Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Where The Fans Have No Say

From one extreme to the other, thousands of sports fans don't have their say. This busy month of March brings an interesting coincidence for a pair of opposites in terms of TV viewing.

The first "extreme" takes place in Montana, which geographically is the 4th largest state. I had not realized until seeing two (unrelated) articles about that state's high school basketball state tournament. It seems that, despite all of the interest over that wide area and no pro teams within miles, there is NO telecast of the tournament. Not free, and not even as a pay-per-view. It's not as though a large number of fans can logistically travel 100 miles or more to follow their team or that a blackout policy is restricting.  Those fans don't even have  a choice.

The other "extreme" has started in the Los Angeles region. The new regional TV network exclusive to the L.A. Dodgers has started, and is showing every spring training game. However, only Time Warner Cable subscribers can see the games. And, whether the subscribers want the games or not, they are being forced to pay extra for the network. Other cable and satellite systems are, understandably, balking at the fee to Time Warner to be able to distribute the games. While even fans who would be willing to pay what Stan Kelly used to call a "small but exhorbitant fee" to these other systems are not able to do so.

What we have here is one of the largest states not able to watch their local high school team playing for the state championship on any TV channel, while the battle is on for huge money so fans can pay to watch the games of a pro team in one of the largest population areas of the U.S. Neither situation should exist.

Regarding the Dodgers' TV situation, at least MLB is trying to stir the pot. Reports indicate that MLB is now asking the Dodgers for the entire 1.9 billion (yes, billion) dollar share of this long term TWC contract, instead of prorating the fee over the scheduled 25 years. This would seem to be MLB putting the pressure on TWC to get the telecasts to a wider distribution sooner, rather than later, in order to help raise the funds to pay this balance up front.

Then again, the Angels, which have "Los Angeles" in their name again this season, have been making it known that their telecasts are reaily available on Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket, which is already a part of some basic cable packages and is widely available in the L.A. and Southern California area.

The Angels are televising 26 spring training games (all but a couple) and the majority of their regular season games. While the local media will most likely continue to have the Dodgers be the priority team, it is possible that some of the "casual" fan base will move over to Angels territory if this situation doesn't get straightened out soon.

DETROIT: WDFN 1130 is adding a 2nd local sports talk show later this month, announcing the return of the "Parker and The Man" show on March 24th. Rob Parker and Mark Wilson will, however, air from 7 to 10 PM, meaning that on most nights they will be up against a Red Wings, Pistons, and/or Tigers broadcast on WXYT 97.1. Hopefully, after a few weeks to get the show's wheels in motion, WDFN will move this show into afternoon drive in hopes of capturing the larger audience this pair used to have.

NEW YORK: WOR has added Seth Everett to its Mets coverage, naming him to host the pre-game and post-game shows for the new flagship station. Everett has most recently been with WINS 1010, as well as heard nationally on MLB Radio Network.

St. LOUIS: KXFN 1380 has yet to announce any local sports programming since last week's quiet switch back to sports radio. Thus far, the station is only airing Yahoo Sports.

DULUTH/SUPERIOR: WGEE 970 has returned to sports programming after five years without it. However, it will try to compete against WEBC ESPN 560 and KQDS The Fan 1490. We'll see on this one. Three sports stations in a market which has no pro sports in the area.

FARGO: WDAY 970 has added a local sports show on Saturday mornings. "Kolpack & Izzo" now airs from 9 to 11 AM each Saturday, hosted by Sports Director Dom Izzo and local writer Jeff Kolpack.

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