Friday, July 18, 2014

The American Sports Network

When I saw the name Doron Gorsheim attached to the American Sports Network, I had some doubts as to whether this entity would actually get off the ground before reading the entire press release.  Doron spearheaded the effort to create the America Channel around 2005, but had not been able to reach enough carriage agreements to go live.

But the American Sports Network is truly different in its composition from America Channel, so whether it is viewed as a success will be dependent on how Sinclair Broadcast Group executes providing the games to its local stations, along with local stations not owned & operated by Sinclair negotiating to pick up the games..

To clear up one item since I've been asked whether it is going to be on DirecTV, Dish, etc. - what is currently being put together is not a standalone channel that is fighting to be carried.  American Sports Network is essentially a syndication package that will air primarily on Sinclair's over the air broadcast stations and be offered to other local stations in markets where they do not own a local station.

Another question is whether Sinclair stations will be carrying these games either out of market or possibly overlaying games being offered by ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC.  Sinclair, at one point and this may continue to be true, owned the largest number of FOX affiliates outside of FOX Television Stations. The ASN press release states these games will end up on the company's CW or MyNetwork TV affiliates or on digital subchannels, so I would not expect to miss games provided by the national networks unless the local station is in a market where one of these schools exist.  At that point, the local station needs to make a decision.

Because of the use of digital subchannels, you might have to drag out a set of rabbit ears (assuming your TV has a digital TV tuner) possibly to view these games if your local station is not making the game available on their main feed.  Cable companies have been hit or miss when it comes to providing the -2 subchannels that are not affiliated with the Big Four, CW or MyNet.  I believe DirecTV & Dish are even more unlikely to carry the digital subchannels in this case.  Can't speak to how AT&T & Verizon FIOS handle it.

As I read over Sinclair's press release again, I did see an answer to one item I was concerned about and that was digital distribution.  Seems like they have it as part of their plans.
Sinclair’s broadcast stations will either be carrying the games and original content as part of the primary program line-up (generally on the Company’s CW and MyNet affiliates) or as part of second channels (sub-channels of the primary station’s signal), complimented by access and distribution on digital platforms
Dave Weekley, a radio host in West Virginia who has also freelanced for regional syndication packages like ESPN Regional Television, was able to confirm from the Conference USA office that these games would be offered on the C-USA Digital Network online package.  I cannot confirm whether online packages like CAA.TV, Patriot League Network, etc. would also have access to these games.

When looking at the schedules released by Conference USA and the Southern Conference, there are a few overlaps in terms of games running concurrently.  When the Big South noted that they were part of the venture, they were very specific about where their games would be shown.

Finally, would Sinclair ever look to expand this effort?  Possibly.  They noted that once they get carriage agreements with local stations, development of new cable networks around the programming exists as a possibility.  Consider that a forward-looking statement and not a fact though.  

So, Doron Gorsheim's America Channel...maybe it still exists in the future.

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