBN, the sport had taken a giant step backwards.

References 2

  1. President of TV network named - Former NHL and ABC-TV exec Litner to head operations
  2. BASEBALL NETWORK JUST ISN'T WHAT IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE
  3. TV SPORTS; Demise of a Network Opens Baseball Format
  4. YES Promotes John Filippelli TO PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION AND PROGRAMMING
  5. Chicago, Boston boost playoff TV ratings
  6. April 1996 - Boston Baseball: New Season, New Networks
  7. College Sports Television - Chris Bevilacqua
  8. Petrick Found a Network To Suit His Style
  9. Chicago White Sox Executives - Eddie Einhorn
  10. Announcer Comments - White Sox Interactive Forums
  11. Reviving Baseball - The Baseball Archive
  12. Frequently Asked Questions About the 1994 Strike - B2. Are other sports also exempt?
  13. Baseball Prospectus Q&A: Mark Wolfson
  14. Trojan fans shut out because of Fox's politics
  15. Teams Sweat to Get Fans Out to the Ballgame
  16. schwarz.html - 1.2 The Players
  17. Sportspages.com - 03.13.03
  18. Fuzzy reception for network - The Baseball Network
  19. NHL TV Deal Settled
  20. Baseball playoffs begin; schedules go batty
  21. TRIO VIDEO BUYS 20 SONY CHIP CAMERAS - 12/28/95
  22. Flashback Friday: 1995 (Part I)
  23. A ride into the unknown - the Baseball Network - Interview
  24. ACTV -- 12/15/98: Management - David Alworth
  25. The Emperor Has No Clothes, part 4
  26. Baseball fans to be locked out in LCS
  27. Ebersol enthused over baseball deal
  28. Economic Values of Professional Sport Franchises in the United States
  29. John Feinstein Talks About Baseball-Network Contracts
  30. Saturday Night Baseball on ABC
  31. MLB has entered into a joint venture with ABC and NBC called "The Baseball Network" ("TBN")
  32. New TV Contract - Details
  33. OPEN STANCE July 1994
  34. The Baseball Network: R.I.P. (And Don't Come Back!)
  35. Two Ways To Go On Baseball - CBS Vs. ABC-NBC.
  36. THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING AT COORS FIELD
  37. Final Paper: Regional Pastime
  38. RICK CLIFFORD - Associate Producer
  39. Issue 43 -- Television Sportscasters (Female) - Hannah Storm
  40. EBERSOL, DICK
  41. 1995 Regular Season Baseball Feeds
  42. Variety.com - Primetime baseball hits NBC, ABC weak nights
  43. Not Ready for Prime Time: The Baseball Network
  44. Results 1 - 100 of 1,480 from Jan 1, 1994 to Dec 31, 1995 for ABC Baseball (0.82 seconds)
  45. Results 1 - 100 of 1,110 from Jan 1, 1994 to Dec 31, 1995 for NBC Baseball (0.66 seconds)
  46. Results 1 - 100 of 5,290 from Jan 1, 1994 to Dec 31, 1995 for THE BASEBALL NETWORK (0.27 seconds)
  47. Results 1 - 61 of 61 from Jul 1, 1995 to Oct 31, 1995 for TBN Baseball (0.22 seconds)
  48. Results 1 - 90 of 90 from Jul 1, 1994 to Aug 31, 1994 for BASEBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA (0.80 seconds)
  49. Results 1 - 100 of 153 from Jul 1, 1995 to Oct 1, 1995 for BASEBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA (0.40 seconds)
  50. October 19, 1994 - Baseball Is Over.
  51. ABC flips over winning Series
  52. DBSForums Discussion Forums - The Baseball Network
  53. SPORTS PEOPLE: BASEBALL; Baseball Network's Last Day?
  54. BASEBALL;ABC Auditing Baseball Venture
  55. TIME Domestic August 22, 1994 Volume 144, No.
  56. Strikethree.com Baseball News, Analysis, and Commentary
  57. Jed Petrick Named As The First-Ever President & Chief Operating Officer For The WB Network
  58. ROSS LEVINSOHN
  59. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #48
  60. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #49
  61. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #50
  62. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #56
  63. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #57
  64. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #58
  65. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #59
  66. last piece of MLB's TV puzzle - #60
  67. Major League Baseball Message Board - RATINGS WOES
  68. MLB Ratings Woes (#106) - DBSForums Discussion Forums > Programming/Content > Sports

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