Despite nine years of fan headaches across the region, the Portland Trail Blazers have chosen to renew their broadcast contract with Comcast SportsNet Northwest. This will be an exclusive contract for all games, ending the KGW's 24-year run of broadcasts. The new contract takes effect on July 1, 2017 and runs through 2021. The news was first reported by Joe Freeman at the Oregonian.
The Blazers had previously been linked with Root Sports, Fox Sports, as well as local broadcast networks. However, they chose to stay with Comcast, despite years of access problems for local fans. There was no announcement of any carriage improvements. As Freeman reports, the Blazers had concerns about Root Sports' long-term availability if they made the move.
ROOT's distribution agreement with Comcast will end soon and the Blazers were worried it might not be renewed, meaning ROOT could only guarantee distribution on DirecTV, which reaches 33 percent of the Portland market — 22 percent less than Comcast. In the end, faced with the prospect of even worse distribution, the Blazers decided to take less money and fewer years and stay with CSN.
Chris Haynes reports that the Blazers are looking into streaming options for games, which will start one season from now.
#Blazers reach TV deal extension with CSN Northwest, per sources. New agreement to include select game streaming options for 2017-18 season.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 6, 2016
The Blazers' Casey Holdahl reports that the Blazers are working out plans to stream the games in the local market with no blackouts.
If you have a PS4, PS3, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast or Roku, you can stream games on Sony Vue in the Portland area, NO BLACKOUTS— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) July 6, 2016
Just heard back about Sony Vue availabilityL Games on Sony Vue available to EVERYONE in Oregon AND Washington.— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) July 6, 2016
This continues a long chapter in Blazers television history that started 15 years ago.
The Blazers' attempts at establishing a permanent network home goes back to 2001, when Allen created the Action Sports Network. In what would become a familiar theme, the network struggled to get carriage across the major providers, especially AT&T Broadband, and the network closed up shop.
Under the watch of Vice President Mike Golub and interim President Tod Leiweke, the Blazers signed a 10-year agreement with Comcast SportsNet in the summer of 2007. The contract was a big moment for the Blazers: It marked the first time that all 82 games would be televised locally across network and basic cable. By 2009, the Blazers announced that all games would be shown in high definition.
However, cracks in the Blazers agreement with Comcast soon appeared. Despite expectations that the network would be available to everyone, Comcast could not come to agreement with a number of major providers in the Portland area. Customers of DirecTV, Dish Network are still locked out, and Charter added the network in 2013. This became a wedge between the Blazers and their own fans, since the 10-year contract contained no exit clauses. The Blazers asked the Federal Communications Commission to intervene, with no success.
Earlier this year, the Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers reported that the Blazers were negotiating with Comcast, but with an eye on their ongoing problems. He noted Root Sports' likely interest in bringing the Blazers into their portfolio, as well as the Blazers' investigation of possible streaming alternatives. The Blazers apparently felt Comcast was still their best option.