There is one decision that the team has gotten wrong under Anthony Precourt’s direction, it’s the TV deal that was signed in early 2014. The decision to move to Time Warner Cable Sports Channel was greeted with initial skepticism that turned to outright hostility as a significant part of the team’s fanbase couldn’t watch the team anymore.
It’s been clear that the deal has been a millstone around the team’s neck. A rare misstep during a time when the on the field performance has been on the upswing and the team is more relevant in the community after a highly successful rebrand. This team has a lot going for it on and off the field. The only problem is no one could see it.
The team has known this. Andy Loughnane mentioned it in August on the Massive Report Podcast. Distribution needed to increase, especially in the home market. If this is Columbus’s team, Columbus needs to be able to see it.
It appears that the team finally has the deal worked out to get the team back on fans televisions throughout Columbus. As reported by Shawn Mitchell on Monday, Crew SC is nearing a new TV deal that will increase the reach of the team in the core Columbus market.
Massive Report confirms that the team is highly likely to be moving from TWCSC for distribution while production will be remaining with Time Warner. TWCSC has been producing exclusive content for the team including pregame, weekly, and special events shows. In a tweet earlier, Mitchell also reported that the team won’t be going back to Fox Sports Ohio.
That leaves an interesting option, the team has been talking for several months with Sinclair Broadcast Group about over the air options for broadcasting Crew SC games. Sinclair has several outlets in Columbus that would be prime options to play sports. The company owns Channels 6, 28, and 53 in town, including subchannels. 28.3 started broadcasting the Sinclair’s American Sports Network in January. Sources have said that the team has talked about using 28.3 or the CW network on 53 to carry games.
Real Salt Lake has used ASN as the centerpiece of their regional broadcast footprint since early last year. D.C. United has moved to over the air options with local Sinclair networks in the Washington area. Sinclair is looking to jump into sports and is well versed in the value of MLS properties while Crew SC is looking to get on every TV in town. A move to the CW especially would achieve that.
It’s unclear what a move to over the air networks would mean for out of town fans. Previously, Crew SC wanted an Ohio footprint, but the recent move towards identifying as a Columbus team has taken some of that broad focus away. Sinclair’s ASN does have affiliates in Cincinnati, but fans around the state may have to turn to MLS Live or the Direct Kick package if MLS continues to provide the service.
Also of note, it appears that Crew SC is finally starting to reap some of the rewards of soccer’s rise in the United States.
Sources close to FSO said there were preliminary talks with #CrewSC but club's asking price was too high and discussions never progressed.— Shawn Mitchell (@smitchcd) February 17, 2016
That’s a good indication that Crew SC is finding a deal that expands reach beyond Time Warner while getting paid for the product. The team has struggled to get money out of TV deals, but they apparently felt that the market was strong enough to push the asking price higher. Long gone are the days of paying to get put on television.
The full details of the team’s TV deal will be revealed in the next week, erasing what is likely the biggest misstep of the Precourt Era.