Michigan sports fans are a couple weeks into the Bally Sports Detroit experience.
They’re figuring out how many outs there are in inning. They’re following fellow NBA tanking teams. They’ve found the new Detroit Red Wings score bug at the very bottom of their television sets.
… Well, they are if they have the channel. The times, they are a changin’, but some things never change.
For fans of the Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers, a newly-branded cable channel carries their teams. It’s also another gambling operator fighting for their eyeballs and — maybe someday — their betting dollars.
Streaming fans still out of luck with Bally Sports
Although the weather has warmed and the lowly trio of Detroit teams have also heated up a bit, streaming customers have remained out in the cold.
The change from Fox Sports Detroit to Bally Sports Detroit, which took place on March 31, did not change anything about station ownership.
Sinclair still owns the regional sports network, along with 18 others across the country. The conservative broadcast corporation bought them from Disney after The Mouse purchased 21st Century Fox.
Sinclair has boxed out streaming services such as Hulu, YouTubeTV and Fubo TV.
These developments may be extra frustrating for sports fans who may have been reassured to cut the cord by Joel Embiid and Damian Lillard. “Hulu has live sports,” they say. Just not most Detroit sports.
The branding change did nothing to get Bally Sports Detroit, and our teams, in their homes.
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WHAT TO KNOW: Here’s the gist of the old Fox Sports brand change
Gambling angst seems to have faded already for Bally’s
When the announcement was made prior to the change, there were some social media grumblings about more gambling messages in our lives.
Bally Sports Detroit was just another entry point from the state’s newest industry.
However, when PlayMichigan queried sports fans on Twitter about the Bally changes two weeks in, more than two dozen folks responded.
Not one complained this time about another gambling operator infiltrating their fandom.
Now, it’s just another brand trying to gain traction with the fans.
Whether Bally’s ever breaks into the Michigan online sports betting market is a question for another day, though it would most certainly be years down the line.
Out-of-town scores — from every town
Yes, the gambling. That brings us to the out-of-town scores.
There isn’t a lot of scoreboard-watching going on these days, even for the biggest Detroit sports loyalist — save for the tank-watch of other bottom dwellers in the NHL and NBA.
But it doesn’t take long to figure out why Bally Sports Detroit has dedicated half of the score bug strip to out-of-town games, across all sports.
Welcome to legalized sports betting.
The theory goes that you might have action on games across all sports throughout the night. Sure, you can second-screen your process or catch updates on your phone, but there’s value in keeping your attention on the TV.
Besides, how else are Wallside Windows and Mike Morse going to get bang for their buck if you’re looking at your phone every time their in-game ad appears while players prepare for a face-off?
Plus, maybe your parents don’t have the phone by them during the game. Ideally, for gambling companies, they also made other bets before the game started.
Busy Bally’s look makes for small graphics
All the out-of-town scores and the regular stat fixtures of the game you’re actually watching creates a busy on-screen look.
There’s a lot to jam in there without virtual pop-up ads blocking the action.
It makes for some teeny-tiny features, such as the bases graphic in baseball to tell you how many runners are aboard. The dots for outs are inside that small graphic. It’s especially hard to find, at first, if you’re just glancing at the game.
And let’s face it, that’s really what most of us are doing these days, anyway. Like Ernie Harwell on the radio for decades before, baseball on TV is the new background soundtrack of our summers.
How many outs are there? What about fouls?
Speaking of those outs, how many are there? That realization was a tough adjustment for fans, and might continue to be.
The inset dots stay grey when there is no out to fill it. They turn black when a player is sent to the dugout.
But if you aren’t yet trained to know that, does two grey dots mean there are two outs, or none? What about black?
We should have it down by the All-Star Break.
But basketball fans will apparently just have to go without one of the facts they’re used to having at their disposal during telecasts. Pistons games don’t have team fouls listed in the score bug any longer. Lacking that bit of knowledge certainly annoying down the stretch of close games (or close brushes with the point total).
Hockey headaches probably the biggest change
Bally Sports Detroit moved the hockey score bug all the way to the bottom of the screen. On Fox Sports Detroit, and in most national broadcasts, the information is in the top corner.
This is a bad idea.
The top-line location makes more sense, as there’s not a lot of action in the stands or near the bench. But the bottom of the screen usually has action near it, as there’s compelling stuff in the corners.
Now, maybe the camera crew for Bally Sports Detroit will adjust some in time. But the production crew consists of mostly freelancers who have been shooting the same way for decades.
That will be a hard habit to break.
Branding should stick, create local opportunities
For all the grousing, Bally Sports Detroit isn’t going anywhere. In branding terms, the Bally’s ‘B’ is a logo they’d like to stick with you.
But honestly, for us, it’s got a little Walgreens and Washington Nationals logo feel to it. Just another thing to get used to, we suppose.
They call themselves the “boldest sports network” and the “heart of the fan.” Those claims are stretching it, at least for now.
But if Bally’s ever gets to Michigan for betting, the push of gambling culture during games could be characterized as bold.
Plus, if Detroit teams ever get good again, that association could be a way into fans’ hearts.
Bally Sports Detroit will be hoping for both.