COMCAST SOON TO BE TOP SPORTS PROGRAMMER IN PHILLY MARKET?
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,