This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The folks at ROOT Sports have a few holes to fill on their schedule in the next few months. Like, maybe, 79 holes if there's no NBA season.
That's the number of Utah Jazz regular-season games ROOT (formerly known as Fox Sports Net-Utah) telecast last season. What with the replays, that's something in the neighborhood of 400 hours of programming ROOT might need to replace.
And it goes beyond just holes in the schedule. The Utah Jazz are far and away the most-watched and most-valuable asset ROOT has in Utah. Which is why the two signed a contract that moved all the games to cable through the end of 2020-21 season.
Clearly, the folks at ROOT Sports hope the lockout ends.
"We're certainly prepared to air Jazz games, whether it's at the start of the regular season as planned or whenever they do come back," said Tim Griggs, executive vice president and general of ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain/Utah. "That's how you have to plan.
"Without the NBA, obviously the next most compelling programming we'll have on our air is collegiate football and basketball."
He pointed to the Utah-Colorado football game on Nov. 25. He said it's possible the Utah-Arizona game on Nov. 5 could also end up on ROOT/FSN. And he looked ahead to basketball season, when ROOT will carry the BYU-Utah game on Dec. 10, the Utah-Colorado game on Dec. 31, and at least three more Ute games in January and February.
As part of its continuing partnership with the Jazz and KJZZ, ROOT is replaying local high school football games. It will pick up the 3A championship game as well as the 4A and 5A semifinals.
And there will be some other programming of local interest, like "Runnin' with the Pac," which features Pac-12 athletes and teams.
But none of that is going to help much when it comes to filling the enormous hole in the schedule and the enormous hit to ROOT's bottom line if there's no NBA. The regional sports network stands to lose millions in ad revenues; national NBA rights-holders ESPN/ABC and TNT may lose as much as $1.25 billion.
ESPN/ABC and TNT will have an easier time filling their schedules, however. ROOT doesn't have as much sports inventory as ESPN/ABC, and can't just run movies like TNT.
There's no official announcement yet, but the Jazz and ROOT are working on "bringing Jazz content to fans while the lockout continues" to fill some of the gap, said Griggs. "I don't know exactly what this is going to look like."
Officially, the Jazz are mum on the subject. But Griggs is clearly interested in it.
"I'm sure there's a lot of pent-up demand from Jazz fans," he said.
Really? I'm not so sure. Will fans be interested in anything to do with the Jazz if the lockout continues? Or will it be just a painful reminder of what they're missing?
The even bigger question is what will happen to the NBA's TV ratings when the games finally tip off. What if the lockout takes out part or all of the regular season? Fan resentment will only grow.
The 1998-99 lockout wiped out almost 40 percent of the regular season. And ratings for the 1999 NBA Finals dropped just over 40 percent from an 18.7 average in 1998 (Bulls-Jazz) to an 11.3 average in 1999 (Spurs-Knicks).
Those 1998 Finals remain the highest rated in NBA television history. In the 12 years since, no NBA Finals have come anywhere close.
If there's no resolution to the current impasse, it's going to kill NBA TV ratings again.
SCOTT D. PIERCE covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. His sports on TV column runs Wednesdays. Email him at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce; read his blog at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.