Rand: Fans want their Wolves TV

  • Updated: January 24, 2012 - 6:26 AM

The Wolves are on FSN as often this year as they were last year -- it just doesn't feel that way.


Fans sometimes get irritated when they can't find the Wolves on TV, thanks to the team's improved play and the long-awaited arrival of Ricky Rubio from Spain.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Last year, Ted Johnson -- the chief marketing officer and senior vice president of communications for the Timberwolves -- very rarely fielded calls, e-mails or tweets whenever a Wolves game wasn't televised.

"Not really," he said, chuckling.

This year? Completely different team. And a completely different story when it comes to fans being irritated when they can't find the Wolves on TV.

"This is certainly more of a recent phenomenon based on the increased level of interest," Johnson said.

When they come directly to Johnson, he patiently explains that the same percentage of Wolves games -- roughly 75 percent -- is televised locally this year as last year. Add in a handful of games shown nationally and it's pretty full coverage. But for fans unwilling to pay for NBA League Pass, it's still not enough -- particularly when high-impact games aren't on.

"It's especially because of the timing of the games," Johnson said. "You have this tremendous game on Friday night and everyone is so fired up, and it just so happens the next one is one of the dark games. Or the [first] game that Rubio started isn't on. ... It's bad luck. But we still hear from fans about it."

The good news for those with Wolves fever is that Monday's game against the Rockets started a string of six consecutive on Fox Sports North. And between Feb. 13 and April 4, either FSN or NBATV (sometimes both) are scheduled to carry 28 consecutive Wolves games.

But two consecutive games in early February are not slated to be televised. Same goes for five of the Wolves' final 10 regular-season games, when the Twins enter the FSN programming fray. If the Wolves stay relevant -- perhaps even chasing a playoff spot -- that closing stretch looms large. That's not to say, however, that Johnson and the Wolves are standing pat.

This year's FSN deal -- remade on the fly after the NBA settled its labor situation but after other schedules were already in place -- includes televising 50 of the Wolves' 66 games. Adding games would have to make business sense since FSN pays the Wolves a rights fee, but it is a possibility. Johnson said there have been discussions, too, with Channel 29 about adding a game or games.

"It's certainly a possibility that we could add something toward the end of the season," Johnson said, "but I also want to acknowledge that getting games broadcast is a complicated process."

The Wolves and FSN are in the middle of a multiyear contract. A future deal could include a higher number of games shown. For now, the Wolves are treating the new TV demand from fans for what it is.

"It's a blessing and a curse," Johnson said.


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