FSN Northwest transitions to ROOT Sports

January 3, 2011 

Last month, we were warned that FSN Northwest, FSN Pittsburgh and FSN Rocky Mountain officially become ROOT Sports by baseball's Opening Day.

It will be interesting to see if the move is more than just a rebranding in order to provide distance from its days under Fox, but I do know incorporating “Northwest” as part of the name gave sports fans in the region reason to view the network as their own. And there’s some concern/comments from fans on how/if this will affect the programming they’ve come to appreciate.

FSN Northwest is the cable partner for the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Portland Beavers, Portland Timbers, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Gonzaga Bulldogs and Seattle University.

And “partner” it definitely is. There’s not much hard-hitting coverage or pointed interviews conducted by the broadcast teams. In fact, one columnist wrote in snarky fashion that “Root” probably is a more appropriate name.

Among the sports paraphernalia in my garage is a Prime Sports Northwest banner, which came into my possession more than 15 years ago. If my timeline is correct, Liberty Media owned Prime at the time.

It sold several of its regional networks to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., in 1996. After 10 years, Liberty Media re-acquired their Northwest, Pittsburgh and Rocky Mountain stations, but it didn’t revamp the names. Indeed, fans in the Tri-Cities likely spot the FSN Northwest headquarters in Bellevue as they drive Interstate 90 to see the M’s and the Seahawks.

What you may not know is FSN is a subsidiary of DirecTV Sports Networks, and according to the network, FSN Northwest delivers more than 350 live events each year to more than 3.4 million homes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

Mark Shukek, CEO of DirecTV Sports Networks, wrote in the ROOT Sports news release, “It has been nearly three years since our businesses were under ownership of News Corp.’s Fox umbrella, so we feel it’s time to move in a new direction and support a brand that is entirely our own.”

One hope is that the ROOT Sports website will be easier to find than the FSN Northwest site was. Searching for it through the Fox Sports portal could be frustrating on deadline.

On the other hand, this recent news gives me an opportunity to thank Liberty Media/DirecTV for providing the TV simulcast of The Dan Patrick Show. I’m a loyal listener of the radio program via iTunes podcast, but now, if I want, I can watch the live broadcast at 6 a.m. on Charter.

While he comes off as arrogant at times, I enjoy Patrick’s banter with his “Danettes,” the guest list is exemplary and he’s arguably the best interviewer in sports.

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