Tigers owners exploring idea of regional sports network

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The Detroit Tigers have broadcast their games on Fox Sports Detroit for many, many years. They’re still under contract to do it for several more years. But, as Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports today, that may change some time in the early 2020s:

The Ilitch family is considering forming a regional television network dedicated to coverage of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings professional sports franchises they own, The Detroit News has learned.

The network would not be launched until early in the next decade, after current Tigers-Red Wings contracts with Fox Sports Detroit have expired, said an executive with knowledge of the family’s preliminary plans. The source requested anonymity because of the potential project’s uncertain nature.

Henning notes that, while the Pistons are not owned by the Ilitch family, they could possibly become part of the deal as well. Not that anyone is commenting on it.

If the Tigers did this they’d join the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other teams to have their own network. The big question for such a venture is carriage rights — getting local cable systems to carry the network, thereby allowing (a) people to see it; and (b) the Tigers to make money off of it — but I suspect such a thing would be less of a hassle for the Tigers than it has proven to be for the Dodgers finding local carriage for their sports network.

This is partially because Tigers and Red Wings ratings are massive in Detroit, making it a much more attractive product than in Los Angeles, where there are far more other teams and entertainments to fill air time. Partially because, as Henning notes, Fox Sports Detroit is itself likely to undergo significant change as Fox will be required to divest itself of the network as part of its acquisition by Disney. If it is not owned by Fox and is not carrying Tigers and Red Wings games, it’s a far less attractive channel for cable operators, while the Ilitch-run network would be far more attractive.

Anyway, as the story says, this is a few years off. If it does have some traction, though, it would probably put to bed rumors that the Ilitches are thinking about selling the Tigers.

(h/t Historiophiliac)

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.