Ice Cube Plans First Minority Owned Sports Media Company From Disney Sale

Ice Cube Disney Regional Sports Networks

Win it “for the culture!” That is exactly what Ice Cube said he plans to do with perhaps his biggest venture to date. Ice Cube is the co-founder of the Big 3, a professional three-on-three basketball league. Through his role with the Big 3, he could change the landscape of sports media. Ice Cube has assembled an all-star team to bid for and to create content for 21 of the regional sports networks (RSNs) that Walt Disney Company (Disney) is required to sale. If Ice Cube and his team are successful, a minority-owned sports media platform would be born. The birth of such a platform would be a major win for the culture.

Disney was Forced to Sale the RSNs

Last year, Disney came to terms in a deal to acquire 21st Century Fox (Fox). To finalize the deal, Disney was forced to sale 22 of Fox’s regional sports networks. Disney was forced to sale the RSNs so that they would not have a monopoly on sports media as Disney already owns ESPN. Enter Ice Cube and the Big 3. Last fall, Ice Cube and the Big 3 entered the bidding war for the networks. Ice Cube teamed up with LL Cool J, Magic Johson, Snoop Dogg, Serena Williams, Carolyn Rafaelian, and a host of others to buy and create content for 21 of the networks. The twenty-second network, the YES Network, is being sold separately.

Ice Cube’s Sports Media Company Would Be The First of It’s Kind

In a Twitter post regarding the bid, Ice Cube stated: “I’m trying to shatter the glass ceiling so we can all fly!!!”

If Ice Cube and his all-star cast are successful that is exactly what will happen. Glass ceilings will be shattered and the culture will surely fly. There will be minority-owned major sports networks centered around diverse stories told from diverse perspectives. The platform could tell stories that are often overlooked in mainstream media. The Big 3 and its partners want to create a sports network that provides fresh and interesting content. They want to target the younger generation. In fact, Serena Williams stated that she became involved because it is important to have diverse voices to deliver content to young people.

Having diverse voices is essential so that all sides of a story are given adequate consideration and publicity. Imagine a network where Colin Kaepernick is able to effectively convey the reasons he took a knee free from purposeful mischaracterizations. Imagine a network where the unavoidable intersection between sports and politics is celebrated and not deemed a distraction. A minority-owned sports network that allows such programming is needed and would be a major win for the culture.

Creating Such a Platform is no Easy Feat

Ice Cube has put together an impressive team in his bid for the RSNs. However, the bid has still been met with obstacles. Specifically, Ice Cube and the Big 3 have had an issue with Charter Communications (Charter). They allege that Charter has attempted to thwart the Big 3’s bid for the RSNs. As a result, the Big 3 has asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate the sale.

In addition to Big 3’s issue with Charter, the still fairly new basketball startup is up against some major players in this bidding war. It is reported that Sinclair Broadcasting may be the top bidder. Even with all of the obstacles, Ice Cube and his team are still trying to acquire the RSNs. It remains to be seen whether they will be successful. One thing is for sure. The simple fact that Ice Cube and Big 3 are even viable contenders for the networks is a big deal and if they do acquire the RSNs it will be a major win for the culture.

Can Bryce Harper Save Major League Baseball?

Last night, Bryce Harper defeated Kyle Schwarber with a few seconds to spare in the final round of the Home Run Derby. The atmosphere in Washington D.C. was electric as Harper became the 3rd player ever to win the Derby in his home ballpark. The whole contest was fun to watch as guys like Harper, Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins were hitting 400-foot bombs on a consistent basis. Overall, it was a fun night for baseball.

Last night reminded me of a common misconception that seems to be brought up every year. “Baseball is dead.” No, baseball is not dead. In fact, the MLB just set a record for revenue in 2017, surpassing the $10 billion milestone for the first time. Paid attendance is still hovering around $73 million, which is a decrease from previous years, but still a solid number. To his credit, Commissioner Rob Manfred is trying to appeal to the younger generation. Manfred wants to speed the game up by implementing a set number of mound visits and shorter time between innings. In hindsight, I’m all for speeding the game up, but at the end of the day, it’s baseball, not basketball or football. Games are still going to go over three hours. If the action on the field is exciting, the time won’t matter.

Although it’s not dead,  baseball is struggling to connect with “millennials.” The average age of a baseball fan is 57. That is not good for a sport that desperately wants to get younger. Baseball fans know that the sport is in good hands with its young stars such as Harper, Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Kris Bryant. The problem lies in how to capitalize on these budding stars in order to reach a younger, more casual audience. In my opinion, this is where the MLB completely misses the mark.

The best player in the MLB is Mike Trout. What Trout is doing is historic. Trout is 26 years old with 2 MVP trophies and 6 (!!!) All-Star game starts including tonight’s game. However, if Mike Trout walks down the streets of New York City, how many people would recognize him? I’m being serious. Does the casual fan know what Mike Trout even looks like? Trout is the best player in the game and his jersey sales were not even in the top 7 last year. There are factors that have lead to Trout’s lack of star appeal. Baseball is typically a regional game, not national, so if Trout is not on ESPN or Fox, it will be hard for the casual fan to watch him play. His team, the Angels, have only been to the playoffs once with him in the league. Trout plays in LA so the time difference hinders the audience on the East Coast. Plus, Trout is very laid back and concentrates on baseball in the offseason instead of building up his public presence.

To bring this full circle, can Harper save baseball? Once again, baseball doesn’t need saving. It just needs to adjust it’s strategies when it comes to marketing its stars. If I’m the Commissioner, I’m showcasing stars like Harper, Judge, and Trout multiple times a month on national television no matter the records of their team. The NBA is star-driven meaning that the casual fan will watch LeBron James even though they may not know anyone else on the Cavs. The same needs to happen in baseball. Also, the MLB social’s media policy is arguably the worst of the major sports. Fans cannot post highlights or gifs from their own accounts without permission from the MLB. That’s baffling for a league that claims they want a younger audience, and yet enforce a strict policy on social media that is predominantly used by, you guessed it, young people.

Fans deserve to see the stars of baseball more often. It’s time for the MLB to make that happen.

Congratulations Fans and College Football Committee: Ratings are… DOWN!

I wrote an article about a week ago about how the College Football Playoff committee set the game back 10 years by putting Alabama in the top four. Now, there is, even more proof to support my argument. College Football Ratings are down. As a fan and analyst, the answer why is crystal clear: Schedules. There are less and less competitive non-conference games every year. NFL ratings are already suffering from a competition problem (in addition to other important issues). The NCAA and conference leaders need to fix this problem before college football heads down that same path. Here’s where the networks finished for average viewership for this year’s CFB regular season:
CBS: 4.951 million viewers, down 10% from 5.489 million in 2016.
ABC: 4.203 million, down 18% from 5.097 million.
Fox: 3.625 million, up 23% from 2.951 million.
NBC: 2.742, down 3% from 2.814 million.
ESPN: 2.155 million, down 6% from 2.300 million.
FS1: 819,000, up 4% from 743,000.
(Source: Per Austin Karp Sports Illustrated)
Every network saw a decline in viewership except Fox and FS1. Fox bought the rights to the Big 10 network and swapped out viewers from ESPN’s family of networks. The bottom line is that fans are more frequently tuning out of not showing up to see their team get 2-3 free wins per season. They want to see good opponents showing up to the stadium so they get their monies worth. My wife and I have UCLA season tickets, yet every year we debate renewing them depending what the home schedule is. I know there are many people like me. These programs ask you to spend your hard earned money on sweatshirts, swag, and other merchandise, but most won’t schedule more than one good non-conference game. Nobody wants to see “insert favorite team” play Mercer, Citadel, Northern Colorado, or Southern Utah.
If we are all college football fans, why aren’t more people banging on the table demanding change like me? The game is changing for the worse and the playoff committee and analysts just sit idly by and pass this trash on to fans like it’s good football. Teams who play a weak non-conference schedule are rewarded with high rankings, and spots in the playoffs despite untenable schedules. There are only 13 Saturdays of regular season college football. No weekend should feature a mediocre schedule of games! What is it going to take to get more non-conference matchups like USC vs Miami, Auburn vs Oregon, or TCU vs Ohio State in the regular season?
Many people applaud Alabama for scheduling their annual neutral site game to open up the season. However, I’d argue that those games have hurt college football. Where have the days gone where teams have the balls to schedule a home-and-home series with another Power 5 opponent. Alabama hasn’t played a non-conference away game since Penn State in 2011. Here comes the “Nick Saban said Bama scheduled Mercer because no one else would play them” line. You really believe that USC, Penn State, or Wisconsin wouldn’t have rather scheduled a home-and-home series against Alabama instead of a neutral cite game? This is not an indictment exclusively on the Crimson Tide.
Think about this: Before their 2017 neutral site game against Michigan, Florida hadn’t traveled outside of the state of Florida for a non-conference game since 1991.
College football ratings will continue to fall as long as nothing changes. The question is, will the powers that be ignore this problem staring them in the face, or will they take decisive and immediate action to rectify the problem? It would be extremely simple for all Power 5 conferences to play nine conference games, two Power 5 non-conference games, and one game to give the little guys some money. This would fix the scheduling disparity between conferences, and provide fans with more inter-conference matchups to be interested in. If you go down the list of the top twenty-five most watched games of 2017, all of the games are either conference matchups or power 5 non-conference games.
Many people would argue that this schedule nonsense has been going on forever, it’s just the way of the college football world. I’d argue that the landscape of sports is changing right before our eyes. Every year, people get more and more options for entertainment, and mediums to consume them. Every sport now has to earn their viewers on an annual basis. The days of people just watching any old game just because it is on are over. Ratings will continue to decline as long as these horrible scheduling practices stay in place. These pitiful scheduling practices will remain in place until teams are penalized and miss the college football playoffs.

There is a foreseeable downside to more competitive schedules for Power 5 teams that I will acknowledge. There will be less 8, 9, and 10 win seasons for fringe teams. That means more of you will be demanding your coaches gets fired. Pick your poison college football fans. Do you want a better slate of games all season? Or do you want your team to have a chance to go undefeated?