The news we've all been waiting for has finally landed today, less than two weeks from MLS First Kick 2011. ROOT SPORTS has been officially announced as a founding Portland Timbers partner and will broadcast 16 of the Timbers 34 games this year. ROOT SPORTS is currently your Fox Sports Northwest channel, but will completely rebrand itself beginning April 1st (and no this is not an April Fools joke).
"It is a tremendous opportunity to be a founding partner of a new franchise, to help in developing the relationship between the team and a community of sports fans, and we are uniquely positioned to do so because we too are fans," said Mark Shuken, President & CEO of DIRECTV Sports Networks, parent company of ROOT SPORTS. "With passion, connection and quality we will share the stories, the sights and the sounds of Timbers soccer and help build a fanbase that will serve as the foundation of this partnership."
Personally, I'm a little disappointed by this news. As somebody without access to cable, this severely limits my access to Timbers on television. However, I can also see the advantage in this partnership over a local broadcaster. ROOT SPORTS will provide access to more people in the entire Northwest area including Alaska, Idaho and Montana as opposed to just the metro Portland area.
Keen eyed observers will also note that with these 16 games by ROOT SPORTS (one cross over with FSC), 3 by ESPN, and 5 by FSC that leaves an additional 11 games left to be broadcast. It's my guess that these games will be the ones broadcast by the heavily rumored local partner KPTV, Fox 12 although nothing has yet been announced.
UPDATE: And in a second press release the Portland Timbers have announced that FOX 12 KPTV or it's sister network KPDX will air 11 Timbers games outside of the ROOT SPORTS deal. For the 2011 season, the Portland Timbers will have a grand total of 4 broadcasting partners. Additionally Sportsradio 95.5 The Game will continue to be the Timbers flagship radio station with News Radio 750 KXL taking over some spots.
Spanish broadcasts will be hosted by Estrella TV for television and La Pantera 940 AM and KSND 95.1 FM on radio.