Major League Baseball on regional sports networks

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In the United States of America and Canada, a regional sports network, or RSN, is a cable television station that presents sports programming to a local market. The most important programming on an RSN consists of live broadcasts of professional and college sporting events, as those games generate an overwhelming percentage of an RSN's advertising income. During the rest of the day, these stations show other sports and recreation programming. These channels are often the source content for out-of-market packages.

Most regional sports networks in the United States are either affiliated with Fox Sports or NBC Sports, with supplemental programming from networks such as America One, AMGTV or ESPNEWS.

In Canada, Rogers Sportsnet operates four regional sports networks.

American League[edit]

Baltimore Orioles[edit]

When the Montreal Expos were relocated to Washington, D.C. in 2004, the issue arose regarding television rights for the new franchise. Since at least 1981, Major League Baseball had designated the Baltimore Orioles television territory to extend from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Orioles agreed to share its territory with the Nationals in return for the ability to present the Nationals games on the Orioles television network, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. The Orioles have a 90 percent stake in MASN and MLB paid the Orioles $75 million for 10 percent of the regional sports network. When the Lerner family bought the Nationals in July 2006 they became part owners in MASN. Over the next 23 years, the Washington Nationals’ stake in the network will increase to 33 percent. Under the current arrangement, MASN paid the Nationals $20 million to broadcast their games in 2005.

Boston Red Sox[edit]

Boston Red Sox baseball coverage began in 1984 on the New England Sports Network, airing mostly road games on the newly formed pay cable channel. Former Sox second baseman Kent Derdivanis served as the play-by-play announcer and Mike Andrews provided color commentary. NESN periodically sent guest color commentators to the booth, with the likes of Rico Petrocelli, Bill Monbouquette, and Dick Radatz. The in-studio host was a young man just out of Syracuse University named Sean McDonough.

Fast-forwarding 24 years later, NESN now carries full coverage (minus some nationally broadcast games on FOX and ESPN) of Red Sox games as well as in-depth pre- and post-game shows. Unlike previous seasons where it split coverage with over-the-air stations, it now broadcasts all games not on national television, using the slogan "One Nation, One Network". In 2006, it became the first network to broadcast all its Major League Baseball team's games in High Definition, available to cable providers throughout New England, DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse (in CT) and Verizon FIOS (in MA). Dish Network only provides NESN in HD during live Red Sox, Boston Bruins, Hartford Colonials (UFL), as of 2010, and College Hockey games, most notably The Beanpot (Ice Hockey) Tournament.

Chicago White Sox[edit]

In October 2004, FSN Chicago lost broadcast rights to all of the professional sports teams in the Chicago area when the owners of the Bulls, White Sox, Blackhawks, and Cubs decided to end their agreement with the network and partnered with Comcast to form Comcast SportsNet Chicago. This led to a number of cable/satellite providers dropping the network. With the end of local pro sports coverage, FSN Chicago became mostly a feeder channel of the national network's entire schedule, some minor local and semi-pro teams, Midwestern outdoors programs, and sports rights and games from other college conferences of little interest to Chicago area viewers. In 2005, Cablevision bought all of FSN Chicago when NewsCorp swapped assets with the cable company.

Cleveland Indians[edit]

SportsTime Ohio is owned by the Dolan family, which owns the Indians team. It is operated as a separate business venture. It can be compared to the New York Yankees' YES Network, as both were started primarily to broadcast each team's games, however they differ in that YES is owned by a holding company that also owns the Yankees, whereas STO is a venture separate from the Indians that is directly owned by Larry Dolan, Cleveland Indians owner.

Thirty minutes before each Indians Game, STO airs "Indians on Deck," a pre-game show hosted by Al Pawlowski. It features highlights from the previous game, a preview of the upcoming game, and news around baseball.

The commentators during the game are Matt Underwood, Rick Manning, and Jim Donovan (WKYC games only). All home games on STO and all games on WKYC are in High Definition. After the game, there is a postgame show recapping the game and featuring an interview with Indians manager, Manny Acta.

Detroit Tigers[edit]

PASS Sports was started by Tom Monaghan in 1984, who at the time also owned the Detroit Tigers. In 1992, Monaghan sold the Tigers to Mike Ilitch and PASS was sold to Post-Newsweek Stations and merged with the Post's Detroit television station WDIV (Detroit's NBC affiliate).

Following the purchase, PASS moved its studios and offices from Ann Arbor, MI to WDIV's in Detroit. PASS became available on basic cable, (under Monaghan it was a premium cable network). Post-Newsweek made the station 24-hours, (under Monaghan it only airing in the evening and on weekends).

Fox Sports Detroit was launched as a competitor to PASS in 1996. After a surprise bid in 1996 to pick up the rights to the Detroit Pistons, Fox Sports Detroit began planning to launch their network two years later.

When Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers rights were up for bid, Fox Sports Detroit decided to accelerate their launch date by bidding and winning the rights to the Red Wings beginning with the 1997-98 season and the Tigers beginning in 1998. The Washington Post Company, the parent company of Post-Newsweek Stations sold the remaining year (1998) of the Tigers, Pistons contracts and the contract of broadcaster John Keating to Fox Sports Detroit. Fox Sports Detroit is now the exclusive local home of the Detroit Tigers.

Houston Astros[edit]

Home Sports Entertainment was home of the Houston Astros from its inception in 1983 until the mid-1990s, when the network became part of the Prime Sports Networks. Prime Sports Southwest lasted only two years before its parent company was purchased by News Corporation and renamed Fox Sports Southwest. In 2005, a sub-feed of Fox Sports Southwest was formed, called Fox Sports Houston, which focused on Houston-based teams including the Astros. In January 2009, Fox Sports Houston broke away from its parent network and became a stand-alone network, however that network became defunct when the Astros and Rockets teams purchased a majority ownership in the new regional sports network Comcast SportsNet Houston, and moved their programming there where they remain today.

Kansas City Royals[edit]

Sports Time was a regional sports network in the United States. It was owned by Anheuser-Busch and was launched on April 2, 1984.

The new network was a way for Anheuser-Busch to show additional games of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Major League Baseball team it owned at the time. Games of the Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals baseball teams, the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League, and various college sports teams also aired on the network.

Sports Time showed Reggie Jackson's 500th career home run on September 17, 1984. The Royals were playing the California Angels in Anaheim, California that night.

After a season of obvious frustration, Anheuser-Busch pulled the plug on Sports Time at the end of March 1985. Today, the Cardinals and Reds are shown on Fox Sports Net in their respective regions, Midwest and Ohio. Beginning with the 2008 season, Fox Sports Kansas City will show most Royals games. For the first season, 140 games are scheduled to be aired. The Blues are also shown on FSN Midwest.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim[edit]

In 1990, Prime Ticket became the cable television home of the California Angels, as well as serving as the cable home of the Clippers for one season (1990–91), before they moved to the now-defunct SportsChannel Los Angeles (originally Z Channel) the following season. NOW, the Dodgers games are shown on Prime Ticket, and Angels games are shown on Fox Sports West. One other local network showing the Angels games is the over-the-air MY 13 Los Angeles network, or KCOP-TV Los Angeles.

Minnesota Twins[edit]

The Minnesota Twins baseball team launched Victory Sports One as a cable and satellite television regional sports network in October 2003. Victory Sports, of course, became the exclusive TV home of Twins games; in addition, it planned coverage of various Minnesota college and high school games. The channel also simulcast ESPNEWS.

The Twins opted to retain the local broadcast rights for game broadcasts after the 2003 season, in order to carry the games on their own network, after carriage for many years on Midwest Sports Channel (now known as FSN North). The model for the plan was the success of the New York Yankees' YES Network.

However Victory Sports was unable to obtain carriage from the primary cable television providers in the Twin Cities, the rest of the state of Minnesota, and the Dakotas, or from DirecTV or Dish Network. During the 2004 season, the Twins quickly re-signed with FSN North to placate viewers inconvenienced by the change.

New York Yankees[edit]

Between 1989 and 2001, the MSG Network was the cable home of the New York Yankees. MSG paid an average of $55 million a year for those rights, and the deal is widely credited as having started a national trend towards greater team coverage on regional sports networks, with more games being broadcast than over-the-air stations' regular programming schedules could usually permit. MSG also produced the Yankees radio broadcasts from 1994 to 2001, which aired on WABC. MSG also owned the over the air broadcast rights to Yankee games, which they sold to long-time broadcaster WPIX from 1989–1998 and WNYW from 1999-2001 (at the time, NewsCorp owned part of MSG). In 2002, the Yankees left MSG to form the YES Network. From 2002 to 2005, MSG aired games from Major League Baseball's New York Mets on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, games which previously aired on FSNY (MSG, FSNY, and WPIX each carried about 50 games a season on consistent days of the week). Like the Yankee deals, Cablevision also owned the broadcast TV rights, placing games on WWOR-TV before moving to WPIX in 1999. After the 2005 baseball season, Met games moved to SportsNet New York, a cable network partially owned by the Mets, although WPIX retained a reduced slate of games. Comcast and Time Warner, which generally control whatever NYC-area cable systems Cablevision doesn't (Time Warner controls most of Upstate New York as well), are the other partners.

Seattle Mariners[edit]

Fox Sports Northwest is the regional carrier of the Seattle Mariners, televising their games in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and parts of Idaho and Montana. Rogers Sportsnet Pacific carries selected telecasts to areas of Western Canada that are within the Mariners broadcast territory.

Toronto Blue Jays[edit]

The entire country of Canada is considered the regional territory of the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing Blue Jays games to be carried, and rights for those games to be sold, nationwide in Canada. Blue Jays games were the featured attraction on the Canadian national sports channel TSN when it launched in 1984 – since at that point (and until 1995), both the Blue Jays and TSN were owned by beer company Labatt. Although TSN is not a "regional" sports network per sé, these broadcast rights were sold by the team (not MLB) in much the same fashion that regional rights are sold in the United States; however, games would often be subject to blackouts in Quebec during the existence of the Montreal Expos. TSN continued to carry Blue Jays games until 2009.

In addition, in the past some Blue Jays games were televised nationally (with the same caveat regarding blackouts in Quebec) on Canadian over-the-air networks, namely CBC and CTV.

Since 2001, the Blue Jays, now a subsidiary of Rogers Communications, have been once again co-owned with a cable sports channel – Rogers Sportsnet, a set of regional sports networks serving various parts of Canada. Since the 2010 season, Sportsnet has served as the team's exclusive Canadian TV broadcaster. Most Blue Jays games are broadcast nationally in Canada across all four of Sportsnet's regional feeds (which, while subject to blackouts when necessary for NHL broadcasts, are carried nationwide on digital television services). Some games now air on Rogers Sportsnet One, a new national sports channel which launched in 2010 and in French on TVA Sports.

National League[edit]

Chicago Cubs[edit]

In October 2004, FSN Chicago lost broadcast rights to all of the professional sports teams in the Chicago area when the owners of the Bulls, White Sox, Blackhawks, and Cubs decided to end their agreement with the network and partnered with Comcast to form Comcast SportsNet Chicago. This led to a number of cable/satellite providers dropping the network. With the end of local pro sports coverage, FSN Chicago became mostly a feeder channel of the national network's entire schedule, some minor local and semi-pro teams, Midwestern outdoors programs, and sports rights and games from other college conferences of little interest to Chicago area viewers. In 2005, Cablevision bought all of FSN Chicago when NewsCorp swapped assets with the cable company.

Colorado Rockies[edit]

From 1993 to 1996, the Rockies were without a cable television affiliate. That changed, when FSN Rocky Mountain acquired the regional cable rights in 1997, and the team has aired most of its games on that network since then, sharing some of its games with KWGN (1997–2002) and KTVD-My 20 (2003–2008). Starting in 2009, FSN Rocky Mountain became the exclusive TV outlet for the Rockies.

Los Angeles Dodgers[edit]

In January 1997, Fox Sports Net West 2 (later renamed Fox Sports Prime Ticket, now simply called Prime Ticket) was formed to serve as a cable home for the Clippers, Dodgers, Ducks, and all other events that FSN West didn't have room for. This is after the December 1993 shut-down of SportsChannel Los Angeles, which left their home teams with only over-the-air and part-time cable coverage locally.

Miami Marlins[edit]

From 1993 to 2005, the Marlins Television Network aired games to homes not only in South Florida but to other parts of Florida. The network was produced by the same crew that telecast Marlins games on cable television. When FSN Florida signed an exclusive long-term deal for Marlins baseball starting in the 2006 season, that signaled the end of the Marlins Television Network as a majority of those telecasts would air on Sun Sports.

New York Mets[edit]

SportsNet New York (SNY) is a New York City-based sports cable network which airs in the New York metro area and all of New York state, and nationwide via satellite. It is owned jointly by the New York Mets, Time Warner, and Comcast.

SNY will carry 120 Mets games during 2007 season (with the remainder airing on WPIX, Fox, and ESPN). Bill Webb, who directs the World Series and the All-Star Game for Fox, is the director for Mets broadcasts on both SNY and WPIX.

Philadelphia Phillies[edit]

CSN Philadelphia was the very first Comcast Sportsnet and broadcasts the Comcast-owned Philadelphia 76ers and Philadelphia Flyers, along with the Philadelphia Phillies.

CSN Philadelphia debuted on October 1, 1997, replacing the old PRISM Network in the Philadelphia area. The Phillies own a minority share of the channel.

CSN Philadelphia's studios and offices are located inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. CSN Philadelphia also has a small studio inside Citizens Bank Park, which is used sporadically during the baseball season.

In addition, Comcast owns The Comcast Network, which on occasion will air Phillies games in the Philadelphia metro area when a Flyers or 76ers game airs on CSN Philadelphia. WPHL-TV also carries a slate of games from each team. WPSG formerly carried Phillies games, but WPHL-TV took broadcasting rights in 2009.

San Diego Padres[edit]

Channel 4 San Diego is the exclusive cable television home of the San Diego Padres baseball team since 1997, and has been the exclusive local TV home of the Padres since 2004. Since 2003, 4SD has broadcast at least 100-140 Padres games annually in high-definition. Besides its award-winning Padres coverage, the station features shows about the area's other sports teams including the NFL Chargers, high school sports, and the athletic teams of San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. The channel was launched by Cox Communications as an outlet used as an experiment during the 1996 Republican Convention, as well as providing around-the-clock coverage for the Super Bowl festivities at Qualcomm Stadium in 1998.

In 2001, the Padres and Cox Communications signed a 10-year extension for broadcast rights, as a result of the deal, Channel 4 has a state-of-the-art broadcast center located at Petco Park.

St. Louis Cardinals[edit]

Between 1984 and 1989, the Cardinals aired 50 games a season, first on Sports Time (1984), then on pay-per-view on Cencom. After being off cable television for four seasons (1990–93), the Cardinals returned to the cable airwaves in 1994 through Prime Sports Midwest, which became FSN Midwest in November 1996. The Cardinals have been on FSN Midwest since then. The Cardinals will again air 130 regular-season games on FSN Midwest in 2010, with the other 32 on either ESPN, Fox or NBC affiliate KSDK-TV 5. For many seasons, Joe Buck and Al Hrabosky were the commentators, but Dan McLaughlin has since replaced Buck, who now does MLB and NFL games for Fox-TV.

Washington Nationals[edit]

When the Montreal Expos were relocated to Washington, D.C. in 2004, the issue arose regarding television rights for the new franchise. Since at least 1981, Major League Baseball had designated the Baltimore Orioles television territory to extend from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Orioles agreed to share its territory with the Nationals in return for the ability to present the Nationals games on the Orioles television network, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. The Orioles have a 90 percent stake in MASN and MLB paid the Orioles $75 million for 10 percent of the regional sports network. When the Lerner family bought the Nationals in July 2006 they became part owners in MASN. Over the next 23 years, the Washington Nationals’ stake in the network will increase to 33 percent. Under the current arrangement, MASN paid the Nationals $20 million to broadcast their games in 2005.

In relation to Major League Baseball on Fox[edit]

Home teams have the right to veto almost any request by Fox to pick up their games after the schedule is announced but before the final two weekends. During the final two weekends of the regular season, Fox must get approval from a team's regional sports network in order to carry it. This is unless that particular team has not used up all nine of its permitted appearances.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]