The Columbus Crew had been quiet on their broadcast partnerships this year. This has been normal in recent years as the team and their broadcasters have announced deals in the weeks leading up to the season. The Crew and 'Fox Sports Ohio announced their deal in Feburary 2012, within 30 days of opening day. The lack of movement specifically isn't a concern.
A blog post by Adam Jardy this week did give Crew fans a reason for heartburn. The deal with Fox Sports Ohio (FSO) has ended and the team is looking to either extend the deal with FSO or make a change and sign a contact with the nascent Time Warner Cable Sports Network (TWCSN). A partnership with TWCSN would be a significant change in the reach. Crew games would only be available to Time Warner customers.
Time Warner Cable reports that 48% of cable subscribers in Ohio are Time Warner customers. That's a significant subscriber base, but it doesn't compare to the near 100% of cable systems that carry FSO. Over half of all Ohioans wouldn't get the Crew games on TV if the Crew were to partner with Time Warner.
The Crew wouldn't be the first MLS team to switch to TWCSC. The Los Angeles Galaxy signed a lucrative deal with Time Warner in 2011 for $55 million over 10 years. F.C. Dallas moved to TWCSC. The production quality improved greatly and the team also ensured non Time Warner customers could watch by allowing Direct Kick access in non-Time Warner Cable service areas. MLS Live was also made available in the Dallas market. The current Fox Sports Ohio deal places a blackout on MLS Live and Direct Kick broadcasts in the state of Ohio.
The team is in a solid position with two broadcasters pursuing rights to games and reports indicate that the Crew will have a deal in place by the opening game on March 9th at D.C. United. The decision is a weighty one. Working out a deal with FSO would continue to give the Crew a broad TV footprint in the state. TWCSC wouldn't be able to provide that level of coverage, but they have a history of being flexible in allowing other viewing methods.
The Crew's decision is ultimatly between trying to expand the audience or catering to existing fans.
Editors Note: The writer is also contracted with Fox Sports Ohio. The editorial staff of Fox Sports Ohio had no input in the development or publishing of this story.