Monday, April 10, 2006

Our Chat With STO's Jim Liberatore

We got the call from SportsTime Ohio head Jim Liberatore this afternoon...unfortunately, on the road while nowhere near a notepad or keyboard, so much of this is out of our recollection of the conversation about five hours ago.

The biggest item - Liberatore tells OMW that the activation mess yesterday with DirecTV and STO "should be fixed" by tomorrow night's Indians-Mariners game. At least, that's what the DirecTV folks are telling him. Apparently, the need to activate the channel in the first place needed a couple of electronic "nudges" (our term) with DirecTV boxes. Liberatore says DirecTV feels confident that they've sent down the electronic "hits" needed to clear STO on boxes in the primary Cleveland market.

Liberatore tells us that despite the DirecTV problems (and despite information in Roger Brown's sports media column in this morning's PD), the red-hot Tribe still got good ratings over the weekend. After a 12.7 share for Friday's WKYC/3 opener, the STO cable/satellite only games on Saturday and Sunday were scoring in the 8 share range, which was actually around - if not a little more than - the season average for FSN Ohio's Indians games in 2005. But clearly, with the DirecTV homes which were missing for Saturday and Sunday, that number could have been bumped a bit higher.

The STO head took at least partial blame for the whole mess regarding DirecTV and the regions outside metro Cleveland/Akron/Canton/Columbus, areas that will still not receive the STO Indians games on DirecTV even after the satellite service fixes the problems that plagued local subscribers this weekend.

Liberatore said he "didn't expect" the move by DirecTV to regionalize the coverage, and the veteran cable channel executive said he'd never heard of such a deal before. He told us the term sheet between SportsTime Ohio and DirecTV did not include the regional zone breakdown.

Could DirecTV subscribers outside the core Indians market nudge the service into carrying games they saw on FSN Ohio last year? Liberatore would only say that such a decision was something that was in DirecTV's ability to make.

We get the idea that such a move would put DirecTV on the financial hook for the extra out-of-core-market viewers, but the numbers would probably be somewhat less significant than what they're paying STO for the Cleveland/Akron/Canton and Columbus metro market eyeballs.

We wonder with some 2,000 local Tribe fans calling DirecTV both Saturday and Sunday, how many of them were not going to get the game anyway due to their location in Toledo, Lima, Erie PA or other locations not in the "zone 1/2" footprint? And we wonder if those statistics will eventually make its way to those making such decisions at the satellite service, and if they'll some day tell STO "sign us up for them, too".

Liberatore did confirm for us that those folks in the DirecTV zones who are NOT getting the STO package right now are basically out of luck with the service if they want to see Indians games, even if they're willing to pay for the extra cost "Extra Innings" package. "Extra Innings" will not give them the STO Indians games either.

So, if you're a Tribe fan in Toledo, Erie, Steubenville or Mansfield, you'd only see the games aired by national providers ESPN and FOX (over-air) on DirecTV. Paying for the "EI" package won't bring you the Indians games you aren't seeing on channel 657.

Oh, Liberatore also tells us they are aware of the occasional audio problems we've talked about here, including the infamous one-second dropout every minute or two on the HD coverage, and some lipsyncing problems...and he believes those have been fixed for Tuesday night's game.

Anyway, it was nice talking to Mr. Liberatore, who's clearly pro-active with getting in touch with the media, and even the new media like OMW.

OK, so we didn't think at first that he would bother with Internet media outposts, even your very own Mighty Blog of Fun(tm). But after hearing him stay in contact with an Internet cow...er...Marc Steenbarger's Moohead Radio, we figured we're at least that high up on the media food chain, and that's what prompted us to contact the STO president directly...

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

interesting that he would take the time to talk to you. cool.

Anonymous said...

directv tells me that folks outside the zones can get sportspak ($12 per month) and would then receive sportstime ohio along with all the other regional sports channels. i may sign up myself even though i get STO. it'd be great to get to watch other teams

Al said...

Since I can't watch the games on the dreaded "D" perhaps someone could compile a list of Tribe sponsors and post it here so that people like me can let them know they are not reaching their intended audiences on STO and therefore I will not be buying their products or using their services.

Anonymous said...

I have three words for Directv subscribers in the Cleveland market who cannot watch the Tribe. "Get Dish Network." I'm not even in the Cleveland market & I haven't had any problems watching STO. I live in Cochranton, Pa. which is near Meadville and as a long time (and suffering) Pirates fan, it's good to finally see the Indians games on STO and actually watch a regional MLB team that could win it all this year. However, I won't be jumping on the Browns bandwagon anytime soon. Go Steelers!

Anonymous said...

you would get sportspak, but the indians games would still be blacked out

Anonymous said...

Honestly, all this talk/fuss about the Tribe on directTV is boring the snot out of me. I mean, if you wanna see the Tribe, drop the freakin' DTV and get with a cable company or something. Sheesh. You'd think all this crap was the most important debate since Kennedy/Nixon. If DTV isn't gonna service its customers, let them go elsewhere...and wait for DTV to ante up and crawl back. Whatever it takes to boost the Tribe's income, I'm all for it.

Anonymous said...

Go to cable? Why would I want to pay more money for less content? No thanks!

Al said...

It is 7 PM and no Indians for me!!!
No sir... The Direct TV gods have spoken and I am not worthy...

One of the Direct TV flunkies called me a little bit ago and again tried to give me the song and dance for the fourth or fifth time (I honestly have lost count)... Once again I asked to speak to a REAL live manager or even the infamous E. Ryan whomever that may be. Of course that is NOT going to happen! The Direct TV Gods are safely locked away in their castle in LA.

Guess I will go watch hockey... it is the only game the Direct TV gods have decided I can watch... at least until my DISH gets installed... By the way... do they REALLY think they are going to collect full payment for a cancelled MLB extra innings package??? They don't braodcast in my area yet I don't qualify to watch the Indians because they are in my area... Is that double talk or what???

They won't be getting any more payments from me!!!

Anonymous said...

In response to the "just get cable" post, cable television (ESPECIALLY in Cleveland) is riddled with notoriously bad picture quality, confusing and slow menu-driven settop boxes, and generally horrible customer service. Try getting an Adelphia rep that can handle your call professionally - it just doesn't happen, most of the time. Sure, you may have to have a ridiculous dish on your house, but the picture is SO MUCH better than cable. Especially if you have a decent television set.

Anonymous said...

Love the HD broadcasts of the games here in Columbus, Time Warner channel 752. Unfortunately, as of Tuesday's Tribe game, I still can't say the same for the audio on the HD channel. The only audible sound is from the announcers. No crowd noise or game noises. Also, the commercials are completely muted. Regular non-HD broadcast, the audio is fine. Anyone else having the same issues?

Anonymous said...

I'm a DirecTV customer and have been watching the game since the first pitch. Of course, I didn't have the problems experienced by others over the weekend. After reading about the trouble, I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the only DirecTV customer in the world who can actually watch the games on STO. :)

Anonymous said...

Still no games for me either and I am in the so called "Viewing area" after viewing the sox series on STO/FOX, I've been dumped. I calledagain yesterday and they tried to reactivate my card. Instead of this fixing anything they had problems with thier software and I lost all my channels for about 45 minutes. They called me back when they got the Software working, got all my original channels back but guess what? No STO.They told me they are escalating it and that I'm a special case.