August 26, 2014

Could This Be The End of STO?

The Cleveland Indians started their own TV network, Sportstime Ohio, back in 2006 in hopes of adding an additional revenue stream to their organization. By 2007 they were the home of the Cleveland Indians, showing close to 150 Tribe games a year, and trying to create other local sports programming that would compete with Fox Sports Ohio.

The money making venture was hoped to be a cash cow for the Dolan family ownership group, the way the old SportsChannel used to be here. Instead, STO has been mostly the place you go for Tribe games. They became the cable home of the Cleveland Browns, but do not carry any of their games.

Most of the other programming – like Bruce Drennan’s “All Bets are Off,” “Chuck’s Last Call,” and Tee It Up Ohio” have had some success, but the channel has not shown the growth the owners hoped it would and additional quality programming is still needed. The truth is once the baseball season ends, many people forget about STO entirely.

Which brings us to this. Sources tell WFNY that Sportstime Ohio could soon be sold to one of two companies – Fox Sports Ohio or Time Warner Cable.

edit: Back on July 6th, Kyle Swenson of Cleveland Scene posted this rumor. It now appears to have some real legs.

FSN, a national network with affiliates througout the country, already has a deal as the cable home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and had the Indians before STO was created. It would be a seamless move if this were to happen.

The Time Warner group would be interesting. TWC just scored a major NBA coup by acquiring the cable rights to the Los Angeles Lakers on a 20-year contract starting in 2012 and are said to be targeting the Dodgers next when their deal expires with FSN in 2013. They are obviously trying to become a national power in sports broadcasting and locking up one of the biggest sports franchises in the country – the Lakers – is a giant first step.

Per the LA Times article:

The contract with the Lakers not only gives Time Warner Cable a grip on the most popular franchise in the region, but new clout to try to either lure subscribers away from competitors — including DirecTV, Verizon Fios and AT&T U-Verse — or get those competitors to pay big bucks to carry the still unnamed channels.

Meanwhile back in Cleveland, STO’s struggles seem to be real, even though ratings for Tribe games are up dramatically over this time last year, but that won’t be enough to sustain them as a network, according to our sources.

I’m betting you will hear more about this in the near future, but don’t be surprised to see a shakeup in the TV sports landscape in our fair city.

  • stin4u

    The rest of the programming on STO is far from entertaining. This isn’t a huge surprise to me.

  • http://www.fromoutofnowhere.com Reggie Ruckus

    The Browns programming on STO is pretty good. I enjoy Browns Red Zone particularly the edition on Monday nights during the season. Would being owned by Time Warner cause DirecTV to drop STO? Two things come to mind with the news-Further proof of how unfair the economics of MLB are. The Yankees because of their big market are making money hand over fist with their network. Meanwhile the Indians appear to be forced to sell theirs off. If STO is quietly for sale could the Indians also be quietly on the market?

  • boomhauertjs

    Between how much they overpaid for the Indians and now this, it’s pretty clear that the Dolans are lousy businessmen.

  • MrCleaveland

    One would think that it would be pretty easy to draw an audience to a sports channel in this area. All you need is some interesting programming (especially Browns) and some promotion to let the folks know what you’re broadcasting.

    I’d like to see more broadcasts of old games since our cable deal doesn’t include ESPN Classic. The Big Ten Network frequently shows old games, and they’re pretty fun to watch (although if it’s a game against a non-conference opponent, you always know who’s going to win).

    And I was really hoping this would be a cash cow for the Tribe because they need it.

  • BisonDeleSightings

    The failure of STO has been its inability to obtain the Cavs’ TV rights and secure that winter viewership. Granted, there would be conflicts in April, but I’m sure they would have found a way around it.

  • Tyler

    As a fan of the MAC, I’m always watching STO in the fall and winter for football and basketball coverage. I think the network has done a great job televising MAC sports, as well as the OHSAA championships.

  • Jason

    If this gets me my Blue Jackets fix living in Youngstown, then I would be a happy guy.

  • Corey

    It would be amazing if it was sold back to FSO. Maybe then we could get some competent Indians TV announcers. Wouldn’t mind hearing Fred again. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind doing double-duty.

  • http://www.redright88.com Titus Pullo

    As a DirecTV subscriber, I want less Time Warner in my life, not more. Please do not let them buy the team.

    Agree 100 percent on the need for the channel to show more archival footage. It might be tough because film might not exist, but would love to see a Luis Tiant or Sam McDowell game from the late ’60s, a Gaylord Perry game from the early ’70s and Dennis Eckersley’s no-hitter.

  • Anthony

    maybe we trade STO to the Yankees for prospects?

  • TBone

    If I have to go back to watching half Reds half Indians on FSN in Columbus I’m going to kill somebody.

  • Lyon

    Titus, I’m a Time Warner customer & want less TW in my life.

    If FSO buys the channel, what happens when the Cavs & Tribe play at the same time?

  • Jeremy

    I’m sick of STO not airing the Indians day games. If FSN or TWC gets the contract, they better show ALL the games.

  • Boyo

    I can’t see this working out well for Tribe fans. Right now we have a channel dedicated to Indians coverage available on most (all?) local cable and satellite offerings. It seems like that can’t continue if STO is sold.

    I also like the local aspect of STO. I actually like watching Bruce and Chuck for that reason.

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