In an effort to keep the Colorado Rockies from hitting ratings home runs for an upstart competitor, Fox Sports Net last Thursday extended its cable rights deal with the club through 2014 and bought a minority interest in the Major League Baseball franchise.
Terms weren’t disclosed, but sources said Fox would pay the team $20 million a year beginning next season through 2014 for the rights to telecast up to 150 Rockies games through its Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain regional sports network.
The network had held rights to Rockies games for three seasons after this year.
Fox Sports Baseball Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Fox Cable Networks, bought more than a 10% non-voting stake in the team for about $20 million — seven months after Fox sold its interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers, which it acquired in 1999.
The deal effectively keeps the Rockies from migrating to Kroenke Sports Enterprises LLC-owned Altitude Sports Network, set to launch this September.
FSN Rocky Mountain earlier this year lost the rights to the Kroenke-owned Denver Nuggets basketball and Colorado Avalanche hockey teams to Altitude. The net has yet to secure distribution deals with major MSOs.
“These two agreements solidify Fox Sports Rocky Mountain as the premiere regional sports network in this part of the country,” Fox Sports Net president Bob Thompson said. “We look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship with the Rockies for many years to come.”
Fox Networks Group president and CEO Tony Vinciquerra said the Denver market was the most “strategic” market for the network to invest in a team, even though the team currently has one of the worst records in baseball at 33-50. Still, Rockies games average a 3.2 household rating within the DMA.
“[The team] has good fans, and Colorado is a market where people like to be outside,” Vinciquerra said. “We’re confident that the Rockies management can turn this franchise around.”
Altitude president Jim Martin said he was “disappointed” his network didn’t get the opportunity to discuss a potential deal with the Rockies and that having two networks in the market could have meant more money for the team after FSN’s rights expired in 2007.
Colorado Rockies chairman Charlie Monfort said the team preferred the more established entity in Fox.
Martin said Altitude was nearing a number of carriage deals, but would not identify the distributors.
The Rocky Mountain News, citing sources, reported last week that deals could soon be consummated with EchoStar Communications Corp., Adelphia Communications Corp. and Charter Communications Inc.
Sources peg the asking price for Altitude, which Martin said has the rights to Colorado Springs Sky Sox AAA minor league baseball games for summer and is negotiating for some soccer rights, at around $1.75 per month. FSN Rocky Mountain charges about $2.10.
Vinciquerra said he doesn’t believe FSN Rocky Mountain would be hurt by the loss of the Avalanche and Nuggets, noting the network recently renewed a long-standing relationship with the NFL’s Denver Broncos for preseason coverage and ancillary programming, and holds the rights to Colorado State action and Big 12 football through FSN’s national deal.
But he said Fox is “willing to talk to Kroenke about bringing the [Avalanche and Nuggets] back to FSN Rocky Mountain.”
Mike Reynolds contributed to this article.
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.