Comcast to bat for NBC Bay Area

Its regional sports network to provide sports news for KNTV

Three months into its joint venture with NBCUniversal, Comcast is moving fast on the synergy front, announcing Wednesday that starting in June its regional sports network in the Bay Area would provide the sports news for NBC’s O&O station in San Francisco, KNTV Channel 11.

It could serve as a model for the other markets where Comcast SportsNets overlap with an NBC O&O station — in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington.

Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s 140-person staff will help provide programming for the 6 and 11 p.m. telecasts on KNTV, known as NBC Bay Area. In addition, Comcast SportsNet will provide special segments, including magazine shows, documentaries, season preview shows and postgame coverage.

To accomodate the transition, Comcast is building a new set in its sports net’s 37,000-square-foot HD studio in downtown San Francisco.

“The Bay Area has eight professional franchises, six Division I college teams and millions of passionate, loyal fans,” said Richard Cerussi, NBC Bay Area president and general manager. “This is one of the country’s greatest sports markets, and the partnership between our two organizations will enable NBC Bay Area to bring our audience more sports content and coverage than ever before.”

The move is not about cost savings, but improving the quality of the programming, executives said, adding that no station employees will lose their jobs. Some jobs, in fact, might be added at the sports net to help with the initiative. In recent years, many local broadcast stations have had to pare down sports staffs during the advertising downturn and a decrease in ratings for local news.

“Comcast SportsNet has made a significant investment to build the largest and most credible multi-platform sports news team in the market,” said Comcast SportsNet Bay Area VP/g.m. Ted Griggs. “Partnering with NBC Bay Area allows us to leverage our assets for the benefit of both outlets, consistent with our commitment to serve fans wherever they turn for sports developments.”

Wednesday’s announcement underscores a major impetus on the part of Comcast execs to do the joint venture with NBCU Sports. A day earlier, NCBU Sports topper Dick Ebersol announced a new 10-year rights deal with the National Hockey League in which games will not only air on NBC but on cabler Versus and other NBCU channels.

A relationship between Comcast SportsNet and KNTV preceded the joint venture when the two entities struck a deal in 2008 in which the station would use Comcast SportsNet production resources for live San Francisco Giants telecasts.

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