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Twins OK exclusive cable deal with FS North

  • Article by: NEAL JUSTIN
  • Star Tribune
  • February 17, 2011 - 6:57 AM

Cable TV just got a bigger share of Twins Territory.

Fox Sports North announced Wednesday that it will become the Minnesota Twins' exclusive home, which means the end of weekend games on broadcast channel WFTC, Ch. 29. It also means that the 18 percent of Twin Cities viewers who don't have cable or satellite will be left with only eight scheduled games airing nationally on the Fox network. Add in cable subscribers who only pay for the basic tier, which FSN is not part of, and you've got a lot of fans crying foul.

One of them is Adam Woolhouse. For years, the 31-year-old Bible salesman would wrap up yardwork and household chores on Saturday, leaving his Sunday afternoons free to watch his hometown baseball team on television.

No more. "It leaves a bad taste in my mouth," Woolhouse said, adding that he doesn't plan to spend the money to upgrade his cable. "It's not going to affect my love for the team. I know Ron Gardenhire and Joe Mauer didn't make the call. But it's going to affect what I think about management. The Twins have always been a small-market team and this screams of a big-market move."

Twins president Dave St. Peter said that the organization was sensitive to fan reaction, but that cable exclusivity in local markets was "inevitable." At least 16 teams have already gone that route, he said. The Detroit Tigers, for example, will air 152 games on its FSN affiliate with nine national games on Fox. Every team will have a similar setup by 2014, he predicted.

"The days of significant packages with broadcast TV in sports are gone," he said.

Sports teams and cable are getting cozier because money can be gathered from both cable subscriptions and advertisers.

"It gives us the ability to maximize our investment," said FSN North general manager Mike Dimond.

Neither Dimond or St. Peter would discuss financial details or the length of the deal. In a short statement, WFTC general manager Carol Rueppel said she was "disappointed" that the station would no longer carry games -- 25 of them last year -- but said she looked forward to the eight games on sister station KMSP, Ch. 9, which she also oversees.

The news isn't all bad for Twins fans. More games will be available in some form on TV -- at least 158 out of the 162 scheduled during the regular season. That compares to 133 in 2005. "We're not withholding games," said Dimond, who boasted that Twins games are second only to the St. Louis Cardinals in regional ratings. "They're there for people who want to find them."

Also, most cable subscribers sign up for more than just the basic tier. Dave Nyberg, a senior corporate affairs manager for Comcast, said that nearly 90 percent of his company's customers in Minnesota get FSN, which reaches more than 2 million homes across Minnesota and neighboring states.

Still, some fans will feel stung by the change, but at least one is already searching for a bright side.

"This is the perfect excuse to listen to John Gordon's last season calling games on the radio," Woolhouse said.

njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431 Follow Justin on Twitter: @nealjustin

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