Talkin’ (More) Tribe

ANOTHER STO ITEM OR FOUR: Yes, there’s still more on SportsTime Ohio’s regular season debut on Tuesday night, and the behind the scenes negotiations to get it carriage.

It took THREE Plain Dealer writers – not counting sports media columnist Roger Brown – to produce a Q&A about STO’s first season in this morning’s paper. TV writer Mark Dawidziak, tech writer Henry Gomez and sportswriter Bob Roberts contribute to this screed. A couple of points:

* As of this writing, at about 1 PM on Monday, there’s no agreement with DirecTV. The Q&A asks why DirecTV hasn’t signed up with STO yet – and says the answer is simple: “Money.” It then regurgitates an old quote from DirecTV’s Dan Fawcett, which should look familiar to anyone who follows Brown’s sports media columns…where the Q&A says “he has said” that the service is worried SportsTime Ohio won’t have enough content to justify its cost. The quote is a few days old, so DirecTV apparently wasn’t talking to the media about STO this weekend.

This also ignores an item by Brown over the weekend, where STO’s Jim Liberatore said a deal was “likely” by today, and that the network and DirecTV had “gotten past” the money issues. (Or maybe the PD staffers take Brown’s reporting with the same grain of salt that we do…)

Perhaps DirecTV is looking for Liberatore to seed more programming this season – the network may indeed, as reported, program weekdays 6 PM-midnight and full-time weekends as soon as July.

* The article ventures a guess at how costly STO would be for cable operators, and thus, to subscribers. It quotes Time Warner as definitely ruling out a rate increase tied directly to the new network. Cox says “eventually” customers could pay about a buck more a month. (Our general experience: cable rates go up. Period. No matter if it’s the programming costs, the weather, someone sneezed at the cable headend…)

And the PD trio enlists a sports media analyst, who surmises STO is charging anywhere from $1.65 to $1.85 per subscriber a month.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know the actual numbers are already out there…as we reported last Tuesday. A simple Google News search yielded an article by Multichannel News, which reported rates as low as 94 cents a subscriber out in the “hinterlands” far from Jacobs Field, to $1.83 a subscriber for Cleveland area systems. If we can find this stuff nearly a week ago, why can’t the Plain Dealer find it for an article running today, with three writers contributing?

The numbers could be frightening for small cable systems like Oberlin’s Cable Co-Op, which tells the PD they’re even balking at the $6,000 needed to buy the proper equipment for STO, let alone the per-subscriber cost. STO has managed to sign up all the cable “biggies”, covering the vast majority of local cable subscribers…but at last count, about 20-plus of those small, scattered systems are not aboard. Our guess – STO will eventually cut them something of a break to get them on the roster.

* Dawidziak has a flattering profile of STO’s Jim Liberatore. We’ll save you the reading time – “Experienced cable network vet and Bay Village native returns home”.

* The PD has a graphic with the current STO channel list, and a location guide to where the network will put its cameras at Jacobs Field. It incorrectly notes that “all the games” will be aired in HDTV and 5.1 surround sound…when in fact, only the 63 STO home games, and the 20 WKYC games, will be in HD.

* Among other things, Brown’s Monday column notes the eight open dates on the STO schedule. STO’s Liberatore says despite those mostly afternoon games not being on the schedule, they’ll be flexible, and that “there’s not going to be a significant Indians game that fans won’t see, one way or the other.” Maybe that’s a direct response to FSN Ohio declining to show a crucial late season Sunday afternoon game last year… even though it wasn’t even directly in conflict with the Browns game that same day…due to money concerns.

RANTS?: In a semi-related item, we totally forgot about the heavily promoted FSN Ohio/WKNR post-game alternative, “Cleveland Rants”.

But with a multi-hour rain delay, and an Opening Day game that lasted until around 2 AM locally, we’re wondering if Les Levine and Neil Bender even DID the first show late last night. Even Tribe radio voice Tom Hamilton, on the team’s network, sped through the post-game show…which was easier to do because there were no other games on the “out of town scoreboard”, a segment which lasted roughly 20 seconds.

If Levine and Bender were doing the show in the middle of the night last night, they sure had plenty to “rant” about…

Speak Your Mind