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SportsTime Ohio could be sold before end of year

By George Thomas Published: November 30, 2012

Sources with knowledge of negotiations said that if regional sports network SportsTime Ohio is going to be sold, it will happen before the end of the year.

Rumors have circulated that the cable home of the  Indians telecasts would be sold for the better part of two years. It looks as if the Dolan family, the network’s owner, finally has a willing suitor in the parent company of the area’s other regional network, FoxSports Ohio. News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch-controlled company, recently completed purchasing a stake in the New York Yankees’ YES Network.

What’s more intriguing is that the stations will not merge; they will remain separate entities much in the way that FS South and SportSouth operate independently of one another in the Atlanta area and beyond. One has more of a regional flavor catering to multiple states and the other is more locally based.

Right now, the latter sounds like STO’s niche. With contracts with OHSAA, the MAC, OAC and others to go with the Tribe, related ancillary programs and talk shows such as Bruce Drennan’s All Bets Are Off and those related to the  Browns, it’s a destination for local sports addicts.

But will all of the local shows (non-game related) survive? Judging by SportSouth, some of it will have a shot. A quick look at their schedule shows a lot of such programming.

What will become of the Browns programming is an equally significant question. Sources say that STO’s contract with the NFL team is up this year, but there are options for renewal that are on hold pending a final outcome of the proposed sale.

Some of those shows, such as the Browns Red Zone with hosting duties shared by Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken, and WKNR’s Tony Grossi on Mondays and WTAM’s Andre Knott and the Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot on Thursdays, have amassed a loyal following.

Browns representatives, citing confidentiality, refused to comment regarding the matter.

Lest anyone think none of this make sense, keep in mind that News Corp. has been increasingly aggressive in the sports media world of late. Beyond the YES Network, they’ve shelled out billions for Big 12 and PAC-12 football in recent months. They’ve also announced that they will launch a national sports network that could assume the position currently occupied by the Speed Channel on most video distribution systems. They would be the last of the Big Four networks to launch such a channel with NBC and CBS joining the fray last year.

Why the aggressiveness?

All of these networks stand to make a lot of cash for several reasons. Because there are so many options for viewing scripted television programs – Internet streaming on multiple devices, video-on-demand – advertising dollars lie in live programming such as sports where audiences can be accurately measured. It’s a general guarantee to advertisers that consumers are more likely to see their commercials, bugs or whatever form ads take on.

Welcome to the future.

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