Avalanche and Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke's decision to move his teams' TV broadcasts to a cable network he's forming is the latest example of a burgeoning trend. More clubs are producing their broadcasts themselves on an owner-operated network, selling advertising and negotiating directly with cable providers for licensing fees. Says Kroenke, who'll make the switch before next season, after his contract with Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain expires, "It has become clear that successful teams, on the playing surface and in the financial ledger, are those teams that retain greater control of their various media rights." Among the franchises that have already made the jump are the Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox, who bolted Fox Sports Chicago in December to form a jointly owned network with cable giant Comcast; the Twins, on Victory Sports One starting this season; the Royals, who last March launched Royals Sports Television Network; and the Yankees and Nets, on the YES Network since 2002. According to Broadcasting & Cable, of the roughly $700 million earned by MLB teams in '03 from TV and radio, ad sales by the teams that owned their own rights represented $200 million.
Dick Vitale, who began calling basketball games in his inimitable, manic style 25 years ago, was named a finalist for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a "contributor to the game." Talking about the honor with sidekick Brent Musberger during a break in the Connecticut-Pitt game on ABC on Sunday, Vitale, 64, bowed his head and choked up on air.... NBC and TNT's NASCAR broadcasters have set up a kangaroo court to remind themselves that, after 33 years, the circuit has switched its title sponsor to Nextel Communications: Uttering the words Winston Cup on air gets a $10 fine.