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Volume 20 No. 41
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Plugged In: Phil Bedella, Comcast SportsNet Chicago

As vice president and general manager of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Phil Bedella leads a regional sports network that is co-owned by four of the city’s pro teams: the Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox and Bulls. Bedella, who was with the network for its launch in 2004, was named vice president/GM in 2011, and he has run the day-to-day operations of the network since then. That means guiding CSN’s coverage during unique periods like last week, when the four co-owner clubs were all playing concurrently, with the Bulls and the Hawks in the postseason.

We are seeing a significant shift in how people consume media. Live sports is more important to cable and satellite affiliates and more so to the advertising community. I don’t see any reason why the rights won’t escalate. There is demand not just from consumers but from affiliates and advertisers.

On balancing coverage among the teams: Playoffs take priority over the regular season, but you have to be fair and consistent in the number of games that you slide over to the [CSN] Plus channel. All the teams who own the channel are interested in the same thing in providing a great opportunity to watch their teams while driving revenue. Everyone has the same goals, and it has been pretty easy to get everyone on the same page.

On the challenge of covering those teams: If something unfortunate happens with our teams, we are going to report it. Our goal is to stay fair and consistent. Most of the conversation is initiated by us. We will be proactive about it. We are a news-gathering organization and we have to deliver that to the fans.

On the importance of live, local streaming rights: I see it every day with how my children consume content. I look at the next generation of viewers, and it is a must-have. We hope to have streaming deals worked out with the NBA in time for next season. There are a lot of moving pieces, and it is not something that is solved overnight. The teams and the league don’t want to get left behind and miss a generation of young fans because they don’t have the content in the vehicles where they want to consume it.

On working with other Comcast RSNs: A lot of what we talk about is cross-promotion. Right now, we are playing the Washington Wizards in the NBA playoffs and we are speaking with the general manager of [Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic] to use each other’s assets to cross-promote. We may have their beat writer on our sports talk shows, and we also share ideas. If we have a program that we have negotiated to carry, it may come with rights we can pass on to the other regionals. That takes place pretty regularly

— John Lombardo