I’m not going to be one of the Padres Public bloggers with a “The Padres Are Blowing It” headline, mostly because I love writing headlines, but mention the Padres and TV in the same sentence somewhere in San Diego, and people are going to get angry. Or shrug from apathy. Or say they’ve been on Cox for so long that they haven’t had a complaint about their Padres TV coverage since they decided that they didn’t like Matt Vasgersian and Mark Grant together. They’re wrong about that*, of course, but that’s what they’d say. I actually don’t know if any of this is true, but I figure these are the basic options.
The Padres finally signed their new TV contract with Fox Sports last spring to bring a new regional sports network to town called Fox Sports San Diego, but the catch was that half the county couldn’t see the games on TV. AT&T U-Verse, Dish Network, and Time Warner hadn’t added Fox Sports San Diego, the exclusive provider of Padres games in San Diego, to their channel guides. This year, things are markedly better, with only Time Warner still holding out as the sole provider not carrying the network. The problem is that they control over 20% of the San Diego market, so we’ve still got a huge chunk of the county without access to the games.
It’s gotten so acrimonious over the last 12 months that local politicians have begun speaking up regarding the dispute. Mayor Bob Filner wrote a letter. City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner has set hearings, and is talking publicly about possibly finding a way to get the northern part of San Diego out of their Franchise Agreement with Time Warner if they don’t start showing the games. The latter is actually an interesting threat. The former isn’t much of anything.
Most Padres fans have options now. If you have Time Warner, you can probably switch providers. AT&T U-Verse is available just about anywhere that Time Warner is, or, if you have the capability and direct view of the southern sky, you can switch to either dish company. Some people will switch or have switched just to watch the games. Many won’t. Honestly, switching cable providers is a pain in the ass and most people in town don’t care enough about the Padres to go through the hassle.
This, however, isn’t your typical article about the FSSD situation. Rehashing out of the way, I’m here to both give everyone a reality check, and to show how bad the Padres’ TV coverage has been since their inception. The fact is that, with U-Verse and Dish signed on, San Diego has never had Padres coverage this good.
Last year was the first time in franchise history that all 162 Padres games were shown live on television in San Diego. This year, it will be the same, and a surprising amount of spring training games are being televised as well. I work during the time most of them will be on, but I’ve still had the chance to catch a game this spring. Kyle Blanks hit a homer. It was awesome.
Cox never broadcast all 162 games during the 15 years they owned the contract. Before Cox, when I was a child, you were lucky if you got half the games split between KFMB and KUSI. I honestly don’t know what it was like before I was born in 1981. I’m sure someone will explain in the comments. I’m guessing, just based on what I know about TV before cable, that it wasn’t great.
Starting on game 1 of this season, the Padres will be broadcast to approximately 80% of San Diego televisions. Under the deal with Cox that lasted from 1997-2011 and created Channel 4 (or Ch4 or 4SD or whatever they called it), they never got to this many TVs. For years, Cox had exclusive rights to the Padres, although they loaned out Sunday games to KUSI through 2003, I think just for old time’s sake. Later on, they were forced to share the Padres with Time Warner, but the Padres were never carried by U-Verse, DirecTV, or Dish Network during the Cox years. They may have gotten somewhere between 60-70% of county coverage, but never the percentage they’ll be reaching on April 1, 2013.
When you combine the number of games shown with the percentage of San Diegans able to see them, 2013 will be the best TV coverage of the Padres ever. As Woe Doctor’s Bryant said when he realized how poorly the Padres have been covered on TV in the past, “All this time I thought I listened to the Padres on the radio because I enjoyed it more, but now I’m learning it’s because I had no other options. This is earth-shattering.” The further back in time you go, the more crazy it seems. No wonder Jerry Coleman is an icon in San Diego. For much of the Padres history, as radio play-by-play man, he was our only connection between the community and the Padres. Not because we loved listening to him (we did and do), but because we had no other choice.
I’m not making excuses. TV coverage in town is still substandard. If you’re broadcasting professional sports to that team’s home town, you should have 100% coverage of the market. There shouldn’t be any other option. I hope the Padres and Time Warner come to an agreement. Maybe political pressure will actually come to bear on Time Warner and they’ll concede. Maybe FSSD, in the interest of putting all of this behind them for the sake of the community, will budge. I’m not counting on either**.
If you’re willing to change providers but holding out hope for an agreement before the season starts, I’d suggest just making the switch now. Time Warner sucks anyway. You’re missing out right now on Rico Noel stolen bases and Jaff Decker strikeouts. I saw Matt Stites and Kevin Quackenbush pitch, and Jonathan Galvez hit a double off the wall. Spring training baseball is great, and you might as well get on it while you still can.
Hell, Padres Public is taking over the FSSD broadcast this Wednesday for TWO innings. Don’t you want to see that? I think it’s going to be a train wreck of awesome. I might actually turn the volume on for it, and I always watch the games on mute***. And if you’re stuck on Time Warner for whatever reason, I’m sorry. It sucks. It is not acceptable in 2013, but it’s a Padres tradition. You have to admit though, as bad as it still is, when it comes to the Padres on TV in San Diego, we’ve never had it so good.
*The Padres need to free Matty V. from his MLBN hell. When does his contract expire? Boy did that network not work out the way everyone hoped.
**I conceived this post 2 weeks in advance. I wrote most of it a week in advance.
***More on this in an upcoming post that I can’t wait to write. I love me some me.
If you want more of me, I’m on Twitter @The_NV. I tweet a lot. The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays.