Just after the announcement of the Crew's new TV deal with TIme Warner Cable, club President Mark McCullers answered a few questions with TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett.
Cody Sharrett: It's a big day for the Crew organization with an unprecedented television agreement with Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. Overall, what made this the most attractive relationship out there at this point in the club's history?
Mark McCullers: There are a lot of reasons, but I think the thing we're most excited about is the commitment to the programming and the content that Time Warner Cable SportsChannel is going to provide. We're familiar with that from their relationship with the LA Galaxy. Never before have we had the typo of pre and post-game programming bookending our broadcasts, a full 30 minutes before and after. Weekly magazine-style shows, ESPN 30-for-30-type shorts: the content, player profiles and the programming that will be delivered will be like nothing we've ever had before.
CS: TWCSC will be the dedicated home for the Crew. There will be no alternate channels to search for the match. How important is it to be the marquee sports team on the channel and not have to compete with other professional sports teams?
MM: It's important because our fans need a destination and something they can rely on, so they know where they can go to find our games and not have to dig around to see what channel we're on if there's a conflict with our provider. That issue has been eliminated. We're going to be on the same channel and fans will know exactly where to go to find Crew matches.
CS: You mentioned pre and post-match shows. What does that commitment mean to bolstering the club's reputation?
MM: It's an opportunity to give fans more insight into our club, to give them a greater connection for them to get to know our players and other things that are happening with their club. It gives us a platform to connect in a very meaningful way.
CS: There will be plenty of non-match shoulder programming in the agreement. What are some of the ideas floating around right now for that type of content?
MM: A lot of that is still to be determined. The good news is that we have a blank sheet of paper and we can create whatever we want to. I think I'm anxious to see a lot more analysis, more data and stats in addition to programming that is going to show the behind-the-scenes type of content that fans might not get a glimpse of otherwise.
CS: There may be some with concerns over Time Warner Cable's distribution. What can you tell me about TWC's reach, especially locally in Central Ohio?
MM: TWC is the dominant cable provider in the state of Ohio. We're statewide with Time Warner, but in particular in Central Ohio, they dominate the market. They cover 90 percent of the market and they already service more than 70 percent of the market with existing customers. The distribution is substantial with over two million homes, more importantly, statewide. If you have access to TWC, then you have access to the Crew.
If you're outside the League-mandated 75-mile radius from Crew Stadium, then you will have the opportunity to access matches through MLS Direct Kick and also through MLS Live. If you're within the 75-mile radius and don't have the ability to get TWC, then you still have the opportunity to get MLS Live and Direct Kick. You'll have the chance to get Crew game broadcasts regardless of you're particular situation.
CS: What about non-TWC subscribing fans within the 75-mile radius? Why should they make the switch?
MM: Time Warner has made the investment in their Columbus Crew. It's the most comprehensive television broadcast that we've had in the history of our organization and like any other partner, we want to encourage our fans to support the companies that are supporting the Crew. TWCSC is definitely supporting us.
CS: TWC has been making huge moves across the country. You mentioned the LA Galaxy being one of the first to secure a TV deal with them. Live sports TV coverage is always in high demand. How has TWCSC become a major player in sports programming, especially locally in Ohio, with the new deal with the Crew?
MM: You mention the LA Galaxy deal, and it was one of the first. They've been extremely aggressive. There's a lot of competition for live sports programming. This is TWCSC's entrance into the market. The Columbus Crew is an important property for them. They also have the Mid-American Conference in football and basketball, Ohio is an important territory for them. The Crew is going to be a centerpiece of their programming going forward.