ROOT Sports & the Pac-12 Network’s Impact

November 28, 2011

We’re nearing the end of the year in which FSNW rebranded itself as ROOT Sports in the spring.  Whatever the network’s prospects were in the spring, they’re considerably less so now.  With the expected debut of the new Pac-12 Network next summer, along with its regional variants, ROOT will no longer be the home to Pac-12 content.  This will result in a significant gap in its lineup.  Without UW, WSU and OSU programming (UO is on CSNW), ROOT will be left with live games of the Mariners and Timbers (and Sounders replays).  This is more than sufficient for spring/summer programming.  But with no college football or basketball, the fall/winter programming seasons will look quite different in the future.

The remaining hours of content could come from additional Gonzaga basketball, Seattle U basketball and junior hockey games.  Additionally, we could see the network show programming delivered primarily for its other regional channels.  A recent example of this was a University of Denver hockey game produced for ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain that was shown on ROOT Sports Northwest.  While this helps fill programming gaps, it doesn’t serve the interests of local fans.  The less local the programming, the less relevant the network becomes for viewers.   Whatever programming is added, it’s likely to draw less viewers than the current Pac-12 schedule.  In turn, this hurts the value of the network.

Arguably, CSNW will be damaged as much, if not more, due to that network’s focus on the TrailBlazers and UO athletics.  CSNW already lacks high value spring/summer programming and will be without UO events once the Pac-12 networks begins.  Its content after the Blazers and UO includes CFL football, UP basketball and Big Sky sports.

In summary, one regional network is strong in the spring/summer.  One is stronger in the fall/winter.  Simply, there are not enough Northwest major league franchises to necessitate two RSNs.  And soon, they’ll lose the Pac-12 programming that has been so important to complementing their major league content.   The problem with consolidation in this case is that one network is Seattle focused, the other Portland.  And because of historical rivalries between teams from those cities, fans from one city are not likely to follow teams in the other.  This makes it difficult to run a RSN centered on two core cities.   But what’s clear is that both networks will be hurt by the introduction of the Pac-12 Network.