Note to Cablevision: There Is No 'I' in Team

Cablevision Systems isn't keeping its eye on the ball when it comes to sports or other far-flung technology programming ventures.

In sports, Cablevision sports programming operations, as well as those of other media companies, could suffer when faced with future competition. Several professional sports teams already own regional TV networks, and it's not just teams. Sports leagues such as the NBA and the NFL have their own cable networks.

Soon Major League Baseball will do the same. The NFL is in the midst of negotiations with its major TV partners. Someday soon, the NFL's own NFL Network, will look to compete with other established cable, satellite distributors, and broadcast networks.

What's holding back the NBA and NFL from doing that now? Distribution. Those cable networks have limited subscribers and can't generate meaningful advertising dollars. That would be financial suicide - not to mention crowds of screaming owners and angry fans. But down the road - soon -- all that could change.



Charles and James Dolan, who run Cablevision Systems, Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks, and the New York Rangers, are just those operators who could get caught. Already in Chicago, a number of professional sports teams are leaving Cablevision's regional sports network to go with rival Comcast Cable because those teams will be given an equity stake in a regional TV venture. Analysts expect Cablevision's sports operations -- in Florida, Ohio, and San Francisco - to be hurt from other cable operators or teams looking for full or partial ownership.

This isn't Cablevision's only business faux pas. Voom, Cablevision's exclusive high-definition pay TV series, is generating crumbs. Analysts are already calling it a deep money pit. Instead, programming subscribers are going to DirecTV or the Dish Network, where they can get a broader selection of high-definition channels and other analog channels in one place.

Cablevision still has a good business plan - as a retailer in selling cable networks. That's the business everything else is built on at a company. Even in other programming areas, Cablevision has been less than stellar. American Movie Classics and WE: Women's Entertainment are nice performers, but not groundbreaking programming services yielding big revenues like that of USA Network or TNT.

Cablevision shouldn't be in the starting lineup when it comes to programming; they perform better as a bench warmer. There's nothing wrong with that. They still get paid; they just ride in the back of the plane.

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