Monday, December 26, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Other Indians TV Shoe Drops

(UPDATED: 12/26/05, 12:35 PM)

The second part of the Cleveland Indians' new TV deal has now been officially announced.

As expected, it's Time Warner Cable that'll be the Tribe's new cable TV partner starting in 2006, with what the team calls a "non-exclusive" contract to carry the 150 regular season and 8 Spring Training games tabbed for cable TV. The Indians-connected "Fastball Sports Productions" - a new company owned by the team's ownership group - will also offer the games to other cable providers in the team's television territory, and to both major satellite providers.

The team is hoping for "100 percent" coverage of the cable/satellite territory formerly covered by long-time team cable partner FSN Ohio...and says they'll get about half of that already with the expanded Time Warner Cable footprint in the region.

As announced earlier, Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 will air 20 over-air games...the first time the team's been on broadcast TV for years. WKYC will also produce all of those games in high definition, and will produce the rest of the team's schedule for "Fastball", which isn't being announced as the over-air name of the team's new channel.

What will that channel include?

An article on the new network by Anthony Castrovince notes that "(game) distribution is key" for the team right now, and that the network won't be a 24/7 offering in the early going...but quotes Indians president Paul Dolan as saying "(o)ur goal is to get to a point where it is a full-time regional sports network with full-time programming."

The games are expected to air on TWC's existing local programming channel (cable channel 23) and similar channels on other cable systems during the 2006 season...with satellite providers carrying the games on one of their "occasional" channels.

And that brings us to a still-unanswered question. What happens if the Time Warner deal to purchase the local Adelphia and Comcast systems doesn't happen before the first pitch on the Fastball-produced network? Will those poor souls left still under the Adelphia and Comcast banner - and we're talking about your friends right here at OMW - be able to see the Indians?

We'd be shocked if they didn't offer up the games on the Adelphia and Comcast systems, for they comprise the largest part of the Cleveland cable TV footprint. We'd expect Adelphia, for example, to offer the games on local channel 15 until TWC takes over and rejiggers the local lineups. With the presence of 8 Spring Training games, the Indians' TV venture will likely start before TWC takes control of Adelphia and Comcast systems locally.

OMW also notes that the Tribe plans an over-air TV network in addition to WKYC/3, that will air the 20 games tabbed for broadcast television. One presumes that stations in Columbus, Youngstown/Warren, and perhaps Toledo will be involved. The Indians release also says the team expects to air "all" games in HDTV at some point, though it notes that only the WKYC games are definitely expected to be in HD for now.

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