I'm less interested in pointing a finger than I am with finding a course through this minefield. At this point it looks as if there will be no agreement between Comcast and the satelite companies (and Charter). That will be two years without an agreement. Two years. It's time the Blazer organization takes action. I believe there is an opt-out clause in the agreement, but I've yet to hear any specifics regarding the terms and conditions under which such a clause might be executed.
Following the money: The Blazers.
The Blazer organization is looking for cash to boost their bottom line, but that's not all. They're also trying to establish a loyal fan following. The Blazers have always had a good percentage of die-hard fans, but those aren't the ones that make NBA teams the big money. It's the casual fan that is the true revenue maker because there are so many more of them. Hundreds of thousands more.
The Blazers have invested a lot of time and effort in building a team that everyone can be proud to root for, but they're now having their market limited by their Comcast deal. Whether it's the fault of Comcast or not, it's that deal that has hampered the ability of many would-be fans from being able to follow the team when they're not on national TV.
Though the Comcast deal has benefited the bottom line of the Blazer organization to the tune of $10 million per year, they are loosing out on the real revenue generator...fan participation.
Following the money: Comcast.
Big risk equals big reward. Before the Blazers won big in the lottery Comcast was willing to bet heavily on the Blazer organization, outbidding the standard $4 million per year that Fox had been offering. In addition Comcast would establish a new channel with the Blazers as the cornerstone along with other Oregon-centric sporting events. No longer would we be the step-child of Seattle sports options. Similar to Field of Dreams, if you build it, we will watch. We will DEMAND it. They did it. And now they want a return on their investment. I can't blame them for that mentality, but I can blame them for shortsightedness and questionable business expectations.
Comcast wants what it wants because it believes that's what it's worth. That's where they've made their mistake. Much like die-hard fans overvalue their players on the trade market, Comcast has overvalued it's product outside Oregon. It's not hard to understand why the smaller cable companies have agreed to Comcast's deal. They have a larger portion of their subscription base wanting to root for the Blazers. With smaller companies, it's easier for a few voices to be heard when asking for a certain product. Comcast ASSUMED the same deal would work for everyone. Wrong!
Now Comcast is stuck. They've gotten almost everyone in their service area to switch that was really going to, but that isn't anywhere near making this a cost-effective deal for them. $10 million per year plus the costs of running their own sports channel is a big undertaking that requires a broad revenue base. Seattle's loss of the Sonics has likely been an unforeseen bonus for Comcast as it seeks to expand it's subscriber base. What are the odds Seattle people would switch from satelite just to watch the Blazers? Low. I don't expect that to stop Comcast, however. They will likely wait out the current season to see how many more homes they can squeeze before they reconsider their position.
Following the money: Satelite companies
Portland Who? Jail-Blazers? When was the last time they were in the playoffs? Please buy NBA League Pass for only $189.00 for the entire season. Catch every game from the comfort of your own home (except the ones you really want).
The large satelite companies have no interest in being all things to all markets. Remember how long it was before they offered local channels? Direct TV and Dish aren't headquartered in Oregon, and likely don't realize the demand. A few hundred calls or e-mails won't move an entrenched bureaucracy when they think in terms of millions of viewers and not thousands. It's that mindset that will prevent any substantial shift in their negotiation position.
Following the money: Fans
In this trying economy, I cannot fathom why companies wouldn't be trying everything in their power to get my money, especially when I tell them exactly what I'd be willing to pay for.
I want to watch the Blazer games on TV, and I'm willing to pay for it!
Take my money...please!
The Blazers haven't gotten to the breaking point yet, though they should have by now. Don't confuse a sold out Rose Garden with adequate marketing. So many dollars are being left on the table, it's not even funny.
Comcast has found that it can dictate terms in their pond, but in the big ocean they're just another sucker fish hanging around the large sharks. They've painted themselves into a corner with this deal, and the only way out that's profitable is to stick to their guns.
Satelite providers are trying to meet national expectations rather than market-centric demands. They don't have any incentive to cave to Comcast's demands. Even if every satelite subscriber in Oregon were to cancel their service out of frustration, they would hardly even notice the blip.
Fans are, as always, left to the mercy of outside forces. Frustrating as this ongoing saga has become, I've come to terms with the fact that I'll be watching only ESPN and TNT feeds of the games and listening to Wheels when those aren't an option.
It's a shame nobody wants my money.