Fox Sports New Orleans Details

Published: October 12, 2012

John Heidtke, Fox Sports New Orleans Senior Vice President and General Manager, graciously talked with Hornets247 today about New Orleans’ newest Regional Sports Network and New Orleans Hornets broadcasts.

They are still giving out Nobel Prizes to people who study how to move light and images from point A to point B, so that should tell you how complicated this light stuff is. We’re all used to television and laugh at movies about men out of time who marvel at the invention.

Somewhere between all that Swedish Cheddar and gaping open mouthed at moving pictures are found the men and women who use the technology to delight us all. They set up all the wires and lenses and satellites to try continually to recapture the magic moment when you first realized the images and sounds of the world are being delivered, as they happen, right to you. Even more so when those images and sounds come from other magic moments.

Enter, broadcasting, the science, art, and business of communicating that information.

Enter, the broadcaster.

Hornets fans are well-aware the not all broadcasters are created equally, so we have kept an eye on this for a long while.

Then, like clockwork, a new TV deal was struck shortly after Hornets ownership was secured and a long-term lease was signed for the New Orleans Arena.

The new broadcaster is Fox Sports. They are creating a Fox Sports New Orleans to serve as a new Regional Sports Network in their portfolio. Signing the New Orleans Hornets to a broadcasting deal was key for the network, but the channel will be so much more.

Part of our duty here at Hornets247, and my personal mission, is to make sure Hornets fans are well aware of the major factors that affect the long-term viability of the team here in New Orleans. According to Commissioner Stern, there is a three-legged stool of government support, corporate support, and a strong local tv deal. To me, the floor on which that rests is an Arena, and we’ve got that covered for now, but we’ll keep an eye on it.

The one leg of the stool pointed us to John Heidtke, Fox Sports New Orleans Senior Vice President and General Manager. He graciously chatted with Hornets247 about the network, how it related to the Hornets, and how it will operate generally, as the success of the network is tied to the success of the Hornets quite intimately.

The Punchline for Hornets Fans

There will be approximately 75 games every season, but there is no `No Game Left Behind’ policy.

All games will be broadcast in 720p, just like the Rangers, etc. (this is partially based on this conversation and partially based on research on the technical information about broadcasts of other teams). The graphics, sound, and look-and-feel will be familiar to those who have watched Fox Sports Southwest professional sports broadcasts.

The full launch will be on October 31st, but there will be a soft launch prior to that.

Anyone who had access to Fox Sports Southwest or Fox Sports Houston and is in the Fox Sports New Orleans territory will have access to Fox Sports New Orleans, thus, Hornets games, pending distribution deals.

The Fox Sports New Orleans territory includes parts of Eastern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida through at least Panama City.

Hornets games will be available on Fox Sports New Orleans and other Fox Sports Regional Sports Network to be determined on a market-by-market basis and subject to team exclusivity rules extending out approximately 75 miles from home territories.

All providers in Louisiana currently carry Fox Sports Southwest, per Mr. Heidtke, and these will carry Fox Sports New Orleans on the same channel your provider currently uses for Fox Sports Southwest, subject to the decisions of distributors.

Fox Sports New Orleans will be available in the New Orleans Area on Cox, Dish, DirecTV, and AT&T. Charter is still being negotiated. There were too many to distributors to ask about, but, in general, if you have Fox Sports Southwest and are in the territory described above, you will likely have Fox Sports New Orleans. If you are in the territory but do not have Fox Sports Southwest, you will likely keep your current Fox Sports Regional Sports Network but will have access to Hornets games to at least some extent when there is not a conflict. Authorized users on Charter accounts can call 1-888-438-2427 to express your opinion on programming, per a Charter representative.

General Programming

Fox Sports New Orleans has established a beachhead of sorts by signing the Hornets to a long-term broadcasting deal, but as a Regional Sports Network, they will cover, of course, sports in general. Moreover, they tailor their coverage to the region.

Though branded as Fox Sports New Orleans (so they can talk about the party starting and the like in their marketing), they will cater to Louisiana as a whole and to the Gulf South. For example, they have already signed rights to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association events, such as the football game of the week and the football state championships.

They will work to add Saints, LSU, and SEC coverage.

Any local or regional sport, subject to existing deal, is on the table to have some sort of programming on Fox Sports. For instance, Fox Sports Southwest covers the University Interscholastic League, which governs an assortment of primary and secondary school competitions . . . including mathematics competitions. Yes, really. Now, THAT is what I’m talking about.

Full disclosure: I am a mathematician.

Besides producing original content, being a part of the Fox Sports constellation of Regional Sports Networks will allow them to bring content in from other parts of the Network. Thus, Fox Sports New Orleans will broadcast Texas Rangers games and Dallas Stars games. Dallas Cowboys dedicated coverage will be available in most of the region, but not in New Orleans due to NFL exclusivity. There will be SEC and C-USA coverage, as well as some Big XII programming available from partners in the Network. Original programming will likely come in time.

Business Details

Fox Sports New Orleans has to pay for broadcast rights for all of these sports, plus pay people to develop content and run the business. They generate revenue primarily from two sources. The first is from distributors. This is the likely hold-up with Charter since they already have a channel assigned. This channel thing is not as easy a problem to solve as it may seem, but given that it is eliminated, it’s likely a money thing. Money things are easier to solve since both sides can meet in the middle (I’ll be happy to write down the appropriate numbers, fellas). Bandwidth, etc. can be harder to fix. The second is from marketing, generally speaking. They more eyes they get onto commercials, the better they do.

Thus, they have two financial incentives to stay on as many distributors as possible, and this helps the Hornets in the process.

Fox Sports New Orleans is still being set up, but it will likely have a small local footprint, around 20 people. The main offices will be in Dallas. This is similar to the situation with Fox Sports Houston.

The fact that Benson owns Fox 8 has led many to ask if the Hornets will broadcast some games on that channel. This year, likely no, but there is potential for it to operate as an overflow station. Many NBA teams have a secondary broadcaster that picks up the games not carried by the primary broadcaster or national networks. Perhaps Fox 8 can serve in that capacity. Being a network affiliate, Fox 8 would have some problems in fitting this kind of programming in, but if the need was just a few games, then maybe it could be worked out.

This, however, is a question for Fox 8 and for later.

For the moment, just enjoy the steps forward the franchise has taken in the past 6 months since the luckiest Friday 13th ever back in April. This TV deal is one of those three legs, and the second was addressed with the recent lease amendments.

Next up: corporate support. This has been an issue since day Jazz. Benson’s empire may be able to FINALLY but this stool right so we fans can prop our feet up and enjoy the game.


Nota bene: Season tickets are not included on that tripod list. Season tickets should fall under corporate support mostly. Those premium seats are the hard ones to sell to many consumers, and those should be going to businesses and business owners to some extent, something the Hornets have been historically bad at. This has something to with the market, as people just want to go to sporting events to watch them, and with the Hornets not training the market on how to use the tickets as investments. This, however, is a story for another day, and that day was yesterday, so to speak.


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