Nearly 1 million more television households in the Carolinas will have access to Charlotte Bobcats broadcasts this season.
Jeff Genthner, who heads SportSouth, the regional Fox sports network that televises Bobcats games, told the Observer Tuesday that potential viewers will increase to over 2.8 million households, up from 1.87 million last season.
Some Bobcats fans – as nearby as Rock Hill or Lake Norman – didn’t always have television access to the games. SportSouth expects television providers to pay a surcharge to carry Bobcats games, and some refuse to do so.
“We’re almost now at the point where anyone who lives in North or South Carolina will have access to Bobcats games through some (television) provider – cable, satellite or telephone. At least one,” Genthner said. “Now any holes only exist to the extent of someone’s willingness or unwillingness to change service providers.”
TV distribution problems have existed since the Bobcats’ debut in 2004. Then-owner Bob Johnson launched a regional sports network, C-SET (Carolinas Sports Entertainment Television), which lasted a single season. The television rights transferred to Time Warner Cable, and then were bought in 2008 by SportsSouth.
Initially, 1.35 million households had TV access to Bobcats games when the rights transferred to Fox. Potential viewership has increased each season, with the biggest growth coming this year.
Genthner said this was a renewal year for a number of television providers, which allowed Fox Sports Carolinas to revisit Bobcats distribution.
“Our intent when we acquired Bobcats rights was to allow anyone from North or South Carolina to watch the games,” Genthner said. “We knew it wouldn’t happen overnight and still not every cable provider will carry the games. But we’ve made progress and we’re very happy about that.”
Bobcats president Fred Whitfield said he’s “thrilled” by the wider distribution because television is essential to marketing the team.
“There’s nothing more important than making sure young fans get to see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson in their homes,” Whitfield said.
Did he wonder if the team’s television distribution would ever get fixed?
“I wondered because there were small cable operators that weren’t part of the network. That’s one thing we talked about a lot with Jeff,” Whitfield said. “We had season-ticket holders who didn’t have access to the road games on TV.”