Sunday, February 28, 2016

TV Deal: Local Fans Put Back Together

Columbus Crew SC announced improvements to their TV deal last week. The big takeaway? Fans in the 75-mile radius around the team will be able to watch the team without a subscription to Time Warner Cable (TWC).

The change makes right a very clear wrong done to fans. Two years ago outgoing GM Mark McCullers put the exclusive rights deal with TWC. It was one of these things that broke out of local coverage and went national in how it locked out fans.

Making matters worse - instead of working with fans upset and not able to watch their favorite team, Crew officials went on the attack. Fans (along with writers, bloggers) were told that the deal was great and to stop being critical.

Ultimately, contract architect McCullers was shuffled out months ahead of time and the team and fans took their medicine for two years. Until this past week.

For fans, the deal was evil - no doubt. But was is all the way awful for the Crew? Was what happened any different than other markets? McCullers wasn't trying to be a jerk to fans, he was just doing what sports teams do to become the all powerful entities they are today.

The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL didn't become what they are by being "fan friendly." They do it by trying to convert you into their own personal ATM machine. Have you stepped back and took a critical look at things recently? In fact, The deal the Crew made with TWC was not all that different from what the LA Lakers, one of the largest sports franchises in the world, have with the cable giant.

We'll see how things work out for the team this year. Will a measurable percentage of fans stay home to watch the games instead of fill the stadium like late season last year? After all, that is one of the reasonings behind a blackout deal. Will fans bother to watch on TV or will the numbers be about the same? Remember; Non-nationally televised MLS is strange in that more fans are at the game than watch on TV.

Looking back, the biggest mistake the Crew made wasn't the actual deal. It was the way the reacted to fan complaints. Fans don't like to be told how to feel, especially in an aggressive fashion.

(I hope they refrain from herding fans towards what to do / how to feel in an icky passive fashion as well.)

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