The Mariners announcement that they’ve essentially taken majority ownership in ROOT Sports NW is surprising on one hand, in that the organization stated just last Fall that they had no interest in owning an RSN, but not on the other. It makes sense given that’s what their competitors are doing inside and outside the AL West. Additionally, ROOT Sports NW was the epitome of a network waiting to be had. The more interesting details about the terms of the deal have not been revealed and are unlikely to be in the immediate future.
The club also said that they don’t envision ROOT changing much from what we see today. Under the impression that the team will seek to maximize its investment, I highly doubt that things will remain the same. I’ve discussed before the need for the network to be re-branded, in addition to personnel changes. For the network to reach its potential, and the M’s to benefit from their investment, the network will have to change to become a “must watch” entity. The trick will be to add more live, sought after content and unique programming.
ROOT should attempt to lure all, non-nationally broadcast Sounders matches, rather than just televising outside of Western Washington the games shown locally on KING/KONG. And obviously, should NBA and/or NHL teams take up residence here, ROOT should seek to win those rights as well. Beyond that, the network should strongly consider adding news and highlights shows, talk show programs, “magazine”-type shows and rolling out the old, classic games reels for all the teams. And, when possible, ROOT should try to fit in Storm games, Rainiers games and some local college and high school sports. Lastly, in more of an experiment than anything else, the network should start a broadband “channel” that mimics the TV broadcast with the exception of live games where online rights are not in ROOT’s ownership. Perhaps this is where ROOT could experiment with Reign FC matches, more Storm games, Spokane arena football and any other live programming where the online rights may be available.
Again, all of this is suggested in the name of increasing the value of the network. As ROOT evolves, fans should find themselves in fewer situations where a bar or fitness club with many TVs has just about every sports event showing except the local one, because no one has thought to tune in to see the local team. There is a lot of potential value to be gained here, but it’s up to the Mariners and ROOT to unlock it.