Unlike last season, which saw a complete upheaval of the Philadelphia Union's local broadcasting situation as the team moved the majority of its telecasts from the Live Well Network to the much more prominent Comcast SportsNet and Comcast Network, the television schedule released by the team this morning contains no surprises.
Alongside Comcast, the club's original broadcast partner 6abc returns as the home of a select group of matches, and the two will combine to air all 22 matches not being televised nationally. For the third consecutive season, the Union will have every regular season match broadcast in the area, with every match once again shown in high definition (be thankful for these two things -- there are a lot of fans from some MLS teams who wish they could say the same).
The Comcast Network will air ten matches, Comcast SportsNet will carry nine, and 6abc will have the remaining three. The nineteen matches Comcast will air is equal to their number from 2011, while for 6abc, their slate drops from seven matches to three, in large part due to the Union being chosen more times for Major League Soccer's national broadcasts.
Since 6abc is a network television station that is owned and operated by ABC, timeslots open for local programming (like the Union) are relatively limited, likely contributing to the small number of telecasts on the station; in fact, the Union had to move all three 6abc matches to 4 PM starts in order to accomodate network needs. Comcast will continue to produce and air the weekly State of the Union show with Amy Fadool and Bob Rigby as talent.
The team did not announce its television broadcast team, though veteran play-by-play man JP Dellacamera is expected to return, given that he has one year remaining on his contract and interviewed the team's SuperDraft picks for philadelphiaunion.com.
It's unknown who will be working with Dellacamera in the booth with 2011 primary color analyst Taylor Twellman now at ESPN full-time. Rigby, who served as a pitchside analyst last season, is obviously still in the fold, but it is unknown whether he will remain on the television side, or whether he will be a part of the team's new radio broadcasts on SportsRadio 610 WIP (the Union is expected to release their first-ever radio broadcast schedule in the near future).
The club saw surprisingly strong television ratings last season thanks mostly to its partnership with Comcast, placing third in the league for number of households tuning into each match behind the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy. If those strong ratings can translate into increased ad sales and increased ad rates, the team should be able to afford to produce more of its away matches instead of having Dellacamera calling matches from a studio in Philadelphia.
A source confirmed to the Brotherly Game that the reason behind all of the studio broadcasts last year was "purely economical", and given that Comcast is not believed to contribute dollars towards telecast production or pay the team any sort of rights fee, the team doesn't feel justified in sinking money more money into production than they make from advertising.
With ratings on the rise, though, and enough money apparently coming in now to begin producing radio broadcasts, it's likely fair to anticipate the team's broadcasters being on-site more times this season for away matches, even if not for all of them.
March 12 at Portland Timbers, 9:30 PM (ESPN2)
March 18 vs. Colorado Rapids, 4:00 PM (NBC Sports Network)
March 24 at Chicago Fire, 8:30 PM (The Comcast Network)
March 31 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 4:00 PM (6abc)
April 14 vs. Columbus Crew, 3:30 PM (NBCSN)
April 21 at Chivas USA, 10:30 p.m. (TCN)
April 28 vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:00 PM (Comcast SportsNet)
May 5 at Seattle, 4:00pm (NBCSN)
May 13 vs. New York Red Bulls, 1:30 PM (ESPN2)
May 19 at FC Dallas, 8:30 PM (TCN)
May 26 at Toronto FC, 4:30 PM (TCN)
June 16 vs. D.C. United, 7:00 PM (CSN/Galavisión)
June 23 vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:00 PM (CSN)
June 30 at Houston Dynamo, 8:30 PM (TCN)
July 4 at Los Angeles Galaxy, 11:00 PM (CSN)
July 8 vs. Toronto FC, 4:00 PM (6abc)
July 14 vs. Montreal Impact, 7:00 PM (CSN)
July 21 at New York Red Bulls, 2:30 PM (ESPN)
July 29 vs. New England Revolution, 7:00 PM (NBCSN)
August 4 at Montreal Impact, 7:30 PM (TCN)
August 12 vs. Chicago Fire, 7:00 PM (CSN/Galavisión)
August 19 at D.C. United, 5:00 PM (NBCSN)
August 24 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 PM (NBCSN)
August 29 vs. Columbus Crew, 8:00 PM (TCN)
September 1 at New England Revolution, 7:30 PM (CSN)
September 15 at Toronto FC, 1:00 PM (CSN)
September 20 vs. D.C. United, 8:00 PM (ESPN2)
September 23 vs. Houston Dynamo, 4:00 PM (6abc)
September 29 at Columbus Crew, 7:30 PM (TCN)
October 3 at Chicago Fire, 8:30 PM (TCN)
October 6 vs. New England Revolution, 7:00 PM (CSN)
October 20 at Houston Dynamo, 7:30 PM (NBCSN)
October 24 at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 PM (TCN)
October 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 1:30 PM (NBC)