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Tigers owners exploring idea of regional sports network

World Series - San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers - Game 3

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 27: An exterior view of the stadium prior to Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park on October 27, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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The Detroit Tigers have broadcast their games on Fox Sports Detroit for many, many years. They’re still under contract to do it for several more years. But, as Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports today, that may change some time in the early 2020s:

The Ilitch family is considering forming a regional television network dedicated to coverage of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings professional sports franchises they own, The Detroit News has learned.

The network would not be launched until early in the next decade, after current Tigers-Red Wings contracts with Fox Sports Detroit have expired, said an executive with knowledge of the family’s preliminary plans. The source requested anonymity because of the potential project’s uncertain nature.

Henning notes that, while the Pistons are not owned by the Ilitch family, they could possibly become part of the deal as well. Not that anyone is commenting on it.

If the Tigers did this they’d join the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other teams to have their own network. The big question for such a venture is carriage rights -- getting local cable systems to carry the network, thereby allowing (a) people to see it; and (b) the Tigers to make money off of it -- but I suspect such a thing would be less of a hassle for the Tigers than it has proven to be for the Dodgers finding local carriage for their sports network.

This is partially because Tigers and Red Wings ratings are massive in Detroit, making it a much more attractive product than in Los Angeles, where there are far more other teams and entertainments to fill air time. Partially because, as Henning notes, Fox Sports Detroit is itself likely to undergo significant change as Fox will be required to divest itself of the network as part of its acquisition by Disney. If it is not owned by Fox and is not carrying Tigers and Red Wings games, it’s a far less attractive channel for cable operators, while the Ilitch-run network would be far more attractive.

Anyway, as the story says, this is a few years off. If it does have some traction, though, it would probably put to bed rumors that the Ilitches are thinking about selling the Tigers.

(h/t Historiophiliac)

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