Scott D. Pierce: It's hard to believe, but RSL fans are happy

Published January 30, 2012 8:52 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This doesn't happen very often. A group of local sports fans seems to be on board with a television deal made by their team.

Real Salt Lake's new contract with KTVX/KUCW, which — as reported here — will put 10 games on Channel 4, 20 games on Channel 30, and all 30 games in high-definition, has been met with overwhelming approval on various message boards. (A lot more positive comments than those about RSL's new jerseys.) And it's a big upgrade for the team for a couple of reasons:

• High definition has become more than a luxury — it's a necessity. If you're not in HD, you're doing fans a disservice. Watch a soccer (or football) game in HD once and it's hard to go back. Not just because the picture is better, but also because you can see more of the field.

• Despite the seeming ubiquitousness of cable and satellite TV, one in five Utah households isn't hooked up. And you can pick up Channels 4 and 30 over the air virtually anywhere in the state. This shouldn't be considered criticism of KUTV/KMYU. The fact is that soccer fans got to see a lot of games over the past few years. And, frankly, I'll miss David James doing play-by-play.

(And that's not criticism of Bill Riley, who'll do TV play-by-play this season.)

RSL execs had mixed feelings about the switch. The folks at KUTV/KMYU were "great partners," according to team president Bill Manning. But there were two things the new partners can provide that the old ones couldn't:

• An HD signal for all local telecasts. KMYU isn't in HD, and the station's new owners, Sinclair, have no plans to upgrade anytime soon.

• Contractually, KUTV could pre-empt CBS programming for only a couple of games a year. KTVX's contract allows it to pre-empt ABC programming nine times this season. (The 10th game is a 5 p.m. MT start.)

KTVX will also pre-empt its local newscasts — the main source of a station's revenue — seven times for RSL games. But when you're No. 4 in the ratings, you have to try harder.

Thirteen of the 20 games on Channel 30 will be on Saturdays, when The CW doesn't air any programming. The station will be hearing from "America's Next Top Model" fans over the five Wednesday-night games, but CW shows will be rescheduled. (There's also one game on a Thursday and one on a Friday.)

In addition, the team is showing its commitment to fans by sending Riley and analyst Brian Dunseth to 15 away games this season. There's no underestimating how much that improves the quality of a telecast over having announcers sit in a studio and watch a video feed.

This is a win for RSL, a win for the fans, and — possibly — a win for Channels 4 and 30. Win-win-win doesn't happen often.

Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog a sltrib.com/blogs/tv.