A few days ago, we openly speculated whether the Pegulas were gearing up to launch their own regional sports network, something like the old Empire Sports that would focus on Western New York teams and allow Pegula Sports & Entertainment to get much more homegrown content on the air.
Yesterday, PS&E along with MSG announced something that...almost sounds exactly like that.
The announcement was twofold: the first half announced that MSG will be the exclusive rights holder of the Buffalo Sabres for a very long time - sources for The Buffalo News said the deal goes beyond a decade - and that the rights fee has doubled from its current figure of $9.6 million.
The second half of the announcement was much more interesting - MSG will broadcast an expanded library of content for both the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills under the banner of "MSG Western New York". The network will broadcast these programs locally and in Rochester. This from The Buffalo News:
"We've all heard the cries for a long time about regional sports in Buffalo and people missing the Empire Sports Network," said Marc Honan, the Bills senior vice president of media and content who started his career at Empire. "I think this new relationship with MSG is going to give us the opportunity to provide sports fans with homegrown programming. Things they haven't done in the past."
"Basically, what we have done is create our own platform, which is stronger because we already have the distribution on MSG, we have the benefit of MSG programming on there and the benefit of the platform of producing as much programming as we feel comfortable," said Mark Preisler, the executive vice president of media and content for Pegula Sports and Entertainment. "It is a long-term deal and programming will grow and grow over time."
"Working with MSG, we can produce whatever we want and put it on the MSG zone up here"
In addition to Sabres games, the network will broadcast all Buffalo Bills content that currently appears on Channel 7 locally, and as we suspected they will simulcast both "The John Murphy Show" and "Hockey Hotline", the latter of which will be revamped as it moves from a WGR production to a PS&E production.
The last two quotes there are what are most interesting to me. Simply adding the current "locally grown" programming is nice, but not especially exciting (apologies to all fans of "The Rex Ryan Show") to a viewer like me. But making Beyond Blue and Gold a weekly half-hour show? Yes, please. Letting Brian Duff and Kris Baker run commentary over a broadcast of Rookie Development Camp? Sign me up. Heck, you could run a show where Mrs. Moulson teaches Jack Eichel how to cook and I'd probably watch.
What this deal accomplishes is basically creating a regional sports network without any of the startup cost. Pegula Sports & Entertainment makes it, and MSG airs it. I doubt they get much viewership for the non-Sabres content anyway (apologies to all fans of "MSG Rewind") so this gives the network a chance to increase viewership with little risk.
What we don't know is if this deal will ever expand to teams not under control of Pegula Sports & Entertainment, like the Bisons or local college sports. So we have less of a regional sports network and more of a Pegula sports network, but this deal does offer fans of those teams (like you, presumably) more chances to absorb content.
Does this new deal have you excited for more Sabres content on TV? Give us your thoughts and your best show ideas in the comments.