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Regional Sports Networks Can Be Team’s Cash Cow



By Jed Weisberger ~ November 30th, 2012. Filed under: Sports Entertainment.

No doubt, as a Yankees and sports fan, you followed the financial dealings of the YES Network and FOX, and how the Yankees, through the sale, will realize $400 million over the next three years.

And in Los Angeles, a battle is shaping up between FOX Sports Prime Ticket and the new Time Warner Cable SportsNet – recently launched to carry the Lakers – for Dodgers television rights.

Back to New York, where the channel carrying the Mets – SportsNet New York – is jointly owned by the team, Time Warner Cable and NBC Universal (Comcast), might solve some of the ballclub’s money problems. Then there is the New England powerhouse NESN, owned by the Red Sox and Bruins. MSG certainly is an in-house network with the Knicks and Rangers as well.

The formula today, if a team can pull it off, is band with a national programmer and form your own network. Demand $3.50 or so from cable and satellite distributors in your market and bolster your bottom line. This has worked in many markets.

In addition to teams’ involvement in YES, NESN, Time Warner Cable SportsNet and SNY, partial team ownership is involved in several other markets. For example:

In Chicago, the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks all have a stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago

In Baltimore-Wasshington, both the Orioles, with a major stake, and Nationals, with an increasing stake, have ownership of Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN).

In Cleveland, SportsTime Ohio (STO) is owned by Larry Dolan, who owns the Indians. The channel was launched specifically to carry Indians games.

In Houston, the recently born Comcast SportsNet Houston is owned by the Astros (46.384 percent), Rockets (30.923 percent) and NBC Universal (Comcast) at 22.693 percent.

Moving away from baseball, the Big Ten Network is a joint venture of the conference and FOX Sports.  The Pac-12 Network, Longhorn Network and the BYU Network also air involving schools having a stake in the network.

DirecTV jumped into the party as well, and now owns Root Sports Pittsburgh (Pirates, Penguins), Root Sports Rocky Mountain (Rockies, Utah Jazz) and Root Sports Northwest (Mariners).

This plan doesn’t always work. The Marlins tried their own network from 1993-2006, but now air on FOX Sports Florida, and there was the abortive effort by the Minnesota Twins to start their own network in 2003.

The team launched Victory Sports One Oct. 31, 2003. The plan was for the network to air all Twins games, plus Minnesota college and high-school events. It was modeled after the YES Network.

But Minneapolis-St. Paul is not New York, and Victory Sports One was not able to obtain carriage from either major cable outlets in the area, or DirecTV or Dish.  In 2004, they were back on FOX Sports North.

Other networks partially owned by teams have come and gone, but the concept can work in many markets.  The keys to success, however, are easier to obtain for an elite team that can garner the view numbers that are needed.

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