In December the Sounders announced Q13 Fox (KCPQ/JOEtv) will be the team’s official over the air TV partner for the upcoming season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Fox affiliate, owned by Tribune Broadcasting, replaces KING/KONG, which had been the club’s broadcast partner since the first MLS season in 2009. Unannounced is whether ROOT Sports will continue to carry the telecasts outside of Western Washington, along with replays, as the network has since 2009.
KING/KONG ended up being a fairly strong partner, with good coverage of the club throughout the season. This included near daily updates of the club during newscasts and on the station’s six days a week sports program, Northwest Sports Tonight. Additionally, the station carried a weekly Sounders show. It will be interesting to see if the station maintains a similar coverage level now that it is no longer an official team partner. From the official press release, it appears Q13 Fox will not have the same level of coverage. The release mentions two, 30 minute specials during the season, which falls well short of KING/KONG’s weekly 30 minute show during the season. The weekly segment to conclude Friday Q It Up Sports is no different than the team’s previous coverage on KING/KONG’s newscasts or on Northwest Sports Tonight.
The deal brings many questions in which answers are not (yet) available. For a team that is reported to have the strongest local TV ratings in MLS, why did it settle for a TV partner bringing less weekly coverage? Did KING/KONG choose not to renew or were they outbid, perhaps in conjunction with a change in ownership from Belo to Gannett? Does the KCPQ/JOEtv model bring more potential viewers than KING/KONG did? Did the Sounders engage ROOT Sports for the total TV package? After all, a team with strong ratings might want to benefit from the dual revenue model (subscription/advertising) that an RSN like ROOT Sports offers, even at the expense of being moved off local broadcast TV.
Perhaps some of those answers will reveal themselves in coming months. Meanwhile, fans can plan on new coverage this season and will undoubtedly compare it to previous seasons.