It’s time to accept this truth: the Dallas Stars do not rate enough for preseason games to be broadcast by their rights-holder, Fox Sports Southwest.
I know that’s a hard thing for Stars fans to hear. Nobody wants to hear that their favorite team is one of the lowest watched professional sports teams in their market, or that their market never draws well for other NHL events, such as the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Consider this from the Dallas Morning News in April 2017:
The Stars’ disappointing season was matched by disappointing TV ratings. For 79 games on FSSW, they averaged a 0.4 rating. That’s about 10,850 homes in Dallas-Fort Worth. That’s down from the 0.6 the Stars averaged on FSSW last season. From 2011-12 to last season, the Stars have averaged a 0.6.
They did improve in 2017-2018, however. Their average rating last season was 0.71, and was the second highest improvement in the NHL (+88%) compared to the season before according to Sports Business Daily. Improvements were driven, in part, by the fact that the Stars were in a playoff fight for much of the season (until that terrible, no good stretch they had to then stumble into the end of the year).
The Stars are hardly the only team in the DFW metro area to stumble last season, though.
Take for instance the mediocre season the Dallas Cowboys had last season. Still, they averaged a 27.9 rating over the course of the season, a decline over their previous season when the team went to the playoffs and a 13-3 regular season record. Of course, NFL ratings rule in almost every market in the U.S., so it’s a bit of an unfair comparison.
The Texas Rangers averaged a 2.7 rating for their 2017 campaign when the team had a 78-84 record (.481 winning percentage). Numbers for their current season won’t be available until the end of the season, but considering how poorly the team has done this year and it being likely they’ll finish with an even worse record than last year, they’re likely to show declines in their ratings when compared to 2017.
The last available data I could find for the Dallas Mavericks was from 2017, when that team averaged a 0.78 rating in route to a 33-49 record (a .402 winning percentage). They weren’t listed as one of the biggest declines in 2018 ratings for NBA teams, when the Mavericks had an even worse 24-58 record (.293 winning percentage), so you can infer that they likely settled out somewhere in the same vicinity as their 2017 rating last year, or roughly the same as the Stars.
So is it really any surprise, then, that the business folks over at Fox Sports Southwest have determined that the cost of broadcasting preseason Stars games may not have a good rate of return to reach approximately 20,000 households or so? It shouldn’t be. The network is contractually obligated only to air regular season games. From the Stars in 2014 when the broadcast partnership agreement was announced (emphasis mine): “Under the new agreement, FOX Sports Southwest will be the exclusive regional television partner of the Dallas Stars and will facilitate the broadcast of all regionally televised Stars regular-season games.”
It’s frustrating for fans in this age with all of the online streaming options available that preseason games such as tonight are not broadcast locally. I get it. But from a business perspective, until the Stars win and consistently pull in higher numbers (this market watches winners), you’re not going to get to watch preseason home games unless you go to the American Airlines Center and have purchased a ticket to watch it in person.
Based on my personal knowledge of broadcast agreements typical in the sports world, the Stars are likely precluded from “broadcasting” these games on their website due to the word “exclusive” mentioned above. Depending on the language of the agreement (which is not likely to be a matter of public record since it is an agreement between two private entities), “broadcasting” could be definied to include any online or live streaming.
Could that change in the future? Absolutely. Whenever the Stars brass negotiate a new broadcast agreement there is likely to be more nuances negotiated or broadening/narrowing of definitions, especially given the recent prevalence of online streaming and the cable-cutting many in the younger generation are doing.
Until that day, though, the only pressure that could event potentially influence the broadcast of preseason games would be increased viewership in the regular season, illustrating that the Stars return on investment for showing preseason contests in which only the most die-hard of ANY sport watch is better than it’s average reach of the past near decade.
And how is that accomplished? Winning, and winning consistently.
(And if it hasn’t been made clear based on the entirety of this story, no, there will be no online or streaming options to watch any Dallas Stars home preseason games. It is possible that road games could be broadcast based on the availability of streaming options from their opponents, and as the preseason schedule moves along and we learn of any ways to watch, we’ll let you know.)
Note: FC Dallas is broadcast on KTXA-21 in Dallas and I couldn’t find any recent ratings numbers to use for comparison here. If you know where their broadcasts rated in 2017 or 2018, hit your girl with a link!