Corp. buys 50% share in regional channel

Comcast Corp., the largest cable operator in the U.S., has added another service to its extensive sports operations, buying a 50% stake in the MountainWest Sports Network, a 24/7 regional that kicks off Sept. 1.

“Comcast has launched a number of regional sports networks over the years, and with its operation based in Denver, it’s a natural to manage” MountainWest Sports Network (the MTN), said Brian Bedol, president and CEO of CSTV Networks, which created the MTN.

The Salt Lake City cable system owned by Comcast will carry the MTN on its widely circulated expanded-basic service to cater to the passionate fans of Brigham Young U.’s football team. Comcast’s systems will carry the MTN on digital basic in three other markets: Denver, Colorado Springs and Albuquerque. MTN universities in these markets are Colorado State, Air Force Academy and U. of New Mexico.

Comcast is the first carriage deal for the MTN, and Bedol said he’s negotiating with other cable operators, satellite providers and telephone companies. MTN will have two revenue streams: license fees from cable, satellite and telephone, and the sale of advertising time on the network.

The universities represented by the MTN also include the U. of Nevada, Las Vegas; San Diego State; Texas Christian U; the U. of Utah and the U. of Wyoming. In areas outside the geographical footprint, Bedol may have to settle for the MTN slots on less-desirable digital sports tiers, which are not thriving because digital customers have to pay an extra fee to get them.

The MTN games will also be available on Comcast’s video-on-demand platforms. And Bedol’s streams video of lots of games to computers, to wireless devices and to iTunes and podcasts.

But there are still minimal revenues coming in from these new-media platforms; the MTN will push to get cable and satellite coverage in as many markets as possible.

Bedol said one of his pitches for coverage outside the MTN area is that while there are 200,000 Mormon families in Salt Lake, there are 6 million more throughout the U.S., some of whom might be fans of Brigham Young football.

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