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Volume of content sets Atlanta, Southeast market apart for Fox Sports South/Southeast

Volume of content sets Atlanta, Southeast market apart for Fox Sports South/Southeast

By Mark Calcagno, Staff Writer

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Fox Sports South/Southeast executive Jeff Genthner has had a front-row seat to the growth of the Atlanta sports market, and across the Southeast, for the past 17 years. He talks with staff writer Mark Calcagno about venue growth in Atlanta, how the two-channel network distributes content throughout the Southeast and how the arrival of Atlanta United allows the network to reach a new audience.

How have you seen the Atlanta market change since 2005 when you started at Fox Sports South?

GENTHNER:
Going back to 2005, when we acquired Turner South, which was another regional network, that opened the door for us to eventually acquire all of the rights of the Braves, Hawks and then-Thrashers. But it also enabled us to provide a two-channel network, so we now had two distribution pipes — not only through Atlanta — but throughout the Southeast.

Fox Sports South airs live pre- and postgame shows from SunTrust Park for every home game.
Photo by: JENNI GIRTMAN / ATLANTA EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY
The single greatest point is the investment in world-class venues in Atlanta. Obviously, the Braves just opened up SunTrust Park with the adjacent Battery complex, and all that’s 1.5 million square feet of … retail, food and beverage and residential housing. In the fall, the Falcons open up Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In the next two years, the Hawks will do a $200 million-plus renovation to Philips Arena in time for the 2019 season. So all of a sudden, you have three world-class venues here in Atlanta. And I haven’t even talked about Turner Field now becoming the home for the very young Georgia State football program, or the Atlanta United building a 33-acre, $60 million training ground in Marietta. The Atlanta Hawks are building a D-League arena in College Park that opens in 2019, and a 90,000-square-foot training facility that opens up this coming fall. When you look at the primary and supporting venues, literally everything is brand new in a 24-month period.

What does having two networks — Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast — do for the regional network as a whole?

GENTHNER:
The two pipes enable us to provide an unprecedented volume of regional content. I’m probably the dinosaur of the regional sports business since I’ve been doing it since 1980, and I don’t think there’s a regional network that delivers as much content as we do throughout the Southeast. Some of it is territorially restricted, but we also have the capability to bring in from sister stations because the respective leagues say it’s part of their respective territories. In western Tennessee, we broadcast St. Louis Cardinals games. Throughout Tennessee, we bring in Cincinnati Reds games that are produced by Fox Sports Ohio. In Mississippi and southern Alabama, we bring in New Orleans Pelicans games because it’s part of the Pelicans’ outer market. So in addition to the 750 live events we produce out of Atlanta, pro content from other RSNs is able to be distributed in our territory, and we go out of our way to grab that content and give that to our viewers. The challenge, if there is one, is marketing it and branding it because the network and what you see in Atlanta is very different from what you see sitting on your couch in Nashville or Memphis or Raleigh.

The idea is to deliver tonnage, and that’s what we do: We deliver high-quality, pro sports tonnage.

What do big Atlanta sporting events like a Final Four, Super Bowl, etc., do for Fox Sports South, even though FSS is not directly broadcasting those games?

GENTHNER:
While we don’t televise the specific games, the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup this year, for example, is content to us. We did an hourlong show after every game during the postseason with a crew of talent, interviews and highlights. When you televise 80 games during the regular season, you become the place where fans turn to for coverage of the local teams. Whether it’s the Falcons going to the Super Bowl or the Super Bowl coming to Atlanta, you become top-of-mind as the local outlet. All those events coming to Atlanta raises the profile for our network.

Why do you think Atlanta United has had so much success as an expansion franchise this season?

GENTHNER:
It’s amazing what the United have done in this community, and it’s a crossroads between many things. No. 1, Atlanta is a very diverse community. With Mr. [Arthur] Blank behind it and how he’s hired Tata Martino and demonstrated his commitment to providing the best atmosphere for fans, providing the best coaching and the best players with the new commitment to a facility that is just unbelievable — it’s a $60 million investment alone in a training facility. First and foremost, it is a significant soccer market. When you put all of things together, they did it right, and we’re really pleased to show those games.

Noting that there’s a difference in the demographics of a United audience versus a Braves audience — being that the former is both more diverse and younger than the latter — are there any differences to Fox Sports South’s approach to each in the broadcast or advertisement sales?

GENTHNER:
Awareness of baseball and basketball fans as it relates to names and channel positions of our networks, we’re pretty comfortable they knew it. We really do believe that the demographics and slice of the Atlanta population that would follow the United would expose us to a portion of the population that may not be as loyal to the Braves or Hawks. The mission for us was to tap into that audience, and it really was working with the United because they had done such a good job tapping into it.

You would think with so many teams in the market, there would be this sense to preserving market share of entertainment dollars. What we’ve recently done successfully is demonstrate to the teams that, if we cross-promote each other on air and engage each other, everyone wins.

We’ve had United players at Hawks games, Hawks players at Braves games, so that cross-pollinating promotion has really demonstrated that value in doing that.


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