Soon, Philadelphia-based Comcast could become the backer of everything from Pat Kiernan, a popular anchor on local Gotham cable-news outlet NY1 to frenzied basketball contests featuring the Los Angeles Lakers.
Comcast’s proposed all-stock purchase of Time Warner Cable, valued at $45.2 billion, has captured the attention of communities ranging from Wall Street to Madison Avenue to Hollywood, and with good reason. Comcast’s subscriber ranks could swell to as much as 30 million, taking divestitures into account, encompassing a third of the nation’s cable customers.
But the purchase is much more than a way to construct a bigger national player.
Should the proposed deal pass regulatory scrutiny, Comcast would also become more entrenched in certain geographic regions, particularly New York City and Los Angeles. Time Warner Cable has local-news operations in central and upstate New York; New York City; on systems in North Carolina; and Austin, Texas. The company has also been active in local sports recently, striking a 20-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011 to distribute all the team’s games over two high-definition sports networks made available to subscribers in California. Nevada and Hawaii. And Time Warner Cable has an agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers to show games on a new SportsNet LA network.
While the news networks are intertwined with their communities, and could be placed in part of the NBCUniversal portfolio, among other places, the local sports networks could prove of more immediate interest to Comcast, which has been making a play to burnish its reputation as a competitor to Walt Disney’s ESPN – and, more recently 21st Century Fox’s Fox Sports 1.
Comcast already operates 11 regional sports networks in areas ranging from the San Francisco vicinity to Baltimore, Houston and Chicago. And it owns the NBC Sports Network, a sports-cabler once known as Versus, that is has polished up with rights to NHL games as well as Premiere League soccer from overseas. The regional outlets are now part of NBCUniversal’s NBC Sports Group.
The Time Warner Cable sports outlet, known as SportsNet, would likely give Comcast a broader array of inventory to sell to advertisers seeking sports aficionados, and also give the company a strong tie to its new West Coast subscribers.