Archive for NYC Sports Media

As part of the sale agreement made with News Corp. in late 2012, 21st Century FOX is increasing its ownership stake in the YES Network from 49% to 80%, it has been announced. The move is expected to be final by the end of March. News Corp. had the option of increasing its stake within 3-5 years of the original deal, but FOX and News Corp. have since split into two corporations and everyone agreed to accelerate the timetable.

“Clearly, 21st Century Fox is a great partner for us as the YES Network fulfills and expands its potential as one of the nation’s premier regional sports networks,” said Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “We are gratified that 21st Century Fox has increased their stake and investment in the network. Yankee Global Enterprises is eager to continue working with 21st Century Fox as we explore ways to take YES to even greater heights.”

“Our investment in the YES Network underscores our commitment to growing our global sports portfolio with offerings that are exceptional and unique,” said James Murdoch, COO of FOX. “We look forward to expanding our partnership with Yankee Global Enterprises and to working with the network’s management team to build on the YES Network’s success.”

Yankee Global Enterprises still owns the remaining 20% of YES and they’re getting a boatload of cash through the deal, with annual television revenue jumping from $85M to an estimated $150M. That number is expected to climb to $350M (!) annually within the next 30 years. That money is separate from what amounts to a $420M signing bonus Yankees Global Enterprises will receive from 2013-15 as part of the deal. More details on the original News Corp. deal are here, here, and here.

So what does the deal mean for you? Not much, really. Your cable bill might be a few dollars higher when YES raises the monthly fees it receives from cable providers when their contracts expire, but that is apparently a few years away. The Yankees retain control of Yankees-related programming on YES but FOX will bring some of their own programming to the network. That’s the whole point of the deal. It’s unclear what kind of programming FOX will bring at this time. A Sportscenter-esque nightly news show is reportedly not in the works.

There had been speculation the agreement with News Corp. meant the Steinbrenners were preparing to sell the Yankees, but as Richard Sandomir explained in November 2012, the deal actually makes it more likely they will hold onto the team, mostly because the tax bill would be enormous. Also, the team’s sale value would have been higher without a finalized television agreement — the potential for a huge television deal is worth more than the actual deal itself. Just look at the Dodgers sale.

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The Yankees and CBS Radio have announced a multi-year agreement that will move the team’s radio broadcasts to WFAN-AM 660 and WFAN-FM 101.9 starting next season. We heard a deal was in the works yesterday. The agreement is reportedly worth $15-20M annually for the next ten years.

“We are extremely excited to have reached an agreement with CBS Radio,” said Hal Steinbrenner in a statement. “The paramount consideration was how our fans would best be able to hear our games. Having the Yankees on WFAN-AM/FM provides listeners in the New York metropolitan area and beyond with superior broadcast quality and vast territorial signal strength.”

“We are privileged to welcome the New York Yankees to WFAN,” added Dan Mason, president and CEO of CBS Radio. “There is no bigger name in baseball than the Yankees, nor an organization so steeped in tradition.  As the nation’s premier sports radio station we look forward to capturing all the excitement surrounding the team, and bringing it to millions of fans for many years to come.”

It’s unclear what the new deal means for John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, if it even means anything. Sterling’s return is all but guaranteed according to yesterday’s report, but Waldman’s future is less certain. The two have been together since 2005 and, frankly, I would be surprised if one or both did not return. Sterling has been broadcasting the team full-time since 1989 and Waldman is a long-time Yankees booster.

The Yankees and CBS have had a relationship since 2002, when their games shifted from 770 AM to 880 AM. The 660 AM and 101.9 FM signals are much stronger and farther-reaching. It’s unclear where the Mets will take their radio rights going forward. They’ve been with WFAN since 1987 and at 660 AM since 1988. They could wind up on ESPN Radio.

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In a move surely designed to annoy tri-state area Mets fans, the Yankees and CBS are close to a deal that move the team’s radio broadcasts for 2014 and beyond onto WFAN, Newsday reports. The Yankees and CBS have had a relationship since 2002 when games shifted from 770 AM to 880. The move, still not yet official, would put the Yanks on the strong 660 AM station as well as on CBS’ new FM origination of the FAN on 101.9 and, according to the Daily News, could be worth as much as $15-$20 million a year for the next ten years.

According to the reports, though, we may not yet have the chance to hear John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman coming to us on the crystal clear FM dial. According to Newsday, Sterling’s return is all but guaranteed, but Waldman’s future remains hazy. Neil Best notes that “if the team gives its blessing, they will continue the on-air partnership that began in 2005.” Despite Waldman’s shortcomings, she’s been a long-time Yankee booster, and I can’t imagine the club is quite ready to dump her.

Nothing though has been finalized, and Lonn Trost said as much to Newsday. “Right now we’re in negotiations and everything is confidential,” the Yanks’ COO said. “Part of the agreement we’re drafting has a confidentiality agreement. I can’t even get into it. I am close with some entity for next year.” The Mets could end up on ESPN Radio or the Clear Channel-owned WOR, an early bidder for the Yanks’ rights.

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It’s no secret that the Yankees and A-Rod are amidst a tenuous stretch in their tumultuous relationship. It’s been ten years since the Yanks acquired the star — ten years of playoff problems, opt-out operas, drug dramas. After 2007, the Yankees could have walked away from A-Rod, but the two sides just couldn’t quit each other. So here we are in 2013, and A-Rod, 38 next month, is under investigation for shady dealings with the Biogenesis clinic and trying to work his walk back from yet another hip injury.

The latest round of trouble began a few days ago on Twitter when A-Rod, instead of logging off, decided to post a note that his doctor had cleared his hip. The Yanks were supposedly eying a July 1 rehab date, and Alex seemed to jump the gun. It was innocuous enthusiasm from a player who could help his team, and it inspired Yanks GM Brian Cashman to say, on the record to ESPN NY, that Alex needs to STFU. Yesterday was a day of apologies wherein Cashman admitted to overreacting, and A-Rod clarified that he just wants to play.

Today, we have not one, not two, but three anonymously sourced articles all alleging that A-Rod, the Yankees or both are out to commit some form of insurance fraud.


NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez believes the New York Yankees do not want him to return this season, and perhaps ever again, a source told According to the source, Rodriguez thinks the Yankees are deliberately slowing his return to their active roster in the hope they can have him declared medically unfit to play this season, enabling them to recoup 80 percent of his $28 million salary through insurance.

Daily News:

According to sources close to the ongoing drama surrounding the star-crossed Yankee third baseman, Rodriguez and his advisers are so concerned that Major League Baseball’s drug posse is quickly closing in on him that they have racheted (sic) up the timetable for him to return to game action. Once he’s back playing in rehab games, the sources say, he could then claim he is physically unable to perform because of the serious hip injury he is recovering from, “retire” from the game, and still collect the full amount of his salary — $114 million over the next five years.

“It’s all about him getting his money and not losing it to suspension,” one source close to the situation told the Daily News. “He knows he’s never going to the Hall of Fame. All that’s left for him is to make sure he gets his money — all of it.”

One way to do that is for Rodriguez to return to game action, find he can no longer perform up to his standards, then retire before he’s hit with a suspension without pay. A player who retires because he is physically unable to perform, even if he’s later suspended, would still get the full amount of his contract.

The Post:

Alex Rodriguez informed Yankees officials in Tampa yesterday he isn’t ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment because his surgically repaired hip isn’t up to the task, a source told The Post last night…The source also said he has heard speculation Rodriguez could use the hip problem to retire. That would allow him to collect the $114 million owed to him. Should Rodriguez retire because of a medical problem, he would avoid a possible suspension by MLB in the Biogenesis mess. The Yankees would also be able to collect 80 percent of the $114 million from insurance.

This is, of course, tabloid drama at its finest. A-Rod and the Yanks had a disagreement in the middle of a time period where the Yanks are regretting handing out $275 million to a 32-year-old with baggage, and everyone is now trying to get back at everyone else. A-Rod, a fierce competitor, wants to get back on the field, and he wants his money. The Yanks, desperately in need of any offensive production, would love to escape A-Rod, but for better or worse, they need him if they want to stay in the playoff race. Generally, these stories strike me as a load of hooey.

What won’t happen, despite what various reports say, is a quick resolution to any of the medical drama unless it involves a quick rehab and return to the field for A-Rod. We’ve been down this road before where the muckrakers in the press allege some form of insurance fraud, and if the Yankees and/or A-Rod do plan to pursue a medical out, it won’t be leaked so publicly. For A-Rod to retire and for insurance to cover his contract, some very powerful insurance companies that don’t look kindly upon those who try to bilk them out of dollars will get involved. A whole slew of doctors will examine A-Rod, and policies will be combed through by the finest lawyers around. If ESPN NY thinks the Yanks want to get out of their contractual obligations due to PED concerns, just imagine how the companies that have insured the remaining $114 million on A-Rod’s contract feel.

Sports media will have a field day with this stuff today. The FAN was already all over last night before I went to bed, and as many say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But this isn’t even smoke. It’s a bunch of would/could/should that has no basis in the way baseball, business and the law work. A-Rod may be a pain that the Yanks want to rid themselves of, but it’s a marriage both partners need right now. No amount of anonymously sourced conspiracy theories can change that.

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Ghost Boss.

Ghost Boss.

When the Yanks completed their series to forget against the Mets last night, I knew someone would write it, and of course, Ian O’Connor drew the short straw. Keep in mind that George Steinbrenner had not been well for some time and passed away at the age of 80 in 2010. Allow me then to present a non-inclusive list of things the Boss would have done if he were still alive.

If the Boss were alive…

Perhaps it’s time to put this tired trope to bed.

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Via Phil Mushnick, the Yankees have decided to remain with WCBS 880 for another season, rejecting ESPN’s bid to purchase their radio broadcasting rights. This almost certainly means John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will remain the radio voices of the club for at least one more year.

The Yankees renewed their long-term deal with WCBS for this season about a year ago, which figured to set off a bidding war as ESPN shifted over from 1050 AM to 98.7 FM back in April. The 98.7 signal is stronger than 880′s, but it’s not as far-reaching. The current deal with WCBS pays the team about $14M per season, and supposedly the company loses money with the broadcasts. Ben wrote more about a potential radio broadcast shift back in April.

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On Ichiro and the media

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You can make a pretty strong case that Ichiro Suzuki is the most popular baseball player in the history of Japan, and with that comes lots of media attention. A swarm of Japanese media has followed his every move since coming over to MLB more than a decade ago, including several reporters assigned to follow on a day-to-day basis, home or away. Dan Barbarisi wrote about that media swarm the Yankees inherited by acquiring the outfielder last month, including those who had to uproot and move across the country with him. It’s the rare article on the media that isn’t self-serving and is well worth the read. Check it out.

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If you’re wondering why I frequently complain about John Sterling’s game calling, this is perhaps the most illustrative example I’ve ever encountered. Please excuse the presence of Craig Carton.

Carton ends by saying that the Yankees should employ Sterling and Waldman for life, because they bring something to the game that other broadcast teams cannot. Call me a stick in the mud if you will, but when I’m stuck with a radio broadcast I’d appreciate an accurate description of the game.

By the way, this is a shot of McGehee’s hit. Just for reference.

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On Monday morning, New York City’s long-running R&B station Kiss FM will lose its music. Shortly after midnight, the station will flip from music to sports talk radio as ESPN is moving its operations from 1050 on the AM dial to 98.7 FM. It’s a big move for New York City radio as sports now invade FM, and it’s a move that could impact the future of the New York Yankees’ radio broadcasts as well.

Currently, the Yanks are wrapping up an extended radio stay on WCBS AM 880. Their long-term deal expired after the 2011 season, but with an ESPN move rumored since early last year, the club opted to re-up for one more season with CBS before setting off a radio bidding war. In doing so, the club allowed ESPN to find a radio home that would boost its signal and provide a more inviting home for the Yanks’ radio broadcasts.

With this weekend’s looming format change, then, the pieces are in place for a fight over the rights to the Yanks’ broadcasts, but it’s currently unclear what that deal will resemble. Currently, according to Phil Mushnick, CBS pays $14 million to broadcast the Yanks and $7 million for the rights to the Mets on WFAN. Supposedly, the media company loses money on the Yanks’ broadcasts, but that doesn’t mean WCBS isn’t interested. In fact, with the Mets’ deal expiring after 2013, CBS could retain the Yanks but move them to 660 AM a year later.

Of course, ESPN may have something to say about that as well. According to numerous reports, ESPN is spending big bucks on the move to FM in order to attract some baseball. With a better signal, they’re in a position to make an enticing offer for a New York team. While these behind-the-scene machinations are all well and good for clubs looking to line their pockets with broadcast dollars, what does it mean for those of us listening at home?

For starters, if the Yanks were to move to FM, their extended radio network becomes a lot more important locally. Take a look at the vast WCBS signal coverage map and compare that with 98.7 FM’s map. While the FM signal will be crisper — the better to hear John Sterling — its reach is not nearly as expansive as WCBS’. (For what its worth, night-time coverage for AM 1050, ESPN Radio’s current home, is limited.) So while New York City residents and those who live nearby will be able to better hear Yankee games, the folks a little farther away will have to find a local affiliate. As an AM landing home, WFAN, with its vast signal coverage area, would be ideal.

The bigger question though concerns two of the most controversial members of the Yankee family. Would the club retain John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, not-so-affectionately dubbed Ma and Pa Pinstripe by the New York City tabloids? If it were up to those same tabloid writers, the two broadcasters would be replaced tomorrow. Phil Mushnick of The Post has held a vendetta against the liberties Sterling takes with his play-by-play duties. Recently, Mushnick slammed Sterling for botching a call in the bottom of the 9th of a one-run game. Yesterday, he claimed a new radio deal could spell the end of Sterling and Waldman. “It’s highly unlikely,” he wrote, “that ESPN, if it lands the Yankees — especially attached to a big price tag — would be bound to retain the team’s current longtime broadcast duo of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman.”

In The Daily News, Bob Raissman has pushed a similar argument, but I don’t agree. For better or worse, Sterling is a part of the Yankees’ image right now. He’s been with the club since 1989 and serves as an M.C. on TV and at Yankee-related events. The club will likely require its next rights partner to retain Sterling. Waldman’s job is less secure, and last year, Moshe ran down a list of possible replacements. Still, I’d be more surprised if the duo weren’t together next year on a new station than if they are.

So the wheels are turning indeed. It doesn’t sound as though the Yanks are inclined to start their own radio network, but their rights will be in play. I’ve heard the games on FM up in New England, and the sound is certainly clearer than that traditional AM broadcast. To win the games though with a more limited signal, ESPN Radio will have to pay heavily. With the Yanks, though, money talks, and they won’t say no if the dollars are right.

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When the Yankees announced a one-year renewal of their radio deal with WCBS AM last week, it seemed clear that something was going on. The Yanks wouldn’t just renew their preexisting — and lucrative — contract for one year without a plan, but at first, the story hadn’t emerged. And then The Post got their hands on it.

In a small and easy-to-overlook item in Saturday’s paper, media reporter Phil Mushnick wrote of a brewing radio war between the Yankees and the Mets. As a few readers had speculated, the Mets’ deal with WFAN expires after the 2012 season, and the Yanks could be looking to find a more high-profile radio partner willing to pony up the big bucks. It helps that WCBS and WFAN are owned by the same company, and the end of the Mets’ contract gives the Yanks leverage to demand preferential treatment.

Mushnick offered up a few more tidbits about the ongoing radio machinations. ESPN Radio appears to be quite interested in landing the Yanks in an attempt to boost their popularity as a sports talk outlet, but their current home on 1050 AM offers up a weak signal. To placate the Yanks, they are looking for a 24-hour clear-signal station on either AM or FM. One possible target could be 101.9 FM, a station that recently flipped from rock to news with a disastrous impact on its ratings. Its owner is searching for something to anchor the network.

For Yankee fans outside of New York City, the perfect answer would likely be WFAN if the Yanks jump ship. Like WCBS, it is a clear-channel AM station with a signal that reaches from Boston to Washington if listening conditions are just right. WEPN, on the other hand, barely reaches Albany. In the immediate area, 101.9 has a strong signal, but as an FM station, its overall reach is limited. (For what it’s worth, local stations that rebroadcast games as part of the Yankees Radio Network will not be impacted by the flagship deal.)

With all of these radio happenings, though, the question of who will be behind the mics remains. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will be coming back for at least 2012, but the sports media world has featured some on-again, off-again rumblings of a new radio team. A new flagship may want to find a younger team or the Yanks may elect to maintain or replace Sterling and Waldman. Despite his roll as the long-time Voice of the Yankees, John Sterling is a very divisive person among Yankee fans. His home run calls may get laughs, but it’s tough to tell which game he’s watching when he broadcasts. As one columnist once wrote, the Yanks play two games — the one on the field and the one John Sterling calls.

And so like all good or bad things, 2012 could be the end of a Yankee radio era. Waldman, for the trail she has blazed for female radio personas, won’t draw too many tears if she is jettisoned. I personally won’t miss John Sterling. His repetitiveness and willingness to play fast and loose with the game on the field make for an exhausting broadcast. But I know a few people who find this personality far more charming than a rote play-by-play guy. So as the Hot Stove League begins to heat up with free agency looming, on this night in November, I leave you with a poll. What would you do with John Sterling?

What would you do with John Sterling?
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