26 February 2011

$alt River Field$ @ $ilent $tick

As a rule, I dont have a problem with untelevised exhibition games. Cactus contests should be intimate, visceral affairs - a first hand, bygone departure from the overexposed virtual reality consuming MLB's regular season.  Especially in Arizona, where we enjoy an embarrassing glut of live baseball ten months each year, and where six months of Daron Sutton broadcasts are already five too many.

All the same, given the Diamondbacks' ultra aggressive marketing demeanor under Derrick Hall, it's funny and awkward how FSN didnt televise his inaugural shindig at Salt River Fields - at least not on their flagship station with the most penetration.  This was pretty clearly the Dbacks' second most anticipated, scripted event of the year, between rehearsed All Star festivities and the combined exploitation of Colangelo's champions and 9/11, planned for September.

Today's game was sold out long ago, which means airing the event wouldn't compromise gate revenue.  Plus, a colorful crowd stretched across blankets on the outfield berm makes SRF "the place to be" to potential ticket buyers viewing from home. You'd trust this rudimentary marketing dynamic didnt escape our FO, overseeing franchise low attendance at an increasingly empty Chase Field.

Of course the awkward truth is that Derrick Hall, who has worked tirelessly to market away distinctions between fluff and competitive baseball, doesnt control which of his hyped concoctions gets televised on which cable channel. Not  even a destination event he's trumpeted for over a year. That's because it's up to Fox Sports Network, who paid Ken Kendrick millions for the option; today they opted to air Pac-10 basketball on FSNAZ, while relegating a much anticipated Dback event to so called "Plus" subscription channels, with implicitly "minus" penetration. 

It's an example of how contractually cashing in and cultivating a fan base arent the same thing, and are sometimes at odds.  The Dbacks already got paid by Fox, which gives Kendrick a degree of revenue certainty. But they also forfeited some control over their relationship with fans in the process.   Control over how they expose their most ballyhooed events to customers, many of whom never had live televised access to this one.

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