Could This Be The End of STO?

The Cleveland Indians started their own TV network, Sportstime Ohio, back in 2006 in hopes of adding an additional revenue stream to their organization. By 2007 they were the home of the Cleveland Indians, showing close to 150 Tribe games a year, and trying to create other local sports programming that would compete with Fox Sports Ohio.

The money making venture was hoped to be a cash cow for the Dolan family ownership group, the way the old SportsChannel used to be here. Instead, STO has been mostly the place you go for Tribe games. They became the cable home of the Cleveland Browns, but do not carry any of their games.

Most of the other programming – like Bruce Drennan’s “All Bets are Off,” “Chuck’s Last Call,” and Tee It Up Ohio” have had some success, but the channel has not shown the growth the owners hoped it would and additional quality programming is still needed. The truth is once the baseball season ends, many people forget about STO entirely.

Which brings us to this. Sources tell WFNY that Sportstime Ohio could soon be sold to one of two companies – Fox Sports Ohio or Time Warner Cable.

edit: Back on July 6th, Kyle Swenson of Cleveland Scene posted this rumor. It now appears to have some real legs.

FSN, a national network with affiliates througout the country, already has a deal as the cable home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and had the Indians before STO was created. It would be a seamless move if this were to happen.

The Time Warner group would be interesting. TWC just scored a major NBA coup by acquiring the cable rights to the Los Angeles Lakers on a 20-year contract starting in 2012 and are said to be targeting the Dodgers next when their deal expires with FSN in 2013. They are obviously trying to become a national power in sports broadcasting and locking up one of the biggest sports franchises in the country – the Lakers – is a giant first step.

Per the LA Times article:

The contract with the Lakers not only gives Time Warner Cable a grip on the most popular franchise in the region, but new clout to try to either lure subscribers away from competitors — including DirecTV, Verizon Fios and AT&T U-Verse — or get those competitors to pay big bucks to carry the still unnamed channels.

Meanwhile back in Cleveland, STO’s struggles seem to be real, even though ratings for Tribe games are up dramatically over this time last year, but that won’t be enough to sustain them as a network, according to our sources.

I’m betting you will hear more about this in the near future, but don’t be surprised to see a shakeup in the TV sports landscape in our fair city.