Ilitch Needs to Go to Bat for the Fans

Earlier this week, it came to be known that the Tigers were unable to come to an agreement with TV20 on a deal that would broadcast a handful of Tiger games on the network. As it is, the Tigers will have just 112 games broadcast on TV, all on Fox Sports Detroit. There are arguments that can be made for many things, but having so few televised games is simply indefensible.

112 games. That leaves 50 games of the 162 that will likely occur without being aired in the Detroit market (unless ESPN picks up a game or two for the Tigers). The 112 games that they will broadcast is the least of any team in major league baseball – even less than small market teams like Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Such a statistic for a team in a market as large as Detroit (among the top half in baseball) is simply pathetic.

The truly sad thing is, TV stations had stepped up and expressed serious interest in broadcasting Tiger games. TV20 wanted to broadcast games, but earlier this week, the Tigers simply rejected their proposal, likely ending any chance of a deal getting done.

And while having games on a "free" network would be ideal, markets like Boston and New York broadcast most of their games on cable TV (with the Yankees even having their own station dedicated to the Yankees). Even for those that don't have cable television, they're still able to visit a local bar that will most assuredly have cable.

And here's the thing – the Tigers could have gotten more games through Fox Sports Detroit as opposed to a ‘free' broadcast station. FSD made a proposal that would involve them broadcasting 140 games instead of the 112, but this was rejected as well. Now, fans are left in the dark, being forced to listen to the oh-so-powerful WXYT for nearly one of out every three games.

Ultimately, all of this controversy likely comes down to money. It's been no secret that Mr. Ilitch appears to be blocking a deal for another TV deal, meaning Ilitch believes he's not getting enough in value to make it worth it to turn over the broadcast rights to the games. Apparently, Ilitch believes that if he broadcasts more games, less people will come to the ballpark.

The logic of that statement can certainly be debated, but even assuming it's correct, that still doesn't explain a number of other games going on without being broadcast on TV in Detroit. In the month of April, only 13 of the Tigers' 25 games will be televised. How can a team trying to win back a disgruntled fan base when they can't even watch half of the team's games?

Furthermore, it seems rather convenient that Ilitch is so concerned with the bottom line and how many people attend games and purchase tickets, yet at the same time he's conveniently overlooking the fact that Comerica Park was built with a generous contribution from tax dollars. Taxpayers/fans helped him build the stadium to increase revenue for the team, but Ilitch can't even stand to let the fans watch a few more games on TV.

Meanwhile, the Tigers want more attendance, but haven't even put together a winning season since 1993. Tiger fans have waited patiently for more than a decade for competitive baseball to return to Detroit. Despite losing season after losing season, support is still there (more than 2 million fans came to Comerica in 2005).

In support of the team, fans have helped build a brand new state-of-the-art stadium to increase revenue. Fans understood the move of the team from WJR to WXYT because of the increased revenue, even though it meant leaving the powerful signal of WJR, leaving a lot of fans without the ability to even listen to games if they're outside the immediate metro Detroit area.

Tiger fans have done anything in their power to support the struggling team for years. It's time for Mr. Ilitch to reward their loyalty and give something the fans so desperately want – the chance to actually watch their team on TV.


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