The Portland Trail Blazers have asked the Federal Communications Commission to place conditions on a proposed media merger between Comcast Corp., General Electric Co. and NBC Universal Inc.
If the FCC sides with the Blazers, more fans would be able to watch the team's televised games.
Comcast officials promised the team in 2007 that its then-new contract to broadcast Blazer games on Comcast SportsNet Northwest would bring increased exposure for the team.
However, Comcast has not been able to reach agreements with competing providers that would allow many of the team’s games to be broadcast on other systems.
Blazers President Larry Miller, in a June 21 letter to the FCC, said "hundreds of thousands" of Blazers fans who’d previously had access to the team’s cable television games could no longer watch them. The team has received thousands of e-mails and letters from upset fans, Miller wrote.
"Given this record of utilizing its control over such programming and its market dominance in multichannel video programming services, we fear that allowing Comcast to acquire invaluable NBCU programming will increase its ability and its incentive to engage in such conduct unless the commission’s consent to the proposed license assignment and transfers is appropriately conditioned," Miller wrote.
The condition, he continued, would be that "any consent to the license transfers and assignment in this proceeding on a requirement that Comcast authorize distribution of Trail Blazers games by competing multichannel video program distributors. "
Since signing the reported $120 million 10-year contract with the Blazers, Comcast has maintained that other cable and satellite television companies, such as DirecTV, have simply not bid enough to earn access to the Comcast SportsNet NW network.
"The network always has, and continues to be, available to all local TV providers," said Tim Fitzpatrick, a Philadelphia-based Comcast SportsNet spokesman. "We share the Blazers' frustration that DirecTV and a few others have chosen not to carry the network despite our efforts to get them to carry it."
The Blazers letter became part of the documents the FCC will consider as it mulls the $30 billion merger. The Columbian newspaper first reported that the Blazers weighed in on the merger.
Eleven broadcast providers carry Comcast SportsNet NW in 264 Oregon and Washington communities.
Read more: Blazers take Comcast battle to FCC - Portland Business Journal