Crew president, owner respond to fan outcry over TV deal

AnthonyPrecourtMarkMcCullersCrew1 (ColumbusCrew)

By DAN KARELL

A number of Columbus Crew fans were vocal in their disappointment of the club’s new television deal, and the Crew leadership has taken the time to respond.

In an open letter on the Crew’s website, president Marc McCullers apologized for fan’s frustrations of the TV deal, especially when it was announced just two days before the start of the 2014 season. Crew owner Anthony Precourt also reached out on Twitter to explain why the club decided to sign a “multi-year agreement” with Time Warner Cable instead of the old home of the Crew on Fox Sports Ohio.

Under the new deal, 33 of the Crew’s 34 matches this season will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, which is only offered to Time Warner Cable subscribers. While that might not be something to gripe about, anyone living within 75 miles of Crew Stadium will find Crew matches, both home and away, blacked out on MLS’ internet streaming subscription, MLS Live.

This in essence leaves thousands of current and would-be Crew fans in the dark, unable to watch their club play this season except on May 4 when the Crew face Sporting Kansas City on NBC Sports Network.

McCullers wrote in the letter that one of the main reasons for the Crew moving forward with Time Warner Cable was because the company would make the Crew a priority, something that Fox Sports Ohio apparently did not do.

“Our decision to move in this direction was based on several key factors,” McCullers wrote. “(1) Time Warner Cable SportsChannel wants to build their professional sports programming around the Crew and make the club a main priority for the station; (2) The creation of expanded programming that highlights the Crew through unique and compelling content; (3) Full clearance and priority positioning on the basic cable tier without pre-emptions for our matches throughout the Time Warner Cable footprint in the region; and (4) High Definition capabilities for both home and away matches.

“The combination of these factors really left the Crew with limited TV alternatives and made Time Warner Cable SportsChannel the best option for the club.”

Both Precourt and McCullers also revealed that the club will in fact be losing money in this deal, and that it was not a financially motivated move, which some fans were suggesting.

“The main sacrifice in this decision, which is a significant one, is that we would stand to lose reach and distribution in Central Ohio and throughout the state,” McCullers wrote. “This was also not a decision about financial gain.  We will be investing over $500,000 to produce, air, and promote Crew matches in 2014, which far outweighs our return.”

In his tweets, Precourt pointed to new improvements to Crew Stadium, such as the new LED scoreboard, as a reason to be excited about this season.

The Crew released a list of bars and restaurants around Columbus where fans could watch the season opener, but for fans who don’t want to make the trip or have other plans, they’ll be left in the dark.

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39 Responses to Crew president, owner respond to fan outcry over TV deal

  1. NASL to El Paso tx says:

    God, poor crew fans. Crew is wizards 2.0 and they need a serious rebrand :)

  2. Edwin in LA says:

    Welcome to the life of a Los Angeles sports fan, aka Dodgers and in late 2012 the Lakers. Hopefully TWC can reach a deal with DirecTv, At&t U-Verse, Verizon and whatever other providers are big in Ohio. I won’t say Dish because it seems Dish just won’t budge. They still don’t have the channel which shows the Lakers & Galaxy. And as of now no company has reached a deal for the Dodgers channel other than one who I think subcontrats a territory out near Bakersfiel, CA

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      You say that but the Dynamo last year were locally only available on Comcast SN Houston, which is available to 40% of town depending on your provider. Comcast SN Houston has a sweetheart deal with Comcast cable and a most favored nations clause that requires them to up Comcast’s deal to match any more lucrative deals they strike, which makes it hard to negotiate with other providers.

      The wave of the future seems to be this kind of vertical integration where you’d have to get the content by also signing up with the provider. You want soccer buy their cable.

      If MLS is mandating local TV deals there ought to be a clause saying “generally available.” The current Houston deal is little better than no deal, I can watch 7 games on the Spanish deal plus the national contests everyone else can see.

      • MrMaxican says:

        except comcast SN is bankrupt due to the fact they try to force bad deals with satellite. the chron reporter covering the hearings is a must follow @dfbarron

      • 1st Time Caller says:

        None of this will matter in the slightest after the tv cable/satellite companies go belly up within 5 years time.

  3. Gerard D. says:

    Yeah, that’s a complete joke.

    MLS should force out any business owner this utterly incompetent. They are bad for the brand.

    • Jay says:

      Yet we praise MLS for choosing NBC over Fox for the same reasons. Can’t have it both ways people.

      • Gerard D. says:

        They chose NBC because NBC promised national broadcasts.

        Fox puts Arsenal/Munich on FS2 as they air a NASCAR truck series PRACTICE on FS1.

  4. Smacking says:

    Are local blackouts actually effective? Seeing games on TV generally builds my interest and likelihood to support a team.

    • jonk says:

      So NFL blackouts, for example, are usually about encouraging home attendance. But as I’ve always understood it the MLS Live blackout policy is about encouraging tv viewership. That’s why any game that you can watch on TV (whether national or a local broadcast) is usually blacked out on MLS live. As an MLS Live customer that doesn’t have cable, I’ve always found this annoying but I understand I’m the minority. The problem with the Crew situation is that it’s not just non-cable people like me that are blacked out.

      • CplDaniel says:

        I wonder if you can fool MLS-Live streaming by making your billing address out of the black-out area (as in write your out-of-blackout sister a check and get her to subscribe, then you log on and watch using the account she creates for you).

        2nd – Can you go to small claims court and force a refund now that you have been deprived of your one reason for subscribing to MLS live (unless you really love watching and following FC Dallas that mutch)

        3rd – Can you organize a serious matchday boycott? It’s be hard, but if you can garner the hatred of the U-40 cable-cutters and direct it toward a one-match boycott, even if tickets are already paid for, presuming that everybody spends an average of say $3 over cost of concessions (I presume drinks annd food have a huge mark-up at games?), you could start talking about some serious cash. Cable is for people over 40. I don’t know anybody under 35 with cable because it’s an inefficient dead-horse leaching on to survival in a modern economy. The most hated brand name in America is consistently Time-warner, or Comcast (they trade the #1 spot). You must have at least 10,000 fans under 35 or 40 that hate TWC enough to boycott a local game or two to add a matchday cost to the value of this contract. If they are season ticket holders, even better. A well thought out contract would have some kind of escape clause, either through a cash payment, or for costs incurred, or a HOLY Sh17!! CATASTROPHIC FAN REVOLT CLAUSE!

        Maybe I’m dreaming. But you get nothing if you do nothing. Internet orgination toppled governments in middle-eastern countries already. Surely you can organize an end at least to a blackout.

        • quozzel says:

          Yup. It’s called a proxy server.

          You’ve gotta get more clever these days about finding one the cable provider hasn’t tripped to (you can’t just ring up any old proxy off google anymore) but if you ask around, there’s always workarounds.

          Somebody, somewhere, in your area has figured it out. Just…once you get the answer, don’t post it on soccerbyives.net or it’ll stop working pretty quick.

          • elguapo says:

            i don’t have cable and have to rely on mls live to watch vancouver play. all their matches are shown nationally on tsn so EVERY match is blacked out by mls live. so to go around it i downloaded tunnelbear onto my mac. trust me, it is awesome! i pay $5/month and it changes the vpn of where my computer is at so i can watch van play without any issues. works absolutely great! if you’re gonna spend on mls live i strongly suggest downloading tunnelbear as well. at least check it out.

            for someone who doesn’t have cable i’m able to watch hulu from canada (not technically available to canadians) and also any of the bbc/sky sports that require you to be in the uk. just saying…give it a shot because it’s awesome.

            if it’s nationally on nbc sports you can change your vpn to say you’re in canada which allows you to watch freely.

        • dude says:

          you can its called proxy server theres plenty of services out there that provide you with connections to different parts of the country.or countries.

          link to mlbtvblackout.blogspot.com

  5. James says:

    “Both Precourt and McCullers also revealed that the club will in fact be losing money in this deal”.

    What? They are blacking out their fans AND loosing money on the deal. How is that not pure incompetence. If they miss step on the “rebrand” they will loose even more fans. Looks like dark days ahead for Crew fans.

  6. PeteO says:

    Here’s a free tip for Crew fans. Get a VPN service and MLS Live. Vypr VPN costs $80 per year, Live is $65. The VPN makes it look like you are accessing the internet from a different city (or country) of your choice. So for $145, you can get every Crew match on MLS Live. It’s also great for watching BPL matches on the BBC stream. You’re welcome.

    • Patrick says:

      So, they’re admitting this hampers expansion, it doesn’t satisfy the current fan base, and they’re losing money? I wish MLS had final say on these sort of deals and was able to squash it. One of the original jewels of MLS seems to be crumbling.

    • Hejduk4President says:

      Solid advice. Thanks, already Google-ing all of this.

    • Travis says:

      Was going to suggest a VPN as well, it does work well

  7. euroman says:

    MLS/ Crew wants to be major league but just don’t know how. Sorry Crew fans but maybe you should vote regarding the GM’s job status each year like the Sounders do, that might provide some leverage!

  8. arnold devries says:

    Wow. HD capability. Are you joking?. TFC have been a joke on the field for 7 years but they wouldn’t mess up these types of deals. Ugly strips and worse owner.

  9. lprevolution says:

    Meh on Fox. They’ve had their chance to shine and have treated MLS as second rate in most market

    • Hejduk4President says:

      Agree with you 50%. However, as a Columbus resident it was nice that I could always watch Crew games on the local Fox network Fox Sports Ohio.

      • lprevolution says:

        I agree. Same in Colorado. But, it was just second rate. After tonight’s game againts DCU, I’d say, it was good coverage with excellent picture.

  10. Far Albert says:

    I could see if time warner was paying the crew money than they could expect to be exclusive. But to lose money on the deal and give Twc exclusivity? The league needs to step in on this. They’re about to alienate the entire passion for soccer in columbus.
    Why can’t mls live has a login like so many other services? Do a directv login or an AT&T login. Make time warner users watch it in tv, but others can use mls live. It’s fixable but certain parties need to step forward.

  11. Hejduk4President says:

    Ughh…Columbus resident here. On the one hand, I guess I can’t be too surprised with this latest example of the Crew doing nothing to dispel the perception of firmly being an “MLS 1.0″ team. Time Warner is a pretty common cable provider for Columbus residents, so I would imagine that there are actually quite a few Crew fans that will be able to watch games.

    On the other hand, it is annoying for people (like me) who don’t have Time Warner and went from being able to watch Crew games on TV whenever they wanted to having to scramble to find alternative viewing options.

    At least this PR gaffe is being used to raise money for a new scoreboard. Which spontaneously caught fire last year. Wait, what?

  12. Roy says:

    I used to live in Columbus, and not much there made sense. Not a bad city, just a place with some goofy decisions like this one.

    • Hejduk4President says:

      Like what decisions, specifically? I’m a Texan but have lived in Cbus since 2008 so I like to think that I take a pretty impartial view of this city. Are you talking about decisions taken by the local sports teams? The mayor? Do tell.

  13. milbo says:

    sounds familiar…I

    s this a strategy by the new owner to move the team to Oklahoma…

  14. Andrew says:

    We can’t all be as smart as Sporting

    Check out @RobbHeineman’s Tweet: link to twitter.com

  15. CSD says:

    Crew fans I would say you could do a Lazio style protest but it might not be as affective if your stadium is normally half full.

    link to dailymail.co.uk

  16. Enos says:

    Wow. What a bunch of idots running the Crew. I always get frustrated at the lame DCU TV deals. This is waay worse.

  17. RAMONE says:

    Sorry to hear this Crew fans. As you probably already know from above comments though you are not the only ones. On one hand this means MLS is starting to make some money from TV deals to the point where these exclusive type of contracts are signed. On the other, it totally stinks when it shuts you out.

    The Portland Trail Blazers did this several years ago with Comcast (there is a channel called Comcast Sports Northwest that carries most of their games unless nationally televised and a few, like 5-10%, are still put on the local NBC affiliate). There is no live streaming option unless you are on a pirate site. Comcast then played hardball with every other cable company and satellite company that serves the region for years asking for exorbitant fees to sell them the Comcast Sports NW channel and they all said no thanks. A few as of late have finally picked the options up (and I suspect because the price came down, but don’t know that for sure), but many Blazer fans were forced to get Comcast Cable (if they could – many didn’t have the option) to see a games on TV.

    The NBA can absorb alienating 10% of their local and 50% of their outlying fans, I am not sure an MLS team can.

  18. Fredo says:

    I love all of the extra Galaxy programming TWC has in L.A.

  19. Peter D says:

    Thank goodness here in Seattle that even with 88 consecutive sold out games that they broadcast all the games locally in HD as well for anyone to see. Man the crews owner is a major dick head for doing that two days before the start of the season. Not everyone can get to a match. I have been a season holder for 6 years here and I sometimes need to record games to watch later because I am traveling etc. I would be pissed if that sort of greed was announced here. You guys deserve to lynch them.

  20. Brian says:

    Textbook example of how NOT to grow your brand.