When you turn on your TV on Wednesday to watch the Wild or Wolves — or perhaps for the first time Thursday when you want to watch the Twins opener — you will find that Fox Sports North is no longer there. In its place: Bally Sports North, a rebranded channel with a lot of the same familiar faces and programming but a plenty of differences as well.
To guide you through that change, I talked to FSN/BSN executive Mike Dimond on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast. He gave a snapshot of what to expect — and also answered the two biggest questions he tends to get: What is the future of sports gambling related to in-game viewing on Bally Sports North? And what is the status of streaming services like YouTube TV and Hulu, who aren't carrying the channel right now?
If you don't see the podcast player, click here to listen.
Here are a few highlights from our conversation:
On what the viewer expect – both in terms of things that stay the same with the rebrand to Bally Sports North and in terms of what might be different:
"Certainly when you do a rebrand, it's going to look different. But … it's the same place, the same channel it was before, same announcers, all the great people that have brought sports to Minnesota for all these years and decades are still going to be in place. The announcers aren't changing. When you turn your TV on for the next event, it's going to come on the same channel it did before. You're not going to have to go looking for it. …
"The exciting part is that over time we're going to venture into some new programming. One of the challenges we want to meet going forward is how do we program other day parts. The pregame and postgame we've traditionally done are all going to be there and in place. … But how do we really leverage what we have with all the RSNs we have across the country and the other Sinclair assets that we have?"
On the future of how we consume sports on TV, whether the possibility of in-game gambling down the line or something more on the immediate horizon:
"That's a very popular question not only with fans and viewers but with teams and even employees – about where our business goes. It's obvious our business is going through a transition right now. … Particularly with sports betting – which is certainly a common question and a legitimate question, and we've made no bones about it that it's part of our plan and future going forward – but it's going to be on a case-by-case basis. You mentioned it's not in Minnesota yet. It is in Iowa. Until it becomes legal in the state, there's nothing we can do with regard to sports betting.
"What you will see over time is what we call game-ification. … The traditional way to watch a game if you want kick back and watch a game with an adult beverage, that will still be available. But we're also going to create another experience. There's a younger, different audience we want to be able to reach as well. … (We want them) to be able to participate in some way, shape or form of game-ification within a prize-winning (model) – not sports betting, you're not saying what the odds are or doing those things, but kind of involved in what do you think is going to happen, predictive gaming.
On subscribers to Dish and streaming services not being able to access FSN/BSN:
That and the sports betting question are probably the two most prominent questions we get. Look, what I'd say about it is that we're as frustrated as the fans are and the teams are. This is not a choice that we made to withhold programming from anyone. It's a business decision that has been made by these carriers not to carry. If you look at what's happened, they've said no to the (regional sports networks) at the same time that Hulu and YouTube have raised prices. So in the end, unfortunately the consumer is the one that loses out. They're paying more and getting less. …
"Fans need to make the decision themselves as to what's right for their viewership. It is available on other platforms. AT&T is the streaming option right now. And then you have your traditional cable and satellite. I know that sometimes that doesn't resonate well with fans, but the fact of the matter is that's where it is. And in the conversations and what we've represented to these entities is no different than what other major operators have agreed to – Comcast, DirecTV, Charter. It's all in line with that. It's not in any way unfair. … (It's) concerning that the way (fans) had access before was taken away. Yes, for sure. But there still is access to it. It just means a different choice.
On what fans will notice the most when they turn on Bally Sports North for the first time:
The biggest thing you're going to see is what it looks like on the air and what it sounds like. For decades we've used the same graphics package and the same music. I can tell you I've been around this company for a long time, and I'm really looking forward to new music. It was good music, but it's kind of run its course. Just don't be thrown when you turn on your television or you're watching on the app. It's not going to say Fox Sports North or FSN. It will be Bally Sports. The colors will change. Fox was a blue and white, and this is a red and white network, if you will, so it's going to look different. But the graphics are all high-end, all-new, and the presentation of the games is going to be as good or better than it ever was when we were Fox.