Video services

SportsNet for 'Sunday Ticket'?

5:05 PM -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) EVP David Cohen said the MSO would be willing to share SportsNet Philadelphia with its satellite-TV rivals if DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) was willing to give up the exclusive it has for the coveted out-of-market NFL Sunday Ticket package.

Cohen made the suggestion yesterday during an interview on 610 WIP Sports Radio in Philly.

"If DirecTV wants to give us what is arguably the most valuable exclusive in sports in America today... we are more than happy to give up our exclusive on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia," Cohen said, referring to a channel that carries games from the Phillies, 76ers, and Flyers. [Ed note: Apparently Comcast isn't willing to trade SportsNet for access to DirecTV's coming trio of 3DTV channels. (See DirecTV Won't Give Cable Access to 3D Nets.)]

UPDATE: Based on this response from Susan Eid, DirecTV's SVP of government affairs, it's not looking very likely that the satellite TV giant is about to take Cohen up on the offer:

    Having held Philadelphia sports fans hostage for more than a decade, Comcast now wants to negotiate their release. This is exactly the kind of behavior you’d expect from a cable monopoly and what the government will be looking at when it reviews Comcast's takeover of NBC.

The topic's hot after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to tighten a "terrestrial loophole" that allows MSOs to withhold channels and networks that it delivers over land-based networks, rather than via satellite. The ruling allows DirecTV and others to challenge the loophole on a case-by-case basis. The vast majority of this fight involves regional sports networks operated by Comcast, Cox Communications Inc. , and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC). (See FCC Tightens 'Terrestrial Loophole'.)

Cohen told the station that Comcast may, as Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett is predicting, try to appeal the FCC ruling in court. If it does, look for the MSO to challenge the Commission on the same grounds (a lack of authority) it's already trying to use to overturn an earlier FCC slap-down involving Comcast's old broadband traffic management system. (See Comcast vs. the FCC .)

Another Comcast option: Plant lots of trees!
And maybe Comcast doesn't have to give up SportsNet just so its customers can get their hands on NFL Sunday Ticket.

The latest deal between the league and DirecTV allows consumers that live out of range of DirecTV's satellite service to subscribe to the package over broadband. (See Cable: DirecTV's 'Ticket' to Broadband Content.)

That might help in cities with lots of skyscrapers, but Comcast could do well in exurban and rural areas by planting bunches of satellite-signal-blocking trees, something that Andy Grossman jokingly suggested in the pages of CableWorld more than nine years ago as a way to help cable keep satellite-TV competition at bay.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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