The Notre Dame Humor Artists see funny business as no laughing matter. Senior co-presidents Alec Vanthournout and Stephen Elser are gearing up for an upcoming show at Legends on Oct. 3 and one in Washington Hall on Oct. 11, and Elser said their experience alleviates their stage fright. “Our flexibility of improv helps,” Elser said. “We can do so many shows because it’s a lot of fun for us and it seems like the audience enjoys it.” Elser said he and Vanthournout are working on recruiting more members for the 30-person group. “There is a six-week training program. Each week, Meghan Brown, rectress of Lyons [Hall], runs a focus program on some particular aspect of humor,” Elser said. “[The students auditioning] then will present a show and people are invited back.” Vanthournout said the group doesn’t have much time to prepare for most of its shows. “Legends shows are known in advance, but we do a lot of shows on short notice,” he said. Vanthournout said the group performs four times per semester at Legends, which are the biggest in terms of campus audience. They also do shows in dorms, before football games, in the library, in front of the Fisher Roof Sit and with Hannah and Friends, an organization that works to improve the quality of life for children and adults with special needs, he said. For two years now, Vanthournout said, 480 seats out of 500 in Washington Hall were filled for their shows there. “We like to check out the venue, attendance and how many games we can play, and then see how many people can be in the games based on the chemistry in the group,” Elser said. At one of the group’s Washington Hall shows, Elser said the Humor Artists performed with the a cappella group Halftime. “The crowd has an immense energy. Being there and having a show that goes as well as it does is exciting,” he said. “We wrote a script and learned lines. Having everything come together and the audience loving it feels really rewarding.” Elser said his responsibilities as co-president include meetings with the Student Activities Office and other officers, on top of eight hours of straight improv per week, but the role isn’t necessarily work for him. “It’s a great time to relax and just laugh,” he said. Vanthournout said he enjoys the group’s practices. “I never think, ‘Oh dang! I have to go to improv practice,’” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and I look forward to it every week.” The Humor Artists earned the distinction Club of the Year last year because of its hard work, but Elser said the group only received a certificate for the honor. “We didn’t even get the concession stand [Humor Artists] was promised,” Vanthournout said. Elser said the group is still proud of the award. “We remind our audiences of it constantly,” he said. Vanthournout said the group is branching out beyond live improv by making digital shorts on YouTube under the account “HumorArtistsofND.” Elser said the group also manages a Facebook page and a Twitter account under the handle @HA_ND. Even though students can watch Humor Artists’ skits online, Elser said he still recommends they attend the group’s shows. “If you like laughter, and general merriment, come to Humor Artists’ shows, because that’s what we provide,” he said. “I’ve never talked to anyone who said that they hated the show,” he said. “How could they? We’re the Club of the Year.”
There may be nobody better suited to lead sports television into a new era than a former Microsoft CEO who seems to live by a motto of “hard-core energy.”Though he may not relish being saddled with the responsibility, Steve Ballmer could be the perfect candidate at the perfect time to capitalize on his latest investment. After shelling out $2 billion to purchase the Clippers this past summer, money may be enough to motivate a diversion from the eroding conventional cable model in an effort to begin recouping the largest sum ever paid for a professional sports franchise in North America.Particularly because of the proximity to the Dodgers, whose latest TV contract may have burst the country’s regional sports television bubble, and the Lakers, who had trouble partnering with Time Warner Cable to launch their own regional sports channel, the ripple effect could move the Clippers to get creative in selling its media rights to a new technology. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error But it doesn’t preclude them with getting creative and being the first to make the leap ahead of everyone else in digital, outside-the-box platforms.“Think about how a company like Netflix is sticking its toe in the water with the new Chelsea Handler show as live programming,” said Bevilacqua. “You’ll probably see them experiment more with live programming, and sports will have to be a viable option.“As the pay TV ecosystem changes and there’s more movement, somewhere in there sports doesn’t have to be just on linear cable TV to reach the critical masses. If there was a regional sports network willing to try something digital only in an area of L.A. with its size and density, there’s an interesting possibility for someone like Microsoft or Apple or Amazon or Hulu or even YouTube to make a big investment.”Bevilacqua added that another kind of hybrid ownership of a channel with a team and media partner is more viable these days, “because there’s nothing cut and dry anymore, there’s no one-size-fits-all situation.“I’m sure that, like all other live sports rights deals that come into the market, the Clippers will have a nice uptick no matter where they go, but the L.A. market is a whole other interesting dynamic,” added Bevilacqua. “They’ll have the option of staying with Fox Sports, but the Dodgers’ channel, without live winter programming, could be an option as well. And its not unprecedented for the Lakers’ channel to expand and include the Clippers as well, because there are RSNs that have two teams of the same sport sharing a channel.“The overriding factor is trying to figure out what the L.A. marketplace will look like when that time comes. Right now you could argue it needs to be rationalized to make sense.”Or in the case of Ballmer, what is the definition of rational?The threat of the Clippers joining the mass exodus from FSW as the Dodgers and Lakers eventually did over the last three years could create enough urgency from the network to overpay the Clippers to stay before media technology widens its playing field. FSW and the Clippers have been business partners since 1995, and the two signed a seven-year extension as recently as 2009.If that is considered the most general Plan A, it is because Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket can’t afford to see what an L.A. TV landscape would look like if it only survived on the Kings, Ducks and Angels alone. That may be enough incentive for Fox Sports “to pay whatever it takes” to keep the Clippers, said Wladka.“They’re trying to keep two channels viable in Southern California,” Wladka added. “If they lose the Clippers, it’s going to be very difficult to maintain two channels. Within reason, I expect them to pay what they can.”Ballmer knows a little something about overpaying.His bid for the Clippers was $1.425 billion more than Forbes’ valuation of the franchise. Predicting the potential of the team’s television contract in an environment of increasing instability may be even more of a guessing game.One other advantage the Clippers may have over the Dodgers is how advanced the NBA is compared to MLB in going outside the box with media rights. The NBA also signed a nine-year rights extension earlier this month with ESPN and TNT, one the New York Times reported to be worth $2.6 billion a year, or $24 billion total, and includes more “over-the-top” content on mobile platforms.David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute and professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, has heard investment bankers predict the Clippers’ current $20 million per year TV contract to quadruple. That would still come up a bit short from the $200 million per season the Lakers are receiving from Time Warner after signing the richest TV contract in NBA history in 2011 to anchor TWC SportsNet, which also had its own distribution hiccups along the way.The Clippers’ product on the court may currently be the best in its franchise history, but after toiling for decades under the ownership of Donald Sterling, the team’s brand is dwarfed by its purple and gold counterpart.Losing certainly doesn’t appear to agree with Ballmer and at the rate television contracts are climbing in Los Angeles alone, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Clippers’ owner found a way to for his franchise’s television contract to compete with that of the team across the hall at Staples Center.Los Angeles is the epicenter of the conversation, but the question looming around the country is: When will the astronomical ascent of sports television contracts stop?Perhaps the Dodgers and TWC answered that question as the embarrassing saga continues to leave 70 percent of the nation’s second-largest TV market without coverage of its hometown major league baseball team. “You keep thinking the bubble is here, but it’s never here,” Carter said. “People talk about the bubble bursting with player salaries, TV contracts and endorsement deals but Kevin Durant just got $300 million from Nike.“I think what you’ll see is more push-back. The cable model funding these sports franchises all over the country, it’s in for a change. Whether it’s a la carte or people opting out, this model isn’t sustainable with costs rising like this.” Without question, sports television is the genesis of escalating cable costs already pricing out plenty of Americans.The leverage specific to sports is born from its exclusive status as virtually the last remaining DVR-proof programming. With the increasingly invasive 24-hour news cycle compromising efforts of recording games to watch later commercial-free, live sports command exponentially larger advertising dollars. Accordingly, franchises are demanding television contracts ascending into the billions of dollars.The trickle-down to the living room couch is two-fold.Television networks pay astronomically higher prices to franchises like the Angels, for example, who signed a 20-year contract with Fox Sports in 2011 that pays them $150 million per season, but they also have twice as many regular-season games to televise than an NBA or NHL team. In turn, networks demand more from cable providers to carry mainstays like Fox Sports West and Fox’s Prime Ticket. Ultimately the cable customer pays for the rate hikes in addition to new fees for channels that didn’t exist a few years ago like the Lakers’ English and Spanish channels, the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA and the Pac-12 network.“Los Angeles is the largest and most diverse sports community in the country, but this is becoming a very crowded marketplace,” Carter said. “I’m not sure anybody would balk at the subscriber fee for any of those channels. When you have to pay for all of them is when it becomes an issue with consumers who are paying for sports programming they’re not necessarily using.”Channels are strategically bundled such that even non-sports fans are supporting the movement, but the roots of rising cable costs grow in places like Chavez Ravine.The Dodgers’ new ownership had to find a way to fund Major League Baseball’s highest payroll, including the $250 million in salary it traded for in 2012, the $362 million combined owed to pitching duo Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and the $150 million it dropped on Dodger Stadium renovations before last season. Naturally, the franchise squeezed every penny it could out of Time Warner, a tactic some believe should implicate the Dodgers in the TV mess. Time Warner is simply trying not to lose its shirt on an $8.5 billion investment.At the rate sports TV contracts are rising, the Dodgers’ deal with TWC may look like a bargain a few years from now, but it can be argued now that Time Warner overpaid, simply misjudging what consumers are willing to pay to watch the Dodgers.Regardless of who is to blame among the Dodgers, Time Warner and providers like DirecTV, which refuses to pay the subscriber fee to carry SportsNetLA as well as the Pac-12 Network, the consensus is that sports television contracts are accelerating out of control.“When they rise to the point where you’re getting government and consumer groups to pay attention to them, they’re rising too fast,” Wladka said. “The Dodgers could have taken a little less money and left 20 games – one game a week – on KCAL. They went from having 40 or so games over the air on network TV to zero. That’s when you make it absolute and that’s when you invite the scrutiny.”Sports franchises have typically negotiated television contracts in relative quiet. But the more fans draw a straight line from their rising cable bill to the front office of their local sports franchise, the more closely they’ll be listening to dealings with television contracts.The details of the Dodgers’ deal with Time Warner, for example, were arguably more widely syndicated than the actual product on the field.With Ballmer at the front of improving the Clipper brand at this point, nothing will be really secretive.“Obviously the franchise is on the rise, it has a good young roster, enthusiasm about the brand, and a change in ownership,” said Bevilacqua, “all positive things.” At the conclusion of its first season, the Dodgers’ own SportsNet L.A., in a distributor partnership with Time Warner Cable that promises the team approximately $340 million a year until 2038, has already proven too rich for the masses and led to a local PR disaster. The Lakers’ belated launch of another partnership with TWC SportsNet was hardly a smooth transaction either.But when the Clippers’ modest $20 million per year TV contract with Fox Sports West’s Prime Ticket expires after the 2015-16 season, the conventional options for the NBA franchise appear limited. Which may play right into Ballmer’s wheelhouse.“Ballmer needs to look at the Dodgers and say, ‘I’m not going to be able to build a TV channel on the current platform because it’s not working like it used to,’” Vince Wladka, media industry consultant and former head of Fox Sports communications, said. “He could turn around and cut a deal with Google for $200 million a year. Ballmer is betting he’s going to recoup his money on media rights from something we’ve probably never heard of.”Or how about a partner that can offer a marketing slogan “nothing but Netflix”?Chris Bevilacqua, a New York-based media consultant in the sports and entertainment field, agrees with many analysts in that, with six regional sports networks costing viewers from $18-to-$20 a month in fees and populating the same Los Angeles market with just the two FSW channels six years ago, the Clippers’ owning their own network appears unrealistic. At least, one in the traditional sense.
LAS VEGAS — For at least the past few days, the ground underneath the Thomas and Mack center — the temporary unofficial headquarters of the NBA for the second week of July — has been still. But teams are still wrapping their heads around the new power structure of the NBA, altered monumentally by free agency.The Lakers feature prominently in that future, as any team with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis would. During Summer League, front office staffers and NBA media observers have buzzed about them and generally predicted they’ll be one of the tougher outs in the league.But whereas so much of the attention a week ago laid if the Lakers could land Kawhi Leonard, after they didn’t, focus has shifted to the team they’ve built around their stars. The biggest question is this: After missing the playoffs last season, have the Lakers learned their lessons?In conversations around Las Vegas, there’s at least some skepticism on that front. Prior teams featuring James, particularly the Cleveland Cavaliers, had found success with stacking him alongside catch-and-shoot threats around the perimeter. The Lakers were one of the worst catch-and-shoot teams in the league last year, and even on shots deemed open or wide open by NBA tracking data (a defender at least four feet away), they shot just 33.7 percent.Hitting those shots will be even more critical next season with so much of the Lakers’ offense flowing through the front court. With James and Davis as the primary scorers and DeMarcus Cousins also likely factoring in to a large scoring role, the Lakers will have opportunities to capitalize on shot attempts from the perimeter.In that particular area at least, the new talent brings some help. Danny Green shot 45.5 percent from 3-point range last season, second-best in the NBA, and Quinn Cook shot 40.5 percent. Specifically in catch-and-shoot situations, both Green and Cook ranked in the top five (with at least 100 attempts) in 3-point percentage, both clearing 46 percent on those looks. Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers The returning Lakers do little to help in that venture: According to stat site Cleaning the Glass, the only returning Laker rotation player who shot above average for his position from deep is Rajon Rondo, who shot well above his career average of 31.5 percent. James shot 34 percent, which is around his career average. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (34.7 percent) and Kyle Kuzma (30.3 percent) had been plus-shooters in the previous season but slumped last year — they’ll be looking to recapture their earlier form.Down the rotation, other low-risk signings may help. Alex Caruso, whose re-signing became official on Sunday afternoon, showed promise in his opportunity at the end of the year among other areas as a 48 percent 3-point shooter. His ability to play both on and off ball could help him factor into the guard rotation after spending the last two years as a third guard. Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels are both shooting threats, but with minimum contracts and coming off relatively short minutes last season, it remains to be seen how they’ll crack the rotation.Beyond the buzz of speculation, the Lakers had a relatively quiet Sunday: Deals for Caruso, Daniels and Dudley were all announced officially. The only remaining contract that’s been reported but not yet officially announced is that of Rondo, who is expected to return on a two-year deal.The Lakers also renounced their qualifying offer to restricted free agent Johnathan Williams over the weekend, making him an unrestricted free agent. The former Gonzaga big man played in a Summer League game on Sunday for the Houston Rockets. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersOfficially, the Lakers leaned on injuries as a scapegoat. And with more than 200 games missed because of varying health reasons, they did fall prey to bad luck.But injuries don’t account for the Lakers’ shortcomings, particularly as the Lakers wound up as the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA (33.3 percent) — bad enough that Magic Johnson eventually accepted some responsibility for the roster construction during his notorious First Take interview.Related Articles Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed