Real Salt Lake has signed a new local television deal that just might be the best in Major League Soccer. Local fans will see at least 30 games live on Salt Lake's ABC and CW affiliates and every game will be in HD.
"The commissioner is very happy with this deal," said RSL team president Bill Manning. Salt Lake will be the only team to have all its local telecasts on broadcast stations, and the format is a big deal for MLS commissioner Don Garber and his team.
"They want every game in HD," Manning said. "That came from the league."
"Our owners, too," added Trey Fitz-Gerald, RSL's vice president of broadcasting and communications. Dave Checketts and Dell Loy Hansen "were insistent on HD."
And that will be the biggest upgrade for local fans. The deciding factor in making the switch from KUTV and KMYU was that KMYU which carried all but a couple of local telecasts does not telecast in high definition.
In addition, Channels 4 and 30 are available to virtually every Utah resident, including those who do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV.
RSL is giving up its cross-promotion with top-rated KUTV in the deal, but fans have to be happy with the upgrade in the availability and quality of the telecasts.
Under the terms of the new contract, 10 RSL games will air on KTVX-Ch. 4 and 20 on KUCW-Ch. 30. It's a sign of the stations' commitment that not only will Channel 4 pre-empt local newscasts for nine of those games, but also a total of 15 will pre-empt network programming.
Matt Jaquint, general manager of KTVX-KUCW, said that represents more than 80 percent of the pre-emptions he's allowed in a year under the terms of his contracts with ABC and The CW.
"This is a very big deal for us,"Jacquint said. "We're all about being local, and local sports is a big part of that."
No money will change hands between RSL and KTVX-KUCW. The team will pay to produce the games and retain a majority of the commercial inventory; the TV stations will also sell a small percentage of the ad spots. The stations gain the rights to use RSL and MLS logos and will have station logos in Rio Tinto Stadium. KTVX sportscasters will appear on radio station ESPN 700 AM (owned by RSL) and the two sides will cooperate on TV, radio, Web and grass-roots initiatives.
Local telecasts will be 2Â½ hours long; some will include a half-hour pregame, others a half-hour postgame show. Bill Riley will do the play-by-play, with Brian Dunseth handling the commentary.
It may be a TV-radio simulcast, but that has not yet been finalized.
And there's still more good news for RSL fans. Riley and Dunseth will travel to each of the 14 away games on the KTVX/KUCW schedule, so they won't be sitting in a local studio trying to call the game from the video feed.
Only four of RSL's MLS games were picked up for national telecast on the NBC Sports Network. "The commissioner told me that's purely market size," Manning said. "We're the smallest [TV market] in the league."
Fox Soccer Channel has the rights to the CONCACAF Champions League. It's also possible that RSL's U.S. Open Cup games could air on KTVX or KUCW, although that has yet to be determined.
And, while nothing has been finalized, RSL is looking into live webcasts of its four preseason games on Feb. 22, 25, 29 and March 3.
"This is going to be great for our fans," Manning said. "Now we just have to go out there and win."
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. His Sports on TV column runs Mondays and Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
RSL 2012 TV schedule
Sat., March 10 @ Los Angeles, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 4
Sat., March 17 New York, 7 p.m., Ch. 4
Sat., March. 24 Chivas, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., March 31 @ Portland, 8 p.m., Ch. 4
Wed., April 4 Montreal, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., April 7 Colorado, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., April 14 @ Kansas City, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 4
Sat., April 21 @ San Jose, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 30
Wed., April 25 @ Dallas, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., April 28 Toronto, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., May 5 New England, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Wed., May 9 @ Chicago, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., May 12 @ Seattle, 8 p.m., Ch. 4
Sat., May 26 Dallas, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., June 16 @ Chivas, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 4
Wed., June 20 Los Angeles, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., June 23 San Jose, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., June 30 @ Columbus, 6 p.m., Ch. 30
Wed., July 4 Seattle, 8 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., July 7 Portland, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., July 14 @ San Jose, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 4
Wed., July 18 @ Seattle, 9 p.m., NBCSN
Sat., July 21 Colorado, 8 p.m., Ch. 30
Fri., July 27 Vancouver, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., Aug. 4 @ Colorado, 7 p.m., Ch. 4
Sat., Aug. 11 @ Vancouver, 5 p.m., Ch. 4
Sat., Aug. 18 @ Dallas, 7 p.m., Ch. 4
Fri., Aug. 24 @ Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN
Sat., Sept. 1 D.C., 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Thu., Sept. 6 @ Houston, 6:30 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., Sept. 22 Portland, 6 p.m., NBCSN
Sat., Sept. 29 @ Chivas, 8:30 p.m., Ch. 30
Sat., Oct. 6 @ Los Angeles, 7 p.m., NBCSN
Sat. Oct. 27 Vancouver, 7 p.m., Ch. 30
Schedule does not include CONCACAF Champions League, U.S. Open Cup or exhibition matches, which are not yet finalized.