Comcast Joins Sporting News
Comcast Sports Group has entered into an electronic publishing deal with the Sporting News to create regional editions of Sporting News Today in the markets where Comcast has regional sports networks.
The first edition launched this week in Philadelphia.
I'm still of the mind that local sports broadcasting rights will be one of the only genres of television programming that will maintain its value to traditional advertising. The continued acceptance of, in order, DVRs, on-demand, and web-based alternatives like Hulu pretty much ensure that timeboxed viewing of shows will generally go away.
However, people still want to watch sports, and they still want to do it live as it happens.
So that content will still bring eyeballs, and for years TV players have been fighting for position to establish themselves as the dominant player in major regions.
Fox has regional networks, Comcast does as well, and it would be 100% non-shocking to see ESPN rollout regional networks as well (lord knows they have enough other ones). ESPN's already creating online portals for regional sports news, and while I think Comcast has also done it, I don't know anyone who goes there for their sports news. But this article indicates a more concerted effort to build an online complement to their TV presence.
People will keep watching sports on TV, and they'll keep watching the ads because it's an event that people want to see live as it happens (event viewing as opposed to program viewing). So TV players will keep trying to build their way into those positions to control the viewing.
But I wonder if it's all for nothing at the end of the day. There's no question that for smaller sports leagues, selling your TV rights to an established entity so that they can run production makes a ton of sense. You probably won't see an MLS network in the near future.
But for a business like the NFL, which is obsessively watched more than any other sport in the U.S., eventually they're probably going to keep it all to themselves. Some local teams already do this, like the Yankees and the Maple Leafs in Toronto (because yes, some people care about hockey!). The NFL is gradually working its way there, in establishing its own network, fighting for broad distribution, and slowly moving its games there (Thursday night football only on NFL Network!)
Pretty soon, they'll run the whole thing. But for now, the media companies will still fight to bring it to us in the interim.