Friday, January 20, 2006

Is This the Start of Angels Media Empire?


The LA Times reported yesterday that the Angels are closing in on an agreement to purchase Spanish language radio station 830 AM which they would utilize to broadcast their own Spanish-language game broadcasts. The team is currently without an outlet for their Spanish broadcasts while English broadcasts can be heard on 710 AM.

While the short-term benefits of the acquisition are obvious, it is the Angels' long-term media plans that are of particular interest. According to the Times article, the 710 AM English broadcasts have spotty reception, particularly at night. When the agreement with 710 expires in two years the Angels could convert 830 into an English-language station and make that their flagship station. With a strong 50,000 watt signal, 830 should enjoy strong reception over most of the Southland and the station could become a Angels-centric station or simply go to All-Sports. Of course, that would put the Angels back in the market for a Spanish-language station in 2008.

Even more intriguing is the possibility of the Angels starting their own cable/satellite channel ala the Yankees (YES) and Red Sox (NESN). According to a 2003 Forbes article, the YES Network alone generates an estimated $200 million in cable revenues and advertising. The sweetest part of the deal for Yankee Kingpin George Steinbrenner is that this money is not subject to revenue sharing so Big George's 60% stake goes right in his pocket. No wonder he has been spending with wild abandon the last five years.

When Disney owned the Angels they were involved in heated negotiations with Fox Sports Network and threatened to start "ESPN West" and use it to showcase the Halos. The Angels went so far as to put a big banner in right field proclaiming the new network would be coming soon. Alas, Fox capitulated and ESPN West died quietly in a boardroom. But the Angels have been expanding their reach ever since Arte Moreno took over the team in 2004 and a television network would seem right up his alley. As an out-of-state Halo fan I for one would love a network that showcased the majority of their games. Fox tried to get the Angels to sign a 10-year extension of their television contract for a reported $340 million which is in the same neighborhood as the Dodgers deal with FSN. The Angels declined the offer so in retaliation Fox has reduced the number of Angel games it will show to the minimum 50 games outlined in the current contract which would really piss me off if not for the fact that I subscribe to DirecTV and can therefore get most Angel games via their opposition's TV coverage. Failing that, MLB.com does offer almost every game on the computer but I did not buy a 50" HD plasma television so I could squint at a grainy four inch box on my computer. Bastards.

After saying all that I hope Moreno does start his own network. Just like artists becoming empowered by selling their own music on the internet, sports franchises can control their own destiny's only when they also control their own broadcasts. While owners can fret over every detail of the 'game experience' for those 45,000 or so fans who attend on any given night. They have surprisingly little to say about how their team is framed within the television to the 400,000+ people who may tune in. While Fox does an OK job it is by no means the experience that Yankee fans get from YES or even the optimum experience fans should hope for from Moreno & Company. Potential programming can span the Angels universe from fan forums to player biographies to in-depth analysis. While the games would be the main meal, there are plenty of tasty appetizers and desserts that could enhance the overall viewing experience. Given that most fans get their information and derive opinions of the team directly from television broadcasts, should owners not have more of a say in how there teams are presented?

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