A potential Detroit regional sports network is being evaluated by the Ilitch family, owners of the Detroit Tigers and NHL’s Red Wings.
The Tigers and Red Wings are both currently televised on Fox Sports Detroit, and have traditionally drawn solid ratings over the years. That broadcast arrangement could change down the road, however, as the Ilitches are considering the potential launch of a regional sports network. If launched, the network would be anchored by Tigers and Red Wings’ broadcasts and coverage, with other sports and entertainment offerings factoring into its programming.
The exploration process of a potential regional sports network was announced by the Ilitch organization on Thursday, but such a channel is unlikely to begin airing until the early 2020’s–once the teams’ contracts with Fox Sports Detroit expire. More from The Detroit News:
The network would not be launched until early in the next decade, after current Tigers-Red Wings contracts with Fox Sports Detroit have expired, said an executive with knowledge of the family’s preliminary plans. The source requested anonymity because of the potential project’s uncertain nature….
The Tigers and Red Wings have been airing on FSD for the past two decades, and in their peak years posted ratings that per-capita were among the best of any market in professional sports. They have consistently finished 1-2 in local prime-time programming during their regular-season schedules, even in recent years as both teams have fallen out of the playoffs and dealt with the desolation of rebuilding cycles.
“FOX Sports Detroit is a great partner and we look forward to discussing renewal and extension possibilities,” Chris Granger, Group President, Sports and Entertainment, Ilitch Holdings, Inc., said in the statement. “At the same time, we have two perennially highly-rated and historic franchises, which provide compelling year-round content and programming. As such, we feel our organization is uniquely positioned to explore the launch of what we believe could be a highly successful regional sports network.”
The Ilitch family’s prospective move comes at a time of turbulence in the regional sports network galaxy. FSD is a division of 21st Century Fox, which last December was purchased by Disney for $71 billion. But the Justice Department ruled this summer that Fox must divest itself of its 22 regional sports networks because Disney already owned sports-network giant ESPN.
It remains to be seen whether this concept becomes a reality, but it would represent another strong tie between the Tigers and Red Wings franchises. The Ilitch family has owned both teams for years, and the Red Wings’ 2017 opening of Little Caesars Arena puts them just blocks away from the Tigers’ Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. Additionally, the Ilitches have contended that they remain committed to owning the Tigers–despite rumors of a potential sale–and the launch of a regional sports network could be a key part of their long-term plans for the team.