Yet another network is teaming up with a direct-broadcast
satellite distributor to gain carriage in a market where it's being shunned by the
local cable operator.
SportsChannel Florida began working with DirecTv Inc. in
Orlando, Fla., to promote the network's coverage of Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Florida
Marlins Major League Baseball games, after it was unable to reach a distribution agreement
with local cable operator Time Warner Cable.
DirecTv, together with local electronics retailer
SoundAdvice and SC Florida, launched a 12-week advertising campaign two weeks ago touting
DirecTv's ability to deliver 64 Devil Rays and 70 Marlins games to the Orlando DMA,
said Bob Marsocci, senior manager of communications for DirecTv.
SC Florida, however, said its contributions to the campaign
were "minimal," only including its typical distributor-launch funds.
SC Florida has been feuding with the 550,000-subscriber
Time Warner system over distribution rights for years, despite the continued growth of the
regional-sports network. Since sports mogul Wayne Huizenga took over SC Florida in 1996,
its subscriber base has skyrocketed from 600,000 to more than 3.2 million, the network
Time Warner is carrying SC Florida in several markets,
including Tampa, Fla., but it believes that there isn't enough interest in baseball
in the Orlando market to justify adding the network there.
But SC Florida claims that there is significant interest in
the Devil Rays within the Orlando market. Devil Rays games are pulling a 1.0 to 1.1
Nielsen Media Research rating on a local-broadcast station, while generating a 3.5 rating
in the team's home DMA on SC Florida, said Rod Mickler, general manager for SC
While aware of the potential for negative backlash from
cable operators, Mickler said the network's association with DirecTv provides the
only outlet for its programming in Orlando.
"You always have to consider the ramifications [of
working with DirecTv], but the truth of the matter is that we've been shut out of the
market for 10 years," Mickler said. "We've prided ourselves on our strong
relationships with our distributors, but the bottom line is to get the widest distribution
for our product."
But Bob Cameron, general showroom manger at
SoundAdvice's Orlando outlet, said the campaign has yielded little interest in the
dishes thus far.