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COMCAST SOON TO BE TOP SPORTS PROGRAMMER IN PHILLY MARKET?
Published March 20, 1996
Comcast President Brian Roberts, on the deal to purchase majority interest in the Flyers, 76ers and the city's two arenas: "The potential synergies from our cable, cellular and electronic retailing businesses with this new partnership seem limitless. We expect over 350 events each year in the two arenas -- many of these will be of interest to the 3 million cable homes in this, the fourth largest ADI in the country" (Comcast). Flyers Owner Ed Snider, a 34% partner with Comcast, comparing their deal to MSG: "I see this as an incredible opportunity to make [this partnership] the showcase sports and entertainment organization in the country and across the world" (Les Bowen, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/20). ANALYSIS: CNN's "Moneyline" reported that Comcast has over 750,000 subscribers in the Philadelphia area and will now have greater leverage over competitors looking to fill cable channels. Josephthal Lyon & Ross analyst Dennis McAlpine: "It assures you're going to have product for your cable system and if you can't keep monopolistic value of that programming, at least you're going to get paid a heck of a lot of money by any competitor" (CNN, 3/19). Shares of Comcast were up 1/4, closing at 18 1/4 (CNBC, 3/19). "BRAINSTORMING": One Comcast exec noted the possible ties with their cellular business (free tickets for certain usage levels) or through home shopping (Comcast owns QVC). The exec: "QVC has always been interested in trying to develop some form of regional shopping. What better way of putting a foundation together ... than to have ownership of the teams" (Sokolove, etc., PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/20). LOCAL COVERAGE: The deal should lead to a Comcast-run all- sports channel that would exclude SportsChannel Philadelphia and PRISM from local distribution, according to Sam Donnelon of the DAILY NEWS. But since SC's 76ers deal runs "into the next century" and PRISM's Phillies contract runs through '97, Donnelon notes, "It's not going to be that easy for Comcast to make PRISM and SportsChannel go away. At least not right away." PRISM Senior VP & GM Laureen Ong: "We are not just sitting here blowing in the wind. Who is going to pay the rights fees we do? ... We have confidence that this is probably going to be a very good thing for all of us" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/20). The INQUIRER's Mike Bruton notes an MSG-style network is likely down the road. But Snider said, "We have contracts that have to expire and we're not saying that we won't go back with the people we're working with if the deal that's offered is proper." Broadcast rights for the 76ers and Flyers are up after this season, but Comcast's Roberts promised there will be a "mix" of broadcast and cable (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/20). BEHOLD THE FUTURE: One NHL exec predicted cable and broadcasting companies will own "most" of North American franchises, or have major investments: "Sports is the cheapest, most spontaneous, direct-type of programming in the world. Turn the lights on and there you are. ... There's nothing like it when programming demands exceed inventory" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 3/20).