Could this OTA sports network go national?

Football game on American Sports NetworkI just got back from a few weeks in Columbus, Ohio on family business. While I was there, I had a chance to sample an over-the-air TV network I’d heard about, so I could correct an error I made earlier.

Two years ago, the Sinclair Broadcast Group announced the launch of the American Sports Network. At the time, I wrote that the ASN looked less like a 24/7 channel and “more like Raycom Sports, syndicating college games to mostly independent stations.” That might have been correct then, but in January 2016, ASN grew to become a 24/7 channel, now available OTA in over 40 markets. Including Columbus. Although ASN launched on Sinclair-controlled stations, now most ASN affiliates are non-Sinclair stations, most of which broadcast it on a digital subchannel.

ASN has assembled football, basketball, and hockey leagues from over a dozen college conferences. It’s had a couple of years to stockpile those games and now rebroadcasts some of them on weekday afternoons and other slow times. ASN also airs auto racing, amateur baseball, professional softball, and the usual half-hour roundup talk shows.

For me, ASN is the best OTA sports network I’ve ever seen. Although I sort of miss the old Universal Sports Network, which left OTA in 2012 and died last November, USN was always more likely to show skiing or cycling than a team sport. ASN feels more, well, American.

This post might be the nicest thing I ever say about Sinclair, which just last week was fined over $9 million by the FCC for not negotiating in good faith on retransmission consent fees. If ASN can make its way to my market, it’s so good that I’ll watch despite knowing who makes it possible.