Remember the glory days? The Empire Sports Network broadcast Sabres games, had a handful of talk shows and a nightly highlight show that was centered around Western New York sports.
At one point Empire was truly thriving. It was the perfect outlet to serve WNY in terms of Sabres and Bills coverage in addition to high school, college and other professional sports. Unfortunately the Adelphia scandal all but killed Empire and it died off prior to the 2005-06 NHL season.
The recent MSG/Time Warner spat has blacked out a vast majority of Sabres fans and has left many questioning what the next step will be in this regard. the contract dispute is nothing more than the final straw for many. The lack of respect MSG has shown the WNY market is pathetic. Aside from Sabres games, there is little acknowledgement for the region. That includes commercials. Unfortunately the Sabres; contract with MSG runs for the next few seasons, ending in 2016-17. If the contract must run its course, then so be it. But is there a chance that a different entity could step in?
There is no secret that Ted Black comes from television. All the reports about him during the Pegula sweepstakes pointed to the success he had in building FSN-Pittsburgh. Between Pegula’s deep pockets, Black’s prowess with a sports television station and the obvious market demand in Buffalo; it would seem a regional sports network would do well here.
The first point that should be made is that there has been mo mention of anything along these lines happening. Who knows if Pegula would even be interested in forking over more dough to bankroll this type of venture? In addition, there is the current MSG contract to consider as well.
But just thinking outside the box certainly paints a picture that this type of channel would not only have plenty of content, but the potential for a strong, successful lineup. The Sabres, Bandits and Bills would obviously be the cornerstones of this channel, but UB, Niagara, Canisius and additional high school and college sports would provide ample filler. Building around some of the staples which Empire succeeded with, there is a foundation that can be augmented by additional coverage and programming.
Sabres game broadcasts
- Obviously the main focus of the station. Would broadcast all non-national games plus playoffs.
- Potential for a similar studio show like Hockey Hotline to air post-game for all 82 contests. Pre-game coverage could be done from studio and arena.
- Weekly insider/recap talk show. Could be paired with Bills coverage, if necessary.
- While regular season would be out of the question, preseason games could potentially be aired. Depending on rights agreements.
- Insider coverage of each game and practice to provide insight and interviews. Draft and offseason coverage as well.
- Weekly insider/recap talk show. Pair with Sabres show depended on content.
- Non-national game broadcasts.
- Pre and post-game coverage and inclusion in nightly highlight show.
- Potential for weekly lacrosse specialty show including local field lacrosse too (Rattlers, HS, college etc).
- Game broadcasts during the summer
- Inclusion in nightly highlights
- Pre and post-game coverage.
Nightly highlight show
- An easy, 30 to 60-minute show featuring highlights, interviews (if possible) and footage of that day’s sports action. Obviously centered around the Sabres and Bills, high schools and collegiate coverage would provide plenty of content.
- The Sabres and NHL would offer plenty of content from September through early June. The draft and free agency would obviously provide additional content throughout the offseason.
- The Bills and NFL are nearly a year round producer. Between August and February, training camp and the season will provide plenty of content. The combine, draft and OTAs/mini camps occupy the spring. Only June and July are truly filled with downtime.
- The colleges and high-schools have plenty of sports throughout the year as well.
- Other recap/talk shows are a possibility too.
- Canisius and Niagara basketball and hockey game broadcasts on non-Sabres nights.
- UB football and basketball game broadcasts. Non-Sabres nights as well.
- Buff State, Medaille etc. coverage depending on air time.
- All schools would be included in nightly highlights.
- Return of Big 4 basketball coverage would also be a possibility.
- Insider/weekly shows regarding recruiting etc.
High School coverage
- In-season; nightly highlights of seasonal sports
- Off-season; recruiting coverage, Empire State Games etc.
Considering the major sports and NCAA D1 athletics in Buffalo, there would be plenty of content to populate a nightly highlight show. The Bisons and MLB would be primarily responsible for the summer content. In addition to the off-season coverage of the Bills and Sabres, the summer would be the only light coverage months. A daily talk show – similar to Fan TV or PTI – would certainly add to the in-season lineup too.
Obviously the Sabres would be the key to this station, with the Bills being second in line only because of the lack of game broadcasts. The Sabres coverage on local television would go from minimal to outstanding almost overnight. The potential for a daily show and extended pre and post-game coverage would be phenomenal. Especially compared to what they have to offer right now.
In terms of the weekly specialty shows, following a similar format to what Empire utilized would be a smart, simple way to provide quality programming during the day and early evening.
Even getting the syndication rights from a national channel, no matter which it is – SNY for Mets games would be wise – would provide the daily filler that Empire once received from MSG.
Surely there are additional avenues of coverage that I left out. That is ok. Based on that rudimentary run down I scrapped together, it certainly seems like another WNY regional cable sports channel would be quite successful. Just having the Sabres, UB, Bandits and Bisons games would bring in casual viewers in addition to the true hardcore fans.