Charter Taps Michael Bair to Head Programming Nets - Multichannel

Charter Taps Michael Bair to Head Programming Nets

Sources say ex-MSG exec will oversee news and sports channels, including in L.A.
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READ MORE: Complete coverage of the Charter-Time Warner Cable merger.

Charter Communications has tapped long-time programming executive Michael Bair to lead the company's news and sports channels, including three Los Angeles-area regional sports networks, acquired by merging with Time Warner Cable, executives in the MVPD community confirmed Tuesday.

Bair, slated to be an executive vice president reporting to Charter chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge, according to sources, becomes responsible for the former TWC's 17 news channels (including NY 1) across the country and the three Los Angeles area sports networks: TimeWarnerCable SportsNet, home of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball team; SportsNetLA, owned by Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers and managed by the cable company; and Spanish-language sister network TimeWarnerCable Deportes. Charter also inherited Time Warner Cable’s 27% interest in SportsNet NY, a joint venture with Comcast and the New York Mets. UPDATE: The Bright House Networks news channels in the Tampa Bay and Orlando, Fla., markets and BHSN (Bright House Sports Network) also come under Bair's purview, sources said.

A big task for Bair will be to find a way to get TWC SportsNet widely distributed, beyond existing deals with TWC, Bright House Networks and Charter, which are all part of the same company now. 

Other providers, including DirecTV and Cox Communications, have balked at picking up the pricey Dodgers’ network, estimated to cost distributors about $4.90 per month per subscriber, causing deep unhappiness for Dodgers fans around the region. TWC’s deal with the Dodgers includes a guaranteed fee to the team based on full distribution, regardless of whether or not other distributors carry it. Dodgers' fans will be hoping that Charter can find some way to, as one former TV sports executive put it, absorb more of the costs of TWC's 25-year, $8.35-billion commitment to the team and "make a new rate card" that's more appealing to distributors. 

TWC tried to lure DirecTV, Cox and other distributors to the fold this baseball season – the last for legendary announcer Vin Scully -- by offering to lower the carriage fee by 30% for one year, but had no takers.

TWC launched TWC SportsNet in 2012, obtaining carriage from the major distributors in the market, and SportsNet LA in 2014.

READ MORE: Rutledge: Charter Will Overbuild Telcos, Not Cable

Sources said Bair joined Charter as a consultant before the mergers closed and might still be working on contract details for his EVP role.

Charter and TWC spokespeople said they would not comment on personnel matters when asked about Bair's appointment.

Bair most recently was CEO of Bleachers Corp., a live streaming video company specializing in local sports, arts and academic events. Messages left for him by Multichannel News at Bleachers were not returned.

Earlier Bair was president of MSG Media, responsible for regional sports networks MSG Sports & Entertainment Networks, Fuse Music TV, MSG Radio Network and Gardenvision.

Rutledge – the one-time chief operating officer at Cablevision Systems, which owned MSG before spinning it off as a separate company -- has recruited several other former Cablevision executives as his top lieutenants since joining Charter in 2012.

Kent Gibbons contibuted to this report.

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