CLEVELAND — The pending purchase of SportsTime Ohio by Fox Sports Ohio became official Friday as it was announced that FOX has purchased the Cleveland sports network for an estimated $230 million.
FOX will now have the broadcast rights to Cleveland Indians games for the next 10 seasons, which is estimated to be worth around $400 million. Fox will pay the Indians about $40 million in rights fees per season to broadcast their games, which is $10 million more than what STO had been paying the Indians.
FOX Sports Ohio currently serves more than five million homes throughout the state of Ohio, as well as portions of Kentucky, Indiana, western Pennsylvania, western New York and West Virginia. The network is also the regional TV home of the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Cavaliers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Crew, Xavier Musketeers, Cincinnati Bearcats and now the Cleveland Indians.
The additional revenue that the Indians gained from the STO sale could be a reason why the team was able to sign outfielder Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal this past week. It’s also probably one of the primary reasons as to why the Indians have still been linked to other free agents.
It is unknown as to what the future now holds for STO, which was created in 2006 by the Dolan family to carry Indians games. Since that time, the network has also gained popularity due to its MAC college coverage, OHSAA high school coverage and popular television call-in shows such as All Bets Are Off with Bruce Drennan and Chuck’s Last Call with Chuck Galetti.
It is not known if FOX will choose to continue to operate STO as a separate entity or merge its programming with FOX Sports Ohio. However, it is believed that STO will have to remain in some capacity for the 2013 season.