Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Short Term Gain, Long Term Loss

Amazingly, the Scott and BR show this morning did not start off with a Chargers discussion.  They actually talked a little baseball.  What, you might wonder?  San Diego's loss last night to Chicago?  The race for second best record in the NL?  The now impossible to predict outcome in both Wild Card races?

No.  They talked about Channel 4 and the San Diego Padres broadcast rights.

Well, OK, that is a bit of a local story.  As you probably know, Cox Communications and Channel 4 will not be carrying Padres games in 2012.  Nor formal announcement has yet been made, but Scott rightly called it the 'worst kept secret in San Diego'.  Earlier this year Channel 4 employees were notified they would likely not be brought back for 2012.

On the one hand I agree with the XX 1090 morning talent.  It is sad to see Channel 4 lose the Padres.  They have done a professional job in presenting the Padres; they are not losing the contract due to a lack of competence.  Besides, who wishes job loss on anyone?  On the other hand, this turn of events is ultimately not solely the Padres fault; this decision today is the product of a business decision Cox made years ago, to not allow Padres games to be broadcast locally on anything but cable.

One of the biggest problems the San Diego Padres face in this market is how to build brand loyalty.  This team has had some success, but over their entire history they have usually been a bad team playing bad baseball.  Obviously brand loyalty starts there.  It has been said on multiple occasions San Diego is restricted by who their local fan base can be, hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean to the West, the Mojave Desert to the East, Mexico to the South, and Los Angeles Baseball to the North.  Complicating that, their three closest rivals (in terms of Geography) have all won a World Series; two of them have won one this millenium.  The other, the Dodgers, has been an institution in Southern California for better than 50 years, with multiple World Series titles, players making multiple appearances on TV, Vin Scully, and Fernandomania.

Having an artifical constraint like the broadcast rights has made the brand loyalty-building that much tougher, specifically hamstringing efforts in the San Diego Metro/San Diego County area.  The Padres could not reach all the households they should be able to reach based on a business decision Cox made.  I do not know and would be interested to find out if that exclusivity was written into the broadcast rights contract signed by Cox and the Padres.  I suspect it was, which would explain why the Padres could not influence Cox to amend their stance.  Once it was raised as an issue Cox should have seen this coming.

Of course it's moot now.  Fox will get the Padres for the next 15-20 years; they are building a channel specifically to cover the Padres; they will allow it to be received via cable or satellite.

I hope Cox enjoyed their short term gains and exclusive rights to the Padres.  In the name of that short-term gain they slit their own throat.  Whether or not the station continues to exist after this season remains to be seen.  When Fox San Diego stands up, it would be nice to see many familiar faces from the past few years doing Padre broadcasts again.

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