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Preds, FOX reach new TV rights deal

The Nashville Predators and FOX Sports Tennessee have reached a new long-term television rights agreement. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“This is exciting for us,” Nashville Predators Executive Vice President Chris Parker said. “It is a further sign of how successful we have been over the last couple years and how significant the growth of the Predators brand and overall fan interest has become.”

Jeff Genthner, Senior Vice President and General Manager of FOX Sports Tennessee and SportSouth, said in a press release, “The Predators are a valued partner with a passionate and loyal following. We’re pleased to reach an agreement that will make FOX Sports Tennessee the home of Nashville Predators Hockey for many years to come.”

Predators COO Sean Henry added, “FOX is visionary when they see a product growing or a team changing who and what they are, and that’s what you see right now. They realize how special this franchise is and where it’s going. That’s what we’re most encouraged about.”

This long-term agreement will have multiple positive effects on the Predators organization, off the ice and potentially on the ice.

“Everything we’ve done in the last several years, the goal is pretty simple – to continue to grow our fan base, to continue to grow our revenue,” Henry said. “Every time we bring in more money it gives more tools to best run hockey operations department in hockey. As Barry Trotz says so well, there’s no longer the word ‘can’t’ in our vocabulary.”

FOX Sports Tennessee, along with sister station SportSouth, will televise a minimum of 75 regular season games beginning in the 2013-14 NHL season. The key word there is “minimum,” which accounts for the potential of NBC or NBC Sports Network picking up games. Every game that isn’t televised nationally will be carried by FOX Sports Tennessee.

“The absolute intent is to be able to say to fans that we are like every other market, where every single game is covered and you don’t have to go looking around to find it,” Parker said.

Forty-six of the Predators’ 48 games this season will be televised by FOX Sports Tennessee, the other two being covered nationally.

In addition to games, Parker mentioned that the Predators hope to increase the overall coverage on FOX. The team would like to broadcast more classic games or instant classics, even with the lockout in the rear-view mirror. The Predators also have interest in adding a pre-game show to its coverage.

“Our goal is to expand our overall programming as much as we can throughout the course of this deal,” said Parker, who wouldn’t rule out the possibility of additional all-access shows and/or documentaries like Predators Snapshot, or perhaps a coach’s show.

The Predators’ regional viewership reaches over four million cable and satellite households across Tennessee, Kentucky and northern portions of Alabama and Mississippi. Half of the Predators’ games will be televised in the Atlanta market.

“When you look at trying to adopt or convert hockey fans in a market where a team previously existed, that’s huge for us. To be able to go into that market and get 50 percent of our games on and sell to those people to get adopted into the Predators family, that’s tremendous,” Parker said.

Some satellite providers in Kentucky currently do not offer FOX Sports South or SportSouth on their basic packages, resulting in some fans not being able to see Predators games.

“It’s unfortunate. We hope this issue is resolved shortly so that everyone can see the games,” said Parker, who encourages the effected fans to contact their local provider.

The Predators have seen an increase in television ratings on FOX Sports Tennessee and SportSouth in recent years. Ratings increased by 40 percent from the 2010-11 season to the 2011-12 season, and 20 percent from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Game Five of the first round against Detroit last April generated a 5.2 rating on SportSouth, the highest rating for a playoff game in franchise history.

The Jan. 19 game against Columbus, which generated a 2.2 rating, was the highest rated season opener in franchise history according to the Predators, which was followed up by a 2.3 rating against St. Louis on Jan. 21. The Predators are averaging a 1.7 rating through the first several games of the season.

According to Nielsen, the highest-rated Predators regular season game was a 2.9 on March 29, 2007, a game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of these record ratings numbers is the increase of viewership in outlying markets such as Memphis and Knoxville. According to Parker, the peak ratings in those markets have risen to 0.4 and 0.6, which was the average rating in Nashville just a few years ago.

“We want to be visible and relevant throughout the entire state,” Parker said. “The more people in Memphis and Knoxville that decide to tune in regularly, the better off we’re going to be long-term.”

Also, there will be no change in the broadcast booth. This is currently the 15th season Pete Weber and Terry Crisp have manned the Predators’ broadcast booth, and the Predators look forward to that relationship continuing.

“We’ve got a couple of gems, there’s no doubt about it. People identify with them, and that’s special,” Parker said.

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