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FSN Detroit Nets Pro Sports Three-Pointer

Regional Sports Network Inks Long-Term Rights Pacts With Pistons, Tigers, Red Wings

By Mike Reynolds -- Multichannel News, 3/19/2008 4:38:00 AM

FSN Detroit has scored a trifecta of rights deals, locking up long-term contracts with the three local pro sports teams, the National Basketball Association Pistons, Major League Baseball Tigers and National Hockey League Red Wings.

Deal terms were not disclosed, but the agreements do provide FSN with exclusivity for all of the clubs’ local telecasts. Published reports peg the combined value of the long-term deals at over $1 billion

The pacts, according to sources familiar with the negotiations, run at least 10 years. As such, the hat trick of rights affords FSN Detroit, which counts some 3.2 million subscribers in Michigan, Northwest Ohio and Northern Indiana, programming and cost certainty well into the next decade.

Moreover, the three-pointer of rights deals -- at least where the Pistons are concerned, staved off a play by Dish Network and AT&T’s U-verse to establish a rival regional sports network. Last monRip Hamilton--Detroit Pistons shooting guardth, Comcast, which has signed a long-term carriage deal with FSN Detroit, pulled the plug on Comcast Local, a regional sports network that aired high school athletics, this month.

Going forward, the FSN Detroit program lineup will include more than 300 games annually among the three teams -- including preseason, regular season and playoffs – the majority in the high-definition format.  In addition, FSN will continue to devote a large portion of its schedule to team-related, ancillary programming in the form of pre- andf post-game show, weekly magazines and encore airings.

“The size and scope of FSN’s investment in these three teams directly reflects our commitment to this city, this state and its sports fans,” said senior vice president/general manager Greg Hammaren in a statement. “These agreements solidify FSN's position as the preeminent sports media outlet in Michigan and a dominant force in local sports.”

A scorecard for the pacts follows:

*Tigers -- The new agreement begins this season, as the MLB franchise's contract with FSN had expired with the 2007 season.  In 2008, FSN will have up to 152 regular-season games, including 103 in HD. The Tigers have been on FSN Detroit since 1998, starting with 85 telecasts per season, increasing to a previous high of 134 telecasts last season, when the ballgame telecasts averaged a 7.5 household rating in the Detroit DMA, the third-highest for any MLB team, according to FSN officials.

*Pistons -- With the current contract running out after this campaign, the new agreement begins next season, 2008-09, giving FSN rights to all local Pistons' telecasts for the first time. FSN has televised up to 40 games per season since 1997-98. The 49-18 Pistons, currently with the second-best record in the pro hoops league behind the Boston Celtics, are averaging a 4.5 household rating in Detroit, a 25% increase over this stage last season, according to Nielsen Media Research. FSN could televise as many as 70 Pistons games next season.

*Red Wings:  Here, the sports programmer has inked an extension, tacked on to the current deal that was signed with the hockey team for 2003-04 season -- the start of FSN’s exclusivity the hallowed Red Wings raftersfor local Red Wings telecasts -- and extends through the 2012-13 season. The Red Wings’s 4.8 DMA rating ranks second among NHL teams this season, and has grown more than 40% year-to-year, according to FSN executives. The regional sport network could air up to 70 Red Wings contests next season. 

Officials said the combined appeal of the clubs made FSN Detroit the top cable network in the Detroit DMA during 2007, and fifth among all outlets in the market.

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