Comcast has created a new regional sports net in the Northwest and signed a 10-year exclusive deal with the Portland Trail Blazers to carry 55 live games beginning in late October.
New network, called Comcast SportsNet Northwest, is the latest initiative in Comcast’s drive to set up a robust sports operation; web will be Comcast’s ninth sports regional.
The previous cable home of the Trail Blazers, the Fox-owned FSN Northwest, covered only 35 games a year. Jon Litner, president of Comcast SportsNet, said the new network “will dramatically increase exposure for the Trail Blazers and bring sports fans more news, updates and analysis.”
Comcast declined to discuss financial terms, but a regional sports net typically costs cable operators and satellite distributors a stiff monthly license fee of about $2 a subscriber.
Those high license fees won’t be a problem for about 50% of the local cable customers because they subscribe to Comcast systems. The satellite distribs and other cable systems may resist ponying up the fees, particularly since they’re already paying a similar tariff for FSN Northwest.
The hardest bargaining could come with DirecTV. John Malone’s Liberty Media is about to take over the satcaster as well as FSN Northwest as part of an assets swap with Fox parent News Corp. DirecTV may not take kindly to paying big bucks for a network that outbid FSN Northwest for the rights to Trail Blazers games.
Comcast expects to fill its new 24/7 net with a daily morning news show chock-full of highlights, updates and statistics. Comcast also will supply nationally distributed sports shows produced by some of its eight other regional networks, based in areas like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and Boston. And there will be plenty of pre- and post-game shows surrounding the Trail Blazers games, as well as lots of interview shows featuring coaches and players.
Dave Manougian, exec VP of sports programming for Comcast and CEO of Comcast’s Golf Channel, will oversee the launch of the new Portland, Ore.-based channel.