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Screwed By The Network / Sports

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  • In 1991, NBC broke away from the NHL All-Star Game (from 1990-1994, NBC broadcast the All-Star Game, which was the only time that the NHL was nationally broadcast on over-the-air television in the United States outside of ESPN's paid programming on ABC during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons) in favor of a press conference from the Pentagon regarding the Gulf War(the network was doing this also during weekdays, preempting Days of Our Lives too.). The previously unaired third period was rebroadcast on SportsChannel America. Unfortunately, SportsChannel America (who replaced ESPN as the NHL's primary cable broadcasting outlet in the United States in the 1988-89 season and continued through the 1991-92 season) was for all intents and purposes, a premium outlet that was available to about 1/4 less of the homes that ESPN was in at the time.
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  • Versus/NBC Sports Network at times has had problems carrying games, but mainly due to cable company quirks. In 2005 a quadruple overtime game was cut off in some markets after 3am ET when infomercials provided by the cable provider kicked in; after that the network disallowed infomercial substitution in the future (along with most other networks). A May 2013 game airing on CNBC went unseen in the St. Louis market due to a switching problem. Other than that though, NBC and the NBC Sports Network have been downright kind compared to ESPN with the NHL.
  • Indy Car has had a similar path when Versus picked up the load for most (but not all) of its events starting in 2009: ratings have been substantially lower due to Versus simply not being a well-known network (plus the Executive Meddling by the channel's owner, Comcast) even though viewers agree that Versus gives much better treatment to the series as opposed to ABC/ESPN(2); however, the ABC-aired races in 2009 (the Indy 500 and several other summer events) hadn't had as drastic a dropoff as the cable races and started to put a bit more effort into the broadcasts. Of course, a lot of this stems from Tony George's own Executive Meddling that caused the American open-wheel racing split from 1996-2008.
    • With Versus re-branding as NBC Sports Network, becoming more established, and picking up Formula One racing too, IndyCar now has an open-wheeled companion on the schedule to draw more attention at least. But will this change when NASCAR returns to NBC?
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    • As of 2019, NBC will carry the Indianapolis 500 and NBC/NBCSN will carry the series exclusively, and it has thankfully proven that NBCSN and NBC can handle both IndyCar and NASCAR without alienating either fanbase too badly, to the point the fandom was relieved the 500 (which was literally the only IndyCar ESPN gave any care about) also went to the Peacock.
  • The Arena Football League may be another one screwed by NBC. After the network lost its NFL games to CBS in 1997 and the 2001 XFL debacle, NBC signed what looked like a good deal with the Arena League at the time (both sides would split ad revenues 50/50 instead of one side getting rights fees). NBC even convinced the league to move up its normal Summer schedule, saying the league could be promoted better if it started the week after the Super Bowl. But when the NFL came calling back to NBC in 2006, the network promptly forgot about the Arena League, leaving it to play at a time of year where it had to compete with the NBA, NHL, and college basketball for viewership. After returning to ESPN, the league suspended operations for the 2009, reviving in 2010 with half the previous teams choosing not to come back with it (the league slots were filled by teams coming from AF2, a secondary arena football league). As of 2018, it was on CBS Sports Network, and had shrunk to four teams (owned by a total of two people), all in the Northeast (with the Arena Bowl championship being won by a 2-10 Washington squad).
    • The AFL would expand to six teams in 2019, but would fold (again) after the season, largely due to a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by its insurance carrier.
  • Major League Baseball screwed themselves with their short-sighted television deals back in the early 1990s. First and foremost, MLB signed a $1.2 billion (approximately) deal with CBS for the next four years. They replaced ABC (who had covered Monday and later Thursday night baseball games consecutively since 1976) and NBC (who had covered Major League Baseball in some shape or form since 1947) as the national, broadcast TV outlet for Major League Baseball. Once CBS came into the picture, Major League Baseball, under the leadership of then outgoing Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, proceeded to systematically destroy the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week (a longtime institution on NBC). CBS became notorious for their sporadic regular season scheduling (often airing golf events on weeks in place of baseball). MLB's logic was that since a myriad of games were going to air on ESPN, the concept of a nationally televised Game of the Week was growing obsolete. When the dust was settled, CBS (who by the end of 1993, had also lost the National Football League to Fox, the National Basketball Association to NBC, and college football) lost at least, half a billion dollars off of that baseball deal. Despite all of this, CBS was willing to renew their contact with MLB for two more years. Unfortunately, mid-way through the 1993 season, MLB was already working on a revenue sharing joint-venture with ABC and NBC called "The Baseball Network". The Baseball Network was even worse than what CBS had to offer (with ABC and NBC each covering six weeks of regionalized coverage following the All-Star Break). Without going into full blown detail (check the Wikpedia article on The Baseball Network to get a proper perspective) here, all that you need to know first and foremost, is that the first two rounds of the playoffs were regionally televised simultaneously. Perhaps the one positive thing to come out of the 1994-95 baseball strike, was that it hastened the premature demise of The Baseball Network (which was supposed to run through the 1999 season). Shortly afterwards, both ABC and NBC (who had to split coverage of the 1995 World Series) publicly vowed to have nothing more to do with Major League Baseball for at least the remainder of the 20th century. NBC however reluctantly (they could only be bothered to show postseason games and the All-Star Game in even numbered years) reconsidered and wound up sharing the broadcast rights with Fox through the end of the 2000 season.
    • Reluctantly is putting it mildly. When the 1997 World Series ended up being played by two small-market teams (Florida and Cleveland), NBC's West Coast head Don Ohlmeyer publicly declared that he hoped it would end in a four-game sweep, since even a fifth game would mean pre-empting his precious "Must See TV" Thursday lineup. (He didn't get his wish; the Series went the full seven games.)
  • In Australia, the Seven Network's screwing of the National Soccer League led to the competition eventually collapsing in 2004. The channel bought the rights for a pay television sports channel, but after they lost the rights to Australian Rules Football, they shut down the pay tv channel, and never bothered airing the soccer in any regular fashion, and never live. A highlight package after midnight on Wednesdays was the best the coverage got at times. A network slogan at the time was parodied with the phrase "Nobody screws soccer like Seven."
    • It is actually worse than simply 'shutting down the channel', the NSL was deliberately screwed over by the network. In a subsequent lawsuit over the failure of the pay tv channel, the network executives were exposed via emails showing that they were angry that the managers of Australian Rules Football were not giving them enough credit for buying the National Soccer League rights then burying the sport.
  • ONE HD's coverage of The National Basketball League games has fallen into this when it was announcing in October 2011 that all NBL games aired on One HD would be delayed which angered fans. One HD the following month announced that all NBL games would be delayed EVEN FURTHER to 1:00 AM-2:00 AM, Which pissed off more fans. NBL fans are now trying to boycott the channel.
  • Formula One has always had prime spots on the BBC since it's most loved in the UK, showing all the races and qualifying since the start (excusing the brief time it went to ITV (which meant there were adverts during the races)). From 2011 and 2018 only half of the races will be shown on the BBC whilst Sky Sports (a channel one would have to pay a lot for, including their television license) will show all the races and the qualifying. Within the first month a Sports site did a poll to find out people's reaction. Fifty per cent said they refused to watch the races on Sky.
    • In Brazil, Rede Globo broadcasts every race. A few still end up screwed, usually for overlapping with games of the Brazilian Soccer Championship (a particularly bad example was in a late race in 2012, when the champion had already been set in the field but not on the track, and Association Football still took priority over the cars), but in 2013 a race wasn't shown because of... the visit of Pope Francis!
  • Professional Bull Riders got screwed by the networks. Originally, full events were shown on Versus, but new licensing deals mean events are now shown on NBC, NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), CBS, and the PBR's own streaming online broadcast site. Often a single event will be divided up between two of these outlets, making it extremely difficult for fans to keep track of. And in football season pray CBS doesn't have a game on in your market, or else PBR is pre-empted.
  • The Fan Nicknamed Heidi Bowl where, in November 1968, NBC broke away from the final minutes of a much-anticipated American Football League match up between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets to air Heidi, causing most fans to miss the Raiders' Miracle Rally. Ever since, it's been network policy not to break away from a live sporting event. At least until 2007 (see the NHL entry above).
  • Quite a few old guard racing fans feel North Wilkesboro Speedway, the very first NASCAR-sanctioned racetrack, was screwed out of both its NASCAR Cup race dates in 1995. Bruton Smith was building a big new speedway in North Texas, but NASCAR was adamantly refusing to add races to the schedule to accommodate the new track. So he bought up the share of Wilkesboro owned by the Combs family, supposedly claiming he planned to keep the place open by expanding its capacity and using it for a primetime mid-week race while only giving up its spring date to Texas. But his purchase drove the Staley family (whose patriarch and track founder, Enoch, had died that May) to sell their share in the track to New Hampshire Speedway owner Bob Bahre. With that, New Hampshire got Willkesboro’s fall race while Texas got its spring date beginning in 1997. However, others associated with the sport have justified the move, citing Wilkesboro’s lack of modern facilities (the press box still used rotary phones, according to journalists) and the high risk-low reward of racing there given its small purse and toll the short track put on racecars.
  • Not a sports example technically, but NBC shot down Poker After Dark, a late-night broadcast of poker games sponsored by online casino company Full Tilt Poker, without any warning or hints. While some pin the show's cancellation on declining ratings, fueled in part by affiliates refusing to broadcast the program over their anti-gambling policies, the real culprit was when sponsors Full Tilt were caught in a federal criminal investigation over charges of money laundering and setting up Ponzi schemes on its customers. NBC, desperate to clean their hands off the matter, promptly replaced Poker After Dark with a repeat of the fourth hour of Today, not telling the press about the matter or anyone who worked on the telecasts that they would be dropped by the network. Sister cable network NBC Sports Network began airing reruns of Poker After Dark following its re-branding from Versus in 2012, eventually broadcast the unaired episodes of the show's final season, and continued airing repeats of the series on midnights for a couple of years before it disappeared forever.
  • Televisión Española was showing Severiano Ballesteros' run in the US Masters when it suddenly decided to cut off the signal to a horse race... which lasted through Ballesteros winning the tournament.
  • The National Football League's contracts with its media partners can cause networks to postpone or pre-empt programming of their own in order to air football games in case of postponements or emergencies from the NFL. For instance, NBC originally scheduled an episode of the Dateline news program about the Ross Harris trial for January 15, 2017, but two days before airing, an ice storm in Kansas City caused the delay of a Kansas City-Pittsburgh Steelers game that day to prime-time. Because of NBC's contractual obligations to the NFL (though NBC certainly wasn't turning down a high-rated playoff game airing in primetime rather than in the afternoon), it had to air a couple weeks later (it aired the same night on the West Coast, but mainly as primetime filler).
  • Many fans and players on the Houston Astros feel MLB Commissioner Bud Selig screwed them out of a chance to make the postseason in 2008. Hurricane Ike displaced an Astros home series with the Chicago Cubs; rather than postpone the games or relocate them to a closer venue (the Texas Rangers' park, just 240 miles from Houston, was available at the time), Selig ordered 2 of the 3 games (the third would be played in Houston at season's end IF needed to determine a playoff spot) to be played as scheduled but moved to Miller Park in Milwaukee (a team he formerly owned), just 90 miles from Chicago - essentially turning it into a road series for the Astros even though they were still officially the home team (in times where the Brewers aren't doing good and the Cubs are doing well, Miller Park takes on the derisive nickname "Wrigley Field North" as Cubs fans take advantage of cheaper Milwaukee tickets to see their team; without any Brewers fans to deal with, Cubs fans easily filled the stadium). The Astros lost both games (including being no-hit by Carlos Zambrano in the first game) and proceeded to drop out of the playoff hunt. Numerous players finished the year wearing shirts under their jerseys that read "Bud Screwed Our Season."
  • In 2018, FOX Sports elected not to renew its broadcasting contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship, set to expire at the end of the year, in favor of WWE SmackDown beginning in October 2019. Although a common reasoning for the snub was that the UFC was asking for more money Fox that wasn't willing to pay, the real culprit was 21st Century Fox undergoing a major shakeup as it was in the midst of selling the majority of its entertainment properties to Disney at the time, and deciding to focus more on live programming, news, and sports. A former Fox staffer told The Hollywood Reporter that Fox simply walked away from UFC, believing that there was no way it could market UFC due to its more adult-oriented fanbase, whereas WWE was geared more towards family audiences. Ironically, the Disney-owned ESPN would subsequently pick up the broadcast rights to help bolster its newly-launched streaming platform ESPN+.
  • As referenced in the above entry, in 2017, Disney began the process of buying 21st Century Fox. The sale didn't include FOX Sports itself (which remained with the spun-off Fox), but the sale did include the FOX Sports Regional Networks (home to the local broadcasting rights for 15 of the 30 MLB teams, 16 of the 30 NBA teams, and 12 of the then-31 NHL teams). Because Disney already owns ESPN, the Department of Justice was afraid of a monopoly, they mandated the sale of the networks within 90 days of the sale closing. After several companies were rumored to be interested in all or part of the group, the networks were sold to controversial local station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group, who was looking to expand their sports properties to compliment their Stadium service and Tennis Channel. Almost immediately, without the clout of FOX networks such as FOX News, FX, and National Geographic, TV providers such as Dish Network and nearly all OTT streaming providers like Hulu Live and YouTube TV started dropping the networks when their last carriage deals negotiated with FOX expired. The providers maintain that Sinclair was asking too much for the networks, and they weren't able to successfully package the RSNs with their local stations and middling subchannel networks. The result is that half of the country with satellite, along with all streaming services except the DirecTV adjacent AT&T Now, and most small cable companies were shut out of watching their local teams. The rub with this is that any league-owned streaming option blacks out in-market games to protect contracts with local broadcasters. When Sinclair partnered with Bally's casinos for naming rights for the networks and announced their re-brand of the networks...the reaction of many was indifference and instead asking when their local teams would be back on their TV provider.

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