Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year to all...except FOX

I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year out there. Except the executives at FOX who are doing their best to destroy journalism as we know it.

As documented in hundreds of stories this week - including ours - News Corp. (owners of FOX) and Time-Warner Cable (owners of Brighthouse Networks)are at odds over a new contract. The current one is set to expire at midnight on Dec. 31.

Because ad revenue alone doesn't always create profits anymore, FOX wants the cable company to pay a small fee for their broadcast stations. I'm fine with that. It sounds fair. But broadcast stations are traditionally provided for , so Time Warner is balking at the precident-setting demand. I'm fine with that too. It's business.

Heck, I'm even fine with FOX threatening to pull the plug on their stations come Jan. 1 if their demands aren't met (estimated at $0.50-$1.00/mo. per customer). Nor do I have a problem with the corporations taking their pleas public.

However, I have a HUGE problem with FOX forcing its news anchors in local markets to read a scripted ad disguised as news copy. It isn't even entirely true.

FOX anchors here in Tampa are saying that Brighthouse is going to prevent Gator fans from watching the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. The truth is, it's FOX choosing to remove itself from the cable box prior to Tim Tebow's final college game.

I got a hold of News Corp.'s Senior Vice President of Communications this week (he wasn't happy that I did). But when asked about the company's threat, he responded with a non-answer: "We're not optimistic an agreement will be made in time for Gator fans."

Playing the Gators card is the same strategy the corporation is forcing upon its anchors and reporters at FOX-owned stations. And when news employees are forced to blur - or blatently ignore - the line between journalism and P.R., EVERYBODY loses.

Then again, I don't think anybody should be surprised FOX is willing to inappropriately influence their "news" product...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Rumors Swirl Around Glazer Family's Finances

The St. Pete Times writes, "Glazer family denies Manchester United is available."

Rumors are often little more than speculation. But right now, sportswriters on both sides of the Atlantic are speculating that the Glazers may be stretched too thin to run both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United.

Rays Spent More Than First Thought

It may be comparing apples to oranges, but the Associated Press just released its final 2009 MLB payroll numbers and the Rays apparently spent more than originally thought.

Although the numbers include any player on the 40-man roster as well as things like bonuses and buyouts, the Rays spent $71,222,532 on payroll in 2009. The 39.6% increase over the 2008 final figure ($51,020,720) represents the largest increase in the majors.

Last week, team president Matt Silverman hinted the Rays' 2010 preseason payroll could top $70 million for the first time, but the team would be "overextended" and possibly limited when it came to in-season acquisitions.

However, if you ask me, it's better to acquire a strong arm like Rafael Soriano pre-season rather than in-season anyway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reading Between the Rays' Lines

The Rays’ $7.25-million signing of relief pitcher Rafael Soriano is a big step toward proving their commitment to winning in 2010...but it doesn’t come without some emotional baggage for fans.

Two quick disclaimers before I go on: my hat is to the Rays for making one of the biggest signings of the winter; also, since I wasn’t able to attend this week’s press conference, the quotes from team president Matt Silverman are from Marc Topkin’s article in the St. Pete Times.

“We're overextended heading into this year," Silverman warned of the team’s all-or-nothing attitude, which could push the 2010 preseason payroll north of $70 million for the first time.

But just 11 days earlier, VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said, “In 2010, we don't really have any flexibility...when (we overextend), you're stealing from a future year."

What that means is the Rays are saying now that they may have to cut salary in 2011. But what purpose does the warning serve when Friedman said the team doesn't disclose target payroll numbers so their "29 competitors don't know what we're working up against?"

The answer is that the warning is actually part of a plea.

"Last season we were shooting for league average in attendance and fell well short," Silverman told The Times. "This season we will be gunning again for that league-average attendance. There is that connection between the revenues that we generate and the investment we can make throughout our organization."

The Rays have been campaigning for years to get fans to support their team not just with their cheers from home, but also with their butts in seats at The Trop.

And while the latest campaign strategy doesn’t just repeat the message, it also serves as another plea for a new stadium – one that the Rays assure will increase revenue and better-help the team compete in the ultra-competitive American League East.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Glazers Sell REALLY Expensive Home

According to the Palm Beach Daily News, the Glazer family, which owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has sold off a major property in the upscale beach town.

"La Bellucia," at 1200 S. Ocean Blvd, sold for $24 million. Malcolm Glazer's First Allied Jacksonville Corp. bought the 5-bedroom/6.5-bathroom oceanfront property in July 2000 for $14 million.

Are the owners of the Bucs trying to sell off their assets to pay their debt on Manchester United, as some have suggested on both sides of the Atlantic? And was Dan Sileo onto something when he said the Glazers were in financial dires that would eventually force them to sell their billion-dollar NFL franchise?

It's unlikely we'll know anytime soon, as the Glazers aren't exactly the most forthcoming individuals...but it's hardly mere coincidence the Bucs have both the NFL's lowest payroll and NFL's worst record.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Friedman: Rays Have No Flexibility in 2010

The Rays want to improve in 2010...but not at the expense of jacking up their payroll. That was the message delivered by the Rays' Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, in an interview before the start of MLB's Winter Meetings.

"In 2010, we don’t really have any flexibility," Friedman said with regards to the team's payroll. "Like we’ve always maintained, we always have some flexibility, but when that happens, you’re stealing from a future year."

For more, continue reading here.