Early Friday, Forbes.com sports business writer and Portland resident Maury Brown reported that the Portland Trail Blazers may move in another direction from Comcast when their broadcasting partnership expires after the 2016-17 season:
The Blazers’ contact with Comcast NW is up after next season, and that has made many wonder if the club will move over to ROOT Sports Northwest. CSN NW has had difficulties gaining carriage beyond Comcast, so moving to ROOT Sports NW would increase TV market visibility. The network sees the Seattle Mariners as majority partners with DirecTV. A move to ROOT Sports NW gets coverage to DirecTV, a sizeable audience growth.
[Blazers president and CEO Chris] McGowan on RipCity Radio dismissed the broadcast team firing and new larger investment in a new team as the driver in moving to ROOT Sports NW, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t provide the pieces in place if they should. For ROOT Sports NW, the Blazers would be a massive programming addition for the Fall and Spring months.
This comes on the heels of McGowan letting go television analysts Mike Barrett and Mike Rice, as well as radio color analyst Antonio Harvey, on Wednesday.
On Friday morning, the Blazers announced the hiring of Kevin Calabro to fill their vacant television play-by-play analyst position. Calabro, a former Seattle Supersonics broadcaster and current analyst for ESPN Radio covering the 2016 NBA Finals, would ostensibly help the Blazers make inroads into Seattle, where they've reportedly been desperate to gain a share of the sports television market.
...Calabro fits into it all neatly. He becomes a familiar face in Seattle, and that lends itself to the Blazers growing market size into the city. That, and Calabro has a national footprint since leaving the Sonics.
As the Seattle Mariners and Seahawks have claimed Portland as their second largest market, so too are the Blazers seeking to make Seattle part theirs by reaching north to Seattle. Calabro plays into that. Only time will tell if the moves this year play into a larger aspect as the Blazers TV deal gets renewed.
After publishing, Brown went to twitter to offer more thoughts on the organization's next TV deal:
Hearing from a couple different sources, but not yet confirmed, that new Blazers broadcast deal really down to ROOT Sports NW and FOX.— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) June 18, 2016
It's important to note that, at this point, any ponderings on the Blazers' upcoming broadcasting negotiations are likely speculative, if not conjecture. Still -- as the narrative goes, at least -- the team wants to make more of an impression in the Seattle TV market; the hiring of Calabro signifies that to many, including Brown. And a move to Root Sports would certainly seem to offer a stronger foothold up north. Is that enough to lure the Blazers away from their relationship with Comcast?