The Utah Jazz played their final game ever on FSN-Utah on Monday. They're headed for a new TV home but they're not going anywhere.
As of Friday, FSN-Utah will be rechristened ROOT Sports. But the only thing that will change for local viewers is the name the channels will remain the same.
"The key is same channel, same programming, same service provider," said Amy Turner, ROOT Sports' director of marketing, client development and communications.
Local sports fans have been through more than their share of upheaval in recent years. The Mountain West Conference launched their own hard-to-find network, leaving BYU and Utah on channels fans had barely heard of, like The Mtn., Versus and CBS C.
The Utah Jazz moved all local telecasts from broadcast to cable, signing a long-term deal with FSN-Utah. That contract remains in force with ROOT Sports through June 2021.
Talk about stability.
"Fans will see and hear a different name, but the channel position will stay the same," said Jeremy Castro, the Jazz's vice president of broadcasting and operations. "The broadcasters will stay the same. It's really a different face, and that's it."
(Major changes in graphics and the on-air look of Jazz games will come when the 2011-12 season tips off in the fall.)
The big change for FSN-Utah actually occurred three years ago and nobody noticed. In February 2008, Liberty Media swapped its interest in News Corp. for News Corp.'s interest in DirecTV, FSN-Rocky Mountain, FSN-Pittsburgh, FSN-Northwest and $550 million in cash.
In November 2009, Liberty created DirecTV Sports Networks, the new parent company to the three regional sports networks.
ROOT Sports remains an affiliate of Fox Sports Net, so FSN's national programming will continue on the renamed channel. Renamed after "months of research" that included focus groups and talks with teams and cable and satellite providers.
"It's the next brand evolution in regional sports networks," Turner said. "What's unique about ROOT Sports is it has two meanings rooting for the home team and being grounded, connected and an insider with our team partners and their fans."
"Not that our broadcasters are going to be rooting, but this is where fans come to root," Castro said.
ROOT Sports sees itself as the home team covering the home team. Just like a beat writer at a newspaper focuses on the team he covers, ROOT Sports will focus on the teams it telecasts.
ESPN or TNT try to balance between both teams when they telecast the Jazz; ROOT Sports telecasts are intended for local fans.
The regional sports network has undergone name changes before. It launched in 1988 as Prime Sports, known locally as both Prime Sports Rocky Mountain and Prime Sports Intermountain West.
Its original programming package included about 20 Jazz games telecast in Utah; Denver Nuggets games in Colorado; Colorado State football; and the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo.
In 1996, News Corp. acquired Prime Sports and rebranded all its regional sports networks Fox Sports Net. The Denver-based channel became FSN-Rocky Mountain; it became FSN-Utah locally.
But this time around, "It's not just a name change," Turner said. "It's an opportunity to be something different. It's really developing a brand that is focused on the local fans' viewing experience and creating an identity that aligns more closely with our teams The Jazz and the Rockies are all about their fans, and we're all about their fans, too."
3 regional networks
The regional networks reach more than 8.7 million viewers in 18 states.
ROOT Sports (Rocky Mountain region), based in Denver, is the home of the Utah Jazz, Colorado Rockies, University of Colorado, University of Denver as well as Big 12 football and women's basketball, Pac-10 football and basketball and ACC basketball.
ROOT Sports (Northwest region), based in Bellevue, Wash, is the home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders FC, Portland Timbers, University of Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Gonzaga ane Seattle University.
ROOT Sports (Pittsburgh region), based in Pittsburgh, is the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins and high school sports as well as select Big East men's and women's basketball games.