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Broadcast sports: KMSP to take hit if Vikings' opener is not televised

  • Article by: Judd Zulgad
  • Star Tribune
  • August 30, 2007 - 8:31 PM

The Vikings aren't the only ones who are nervous about the potential for a blackout of their Sept. 9 opener against Atlanta at the Metrodome.

Fox-owned KMSP (Ch. 9) stands to take a financial hit if the game isn't sold out by noon next Thursday and therefore under NFL rules is prohibited from being televised in the Twin Cities and many secondary markets around the state.

The station is scheduled to televise the game and would have 16 units of advertising time. A blackout would mean a loss of that revenue for a telecast that would be guaranteed to generate big ratings. KMSP wouldn't even get a replacement game at noon that day.

It doesn't take much to figure out that even when the Vikings aren't very good they provide big viewership numbers. Last season an average of 506,877 households watched the 6-10 team on a weekly basis and 498,485 households watched the 12 Vikings games on Fox.

The Vikings and KMSP, who also entered into a three-year partnership this spring that will see the station air team-related programming, have had discussions about the situation. KMSP has begun heavy promotion of the home opener in recent days.

"They have a vested interest in the broadcast being aired on their station, and we have talked about what we can do to aggressively promote ticket-sale efforts to make sure it's on," said Steve LaCroix, Vikings vice president of sales and marketing.

As of Tuesday evening, the Vikings had to sell 5,800 tickets by 72 hours before kickoff or face their first blackout since 1997. The league requires the franchise to sell 62,000 tickets to consider a game at the Metrodome to be sold out. LaCroix said Thursday the team won't provide another update on the situation until Tuesday.

Sharper on the 9

Darren Sharper's agreement with KMSP will allow the Vikings safety to do much more than analyze that day's game for the 11 to 14 weeks he will appear this season.

As the co-anchor of "Fox 9 Sports Primetime," Sharper will do everything from features, to talking about his own team, to reading highlights from a variety of sporting events. Sharper will join sports anchor Jim Rich for the segment, which runs from 10:15 to 10:35 p.m. on Sundays and focuses on multiple topics.

Bill Dallman, news director at KMSP, said it was his idea to offer Sharper a larger role. "I thought, 'Why have him just do the standard commentator thing?' " Dallman said. "The guy has experience from doing NFL Europe games and working for the NFL Network, so why not utilize him? It's great training for the next step in his career."

Sharper, who signed with Channel 9 for this season, had done work on Mark Rosen's "Sports Sunday" show the past two years on WCCO (Ch. 4). The station talked to him about returning, but Sharper would have made only occasional appearances.

Fine-tuning

• The Big Ten Network did not have deals with Comcast, Charter, Mediacom or Dish Network as it launched Thursday. The BTN and Comcast still have not resumed talks. For those who can see the Gophers-Bowling Green on the network Saturday, Jim Kelly, Richard Baldinger and sideline reporter Dara McIntosh will have the call. BTN will be located at Ch. 220 on DirecTV.

Kevin Gorg has resigned as women's hockey coach at St. Thomas to accept an expanded role on FSN North's hockey coverage. Gorg, who was doing studio analysis for Wild games and is the game analyst for FSN's high school hockey coverage, will join the Gophers coverage.

• KSTP (Ch. 5) has signed an agreement with ESPN to carry the Dec. 17 Vikings-Bears Monday night matchup; the game also will air on the all-sports network.

• KMSP will have two half-hour Vikings shows this season that will air on Saturdays beginning Sept. 8. "Vikings Weekly," which began last year on FSN North, will be paired with a new program, "Vikings Gameplan." KFAN's Paul Allen, who also calls the Vikings on radio, will host the latter. Coach Brad Childress also will be a part of that show. The first four programs will air from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. beginning Sept. 8 before switching to the 4-5 p.m. slot on Oct. 6. FSN North plans to re-air both.

Judd Zulgad • jzulgad@startribune.com

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