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Norm Kaiser March 10th, 2010 09:57 AM

How Do Regional Sports Networks Work?
Hi everyone:

As you can see by my number of posts, I'm very new around here. I know this particular subject has been discussed quite a bit in other posts -- and I've spent the past two days reading as many as I can find -- but the more I read, the more questions I get, so I figured I'd just ask my questions directly.

I'm developing a new show that can be best described as a cross between mixed martial arts (MMA) and professional wrestling. It combines the intense realism of MMA with the drama of scripted pro wrestling.

So what I'm considering is developing a pilot and selling the show to a regional sports network or a newer/smaller cable network like The Fight Network. So here are my newbie questions:

- How do networks like these typically operate? That is, do they sell airtime and expect me to buy it and then I'm free to air my show in that slot...meaning I have to secure my own advertisers? Or do they pay me for each show and insert their own advertising?

- If they typically buy the material, how much do they pay (ballpark) for each episode?

I would think that networks like these would be desperate for content -- if it's of good quality.

Thoughts? Any answers/suggestions/advice would be very much appreciated! I want to educate myself on this process as much as possible before I proceed any further.

Don Bloom March 10th, 2010 11:18 AM

I was working on developing a TV show with a friend of mine last year (didn't go anywhere-we lost our major financial backer. Oh well) and after calling a number of local stations I got their schedule for airtimes and rates. Most wanted a 13 week obligation for a 1/2 hour slot and they all wanted a packaged deal. MEaning we did the show including the ads package to the media they desired (1 wanted BetaSP, 1 said DVD and 1 said miniDV tape would be fine)-hand over the media and they took care of the rest. One said they would promote the show with 10 second spots for no charge, the other 2 wanted us to pay for the promos. They of course gave us the tech specs needed and frankly didn't care if we had ads or not since all they were selling to us was airtime. WE were paying them for airtime and if we wanted someone to advertise on the show it was up to us to get the advertisers and collect the money.

A few years ago I worked with a couple of guys doing a sports show that ran regionaly on ESPN and because one guy had an in with them they gave the production company a break on rates but we had to get the advertisers. Unfortunately the storm down in New Orleans killed the show but it had run for about 8 weeks prior and we had 5 weeks to go, oh well, nothing you could do.
First thing I would do is contact the stations get the information such as available slots, costs, tech specs and then start putting together a packace to sell to advertisers. Remember the time slots can make it or break it and some slot cost a lot more than others but the right slot can make all the difference. Find out if they'll promo the show and what if any coast there is for that. Prices the commericals out so they'll pay for the show, preferrablly 2 to 3 weeks out, find a couple of major sponsors and keep the production values high, the content interesting and don't become discouraged if it doesn't fly at first.
Sometimes you gotta try try again.
Good luck.

Norm Kaiser March 10th, 2010 12:06 PM

Excellent information. May I ask you a few specific questions?

- Where did you try to air your show? Was it in a major market like Atlanta, New York, or LA? Or was it in a smaller market?

- What was the *ballpark* asking price for a 30 minute time slot?

- Did you have any success at all lining up sponsors?


Don Bloom March 10th, 2010 03:21 PM

Well, I guess it was a major market. Chicago but we did not go to the major stations. ABC,NBC,CBS, FOX or WGN which is considered to be a pretty major station here in Chicago especially since it does transmit to more than just Chicago.

IIRC the pricing was pretty similar at the 3 stations we approached. I think it was about 2500 to 4000 for 30 minutes and they wanted a 13 week contract. BTW this was a Sunday AM slot. Not exactly what we wanted but after figuring out the money, it was the best we could do at the time.

Until our backer dropped out we would have had enough to produce the show and pay for airtime even without sponsors but of course they were a part of our profit and yes we actually had 4 sponsors ready to go if not for a 13 week contract at least a 6 to 7 week contract.

However once we lost our money person we decided we had to put the show on the back burner.

Norm Kaiser March 10th, 2010 04:54 PM

Great info, thanks. Sorry that the deal fell through for you.

Do you have any knowledge of how the regional sports networks operate? Do they ever buy content?

Don Bloom March 10th, 2010 05:00 PM

Well I suppose if the show was compelling enough they might but it depends on their affilation.
Best way to find out is to call the sales department and talk to someone abd find out how and where they get their shows from. Do they only buy from say ESPN, are they affiliated with ESPN, do they buy indepently produced sports shows etc. Then get their rate sheet and tech specs.

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