The Curling Network? Don't count on it

Thu Dec 2, 2010 8:47pm EST
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By Ben Klayman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After a stretch that has seen the creation of TV networks dedicated to the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL, it is easy to wonder what's next.

A gymnastics channel? A cycling channel? How about a TV network devoted to curling, the sport of brooms and rocks most often seen during the Winter Olympics?

"It's hard to see that there's room for too many more (sports) networks," said Philippe Dauman, chief executive of Viacom Inc. "Pretty much everything that's out there today is covered."

Indeed, Dauman and other top executives speaking this week at the Reuters Global Media Summit warned that after a period of huge expansion the field of sports TV channels is in serious danger of becoming overcrowded.

The explosive growth in dedicated sports networks, as well as the ubiquity of sports on Walt Disney's ESPN and regional channels owned by News Corp's Fox and others, could extend to the U.S. Olympic Committee and World Wrestling Entertainment.

Both are eyeing creating their own networks down the road -- and for good reason. Leagues and sports properties see the potential that comes with strengthening a rabid fan base across the country while raking in the advertising dollars.

However, with rising sports programing costs sparking a chorus of complaints, count News Corp Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey among those skeptical that more sports networks can be sustained.

"People are carrying that a dimension too far," he said at the Reuters summit. "Everybody falls in love with it.   Continued...