Saturday, April 02, 2005

Detroit Sports Media Market

10. Detroit

1.95MM TV households

The original RSN in Detroit was Pro-Am Sports System (PASS). In 1997, Fox Sports Net was rolling up its regional sports business and was faced with a decision of what to do in the Detroit market. The logical option was to acquire PASS, but the proposed purchase price was so high that Fox simply decided to take over the business by acquiring the local sports rights itself, thus putting PASS out of business. Not a very good negotiating strategy on the part of PASS...

Fox eventually acquired the rights to all 3 professional sports teams in the market, and now has a long-term lock on the rights in a market dominated by Comcast. A couple of years back Fox gained an even stronger foothold by acquiring the rights to nearly all of the local Red Wings games, which had been on local broadcast station WKBD. In non-lockout years, the Red Wings are the pre-eminent ratings draw in the Detroit Metro area (and basically all of Michigan). Fox's acquisition of these games has effectively kept Comcast from launching a sports channel in Detroit.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Atlanta Sports Media Market

9. Atlanta

2.1 MM TV Households.

The original RSN in Atlanta was SportsSouth, originally launched by Ted Turner and sold to Fox/Liberty in 1996. Scripps Networks continues to own an 11% interest in FSN South. In 1999, Ted Turner re-entered the regional sports market by announcing the launch of Turner South to carry Braves, Hawks, and Thrashers games in addition to "Southern Programming" which was basically filler for the games. Fox sued Turner, arguing that the new launch breached the original sale contract for SportsSouth which stipulated that Turner could not launch a competing network for five years. The two parties eventually settled out of court in an agreement that gave FSN South an extension to their rights to 27 Braves games through 2012 in exchange for releasing any claims against Turner South. Turner South now has approximately 6 million subscribers.

FSN South is the most lucrative FSN regional due to the fact that it carries very little professional programming and the games it does have are relatively inexpensive. It also benefits from the fact that the Braves regional broadcast territory is so large. FSN South covers North/South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

FSN South carries the Hawks but not the Thrashers. It also carries Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators games. The Memphis Grizzlies were on FSN for 3 years, but this past season they launched their own network: GRSN (Grizzlies Regional Sports Network).

FSN South is also SEC and ACC territory, these games often produce higher ratings than the local pro teams.

As discussed in the Chicago post, Turner took advantage of having one of the first cable "superstations" in TBS by distributing Braves games nationally and continues to do so. However, I believe part of the impetus for creating Turner South was an impending end to the "grandfather clause" that allows the TBS and WGN to carry national games. My recollection is that the league is ending this in 2007. If so, the TBS games will likely end up on Turner South.