National Single Sport, League, and Conference Networks
Chapter 4, “National Single Sport, League, and Conference Networks,” examines the emergence of what could be called niche sports television networks. Critical to this analysis is the degree to which connections to major media conglomerates, through vertical integration with multichannel video programming distributors or horizontal integration with broadcast stations or cable programming services, are a requirement for success. Such connections headlined battles for carriage and litigation in the FCC and federal courts. The evolution of the Golf Channel and Tennis Channel followed very different patterns, attributable in part to the fact that the Golf Channel was tied to cable multiple-system operators from its launch, whereas the Tennis Channel did not benefit from such corporate connections until it was acquired by Sinclair Media Group. The services for the four professional sports leagues reveal other dichotomies, between the power of the NFL to command high carriage fees and the MLB, NBA, and NHL, which partnered with media conglomerates. The importance of ownership is also evident in the analysis of collegiate conference services, with ESPN and FOX connections evident in the success of the SEC Network and Big Ten Network, respectively, while the absence of such links contribute to the struggles of the Pac-12 Networks.