The Fox-STO Shoe Drops
December 28, 2012 9 Comments
We’ve discussed the rumors. We’ve discussed the reports from every outlet this side of “Shopper’s Weekly” that a sale of Cleveland-based regional sports network SportsTime Ohio was imminent.
It’s now official, slipped just under the Tax Impact Door of 2012.
As expected everywhere (including here), Fox Sports Media Group has signed on the dotted line, with a reported, estimated $230 million purchase of the network owned by the Dolan family, who also happen to own the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball.
Also noted in the deal, a long-term deal to bring the Indians TV rights back in the Fox fold…the Tribe aired on Fox Sports Ohio until the Dolans started STO in 2006.
Plain Dealer Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes reports that Fox will pay the Indians at least $40 million a year for the team’s TV broadcast rights over the next 10 years ($400 million), which is an increase from $33 million being paid yearly from STO into the Dolans’ other pockets at Progressive Field.
Hoynes notes that the new money helped the team do things like sign prized free agent Nick Swisher.
But, there are plenty of unanswered questions that need to be answered in the coming months, Hoynes says:
Although nothing has been confirmed, it appears Fox will operate two sports networks in Ohio to avoid scheduling conflicts. Decisions on STO programming are expected to be made in the next six weeks.
Not known – will STO keep its name as a Fox Sports entity?
The company operates second networks in markets like Florida (Sun Sports), Georgia (SportSouth) and Los Angeles (Prime Ticket) under other names. Or will the current SportsTime Ohio turn into Fox Sports Cleveland or Fox Sports Northeast Ohio?
Hoynes says STO’s current Indians broadcast team – Rick Manning, Matt Underwood and Al Pawlowski – is expected to continue, as is the deal with Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 to carry over-air games – at least in the upcoming 2013 season.
Though the PD writer says “on Fox”, it doesn’t seem to be clear yet if the Indians will move to the current Fox Sports Ohio, or air on their current home – whatever STO will be called assuming it does continue as a separate network.
We asked a spokeswoman for Fox Sports Ohio, who pointed us back to the press release as the only information coming out now.
Our guess is that for branding purposes, the Indians will be on the current FSO – or if not that, a rebranded STO with the Fox Sports name.
And of course, the fate of STO’s current non-Indians local programming lineup is apparently up in the air… giving the network’s staff some pause at the holidays. We haven’t heard any rumblings about this, as Fox will be making the decisions on STO’s programming over the next few weeks.
$230 million, plus $400 million for rights over 10 years sounds like a lot of money, but Hoynes points out that deals involving Fox Sports in New York and Los Angeles “dwarf” that money…