Geoff Baker of the Times penned an article about the coziness of our local teams. The gist is the expected arrival of Tod Leiweke to run the yet-to-be-official NHL expansion team and his relationships with other local sports executives.
It all makes sense until the part about how the relationships could benefit ROOT Sports NW. ROOT and the Mariners have had plenty of time to gain full Sounders TV rights, from the club’s entry into MLS in 2009 to when the M’s took a majority stake in ROOT Sports NW in 2014.
In fact, it’s going in the other direction. This season, the RSN is no where to be found as a cable partner, with the Sounders instead going with YouTube TV in addition to recent broadcast partner KCPQ/JoeTV. And just like that, the Sounders crest is no longer featured on the ROOT website. But the rival Timbers are still a partner with ROOT. That doesn’t seem to bold well of a future where the Mariners share ROOT with the Sounders.
ROOT is not alone this. Not long after 710 ESPN affiliate 97.3FM lost Sounders radio rights to 950 KJR, 710’s website dropped the Sounders from the “teams” banner on the main page. These actions tell fans that these media outlets were interested in covering the Sounders when there was a media relationship, but not as interested in covering the club as a local sports team.
Baker also doesn’t touch on the much rumored ROOT Sports NW/TrailBlazers negotiations from last summer, where many thought the region’s NBA team would end up on the region’s main RSN. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out. Given this, and the lack of a Sounders deal, it’s easy to conclude that the Mariners primarily want to keep ROOT an M’s specific network, with some Timbers soccer here, and Big Sky football there. That’s fine, until it’s time to renegotiate carriage deals or a rival network emerges. After all, who’s to say the new NHL team would even want an RSN? Maybe they go the OTT route, especially given the demographics of the league and this market.
Lastly, we don’t know if the Storm and Reign fit into this close executive circle. But we do know their games are additional programming that could benefit ROOT. Marketing opportunities could range from a Sounders/Reign doubleheader at the CLink to a Storm game at Safeco.
Baker raises some interesting points, but at least when it comes to the Mariners and their running of ROOT, actual events show the network has little interest in becoming an “MSG Network type venture.” And this doesn’t even get into the M’s real estate strategy, anti-SoDo stance and apparent disinterest in incremental revenue opportunities possible in its neighborhood. Cozi, maybe. But not without a lot of local possibilities already left on the table.