I've seen very little interpretation out there on the intertubz regarding the carriage issues of Comcast and OSN's agreement, so I thought I would offer mine.
A little background, first: I am a media professional with extensive experience planning advertising campaigns for several regional advertisers in the Northwest. I can virtually guarantee that if you live in Western Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, or Northern California, you've seen ads that I have helped to create and/or purchase. I keep close tabs on the media, especially television, as it's my job to know what is going on in the industry. I'm no expert, and I offer no inside information, but I consider myself an informed observer. If anyone out there knows the facts better than I do, PLEASE feel free to correct me in the comments. I'll endeavor to correct the original post to maintain its validity.
Most of what we know regarding the status of Comcast/IMG/OSN/Dish/Charter/DirecTV/etc. comes to us from goducks.com press releases or Joe Giansante's blog post with DSN here. There is not much to go on.
The root of this came when UO/OSN signed a pact with IMG a while back to be the promoter of the Oregon Athletics brand in just about all facets. After looking at the details of the deal when it occurred, I believe it's probably a good deal, business-wise for the athletics department, especially with the financial committments they have for basketball and baseball venues. If they didn't sign a deal like this, we never could have brought back baseball, and Uncle Phil never would have put down so much money for the hoops arena.
However, when UO signed their deal, they knew there would be problems and setbacks, too, and we're dealing with one of them here: The fact that UO shunned a longtime TV partner for a big, corporate entity that is a huge part of the sports marketing industry. The money for UO Athletics is better, no doubt. However, by changing the framework of the marketing arrangement, UO essentially shoved Chambers out of the picture, and I believe they knew this long before they signed the deal.
OSN/IMG will tell you that Chambers backed out at the last minute and it's all their fault, but that eventuality was a foregone conclusion the minute the IMG contract was signed. IMG changed the game, and Chambers simply would not be able to live up to new contract conditions that would cause them to lose significant amounts of money if they aired the Ducks.
UO/OSN knew this sort of thing could happen. If they didn't, then Pat Kilkenny and Joe Giansante were certainly not doing their jobs when negotiating the IMG deal. Mr. Giansante, especially, should have known that Chambers needed significant revenue from advertising to support the rights fee they paid the Ducks in previous years. After all, he worked for KEZI for years prior to becoming a UO employee.
So that's how we got into this situation. What's keeping it from being resolved?
When Chambers backed out, the UO Athletics department scrambled for a new vendor for programming. UO has always had a terrible relationship with Fox Sports Northwest, so that option was out immediately. I can't really say I blame them, given their coverage of any team from Oregon sucks. There are no statewide networks of broadcast stations to turn to, as Chambers was the only Oregon-based channel owner. Fisher Broadcasting owns KATU and KVAL, but they're based in Seattle and are in serious financial trouble as a company
Comcast SportsNet was the obvious choice, and here's why: they have the money. Comcast is a huge corporation based in Philadelphia, and they own most of the metropolitan cable systems in the United States, with the exception of the biggest markets, like New York and LA. They have more subscribers than any other cable company.
Comcast has multiple revenue streams, and this helps them greatly. They are able to sell cable subscriptions to people in their coverage areas, and they are able to sell local and quasi-national advertising to businesses who want to advertise on the cable networks.
Years ago, they got another idea: why not control the content as well? As the industry is set up, a cable company pays, say $3.26 per subscriber, per month to a third-party network like ESPN for rights to carry the network. This is where much of our cable/sattelite bills go-- straight to the networks. Comcast decided to do an end-run around the Fox Sports, YES Networks, and Raycom Sports of the world and start creating its own for-profit sports networks. Not only would they get the content without rights fees and own all of the advertising inventory, but they could SELL THE CONTENT TO OTHER PROGRAMMING PROVIDERS for yet another revenue stream.
This has worked well. Comcast continues to expand its sports presence, and now has ten different networks across the country. Their typical MO is to become the official carrier of several local sports teams, and muscle the other content providers into carrying them because of the public outcry from disgruntled fans.
And this is where we lose. Comcast is actively trying to get carriage on Charter, Dish, DirecTV, and all the others, just as OSN/IMG/CSN say. But they want to get carriage at THEIR PRICE. I don't know what they're charging, but it's too much at this point in time for any of the other providers to pay. They have to consider thier own costs, too. Do they drop another network to make room in the budget? Do they raise rates in order to pay the rights fee? They're negotiating. CSN wants as much money as possible, and your provider wants to bring you content for the lowest price possible.
That's why UO wants us to call our providers and tell them we want Comcast SportsNet. Well, it's not our responsibility. We're the victims here, in a game where IMG and Comcast are making all the money.
Bottom line for me: I can't watch my team play. It's frustrating and the situation is incredibly opaque. I think Oregon fans are the losers here, at least in the short term. UO and IMG have shown a pretty healthy disregard for the short-term well being of the fan base, mortgaging it for long-term profits. It may all work out, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I would love to see some healthy communication from all parties, especially the UO Athletic Department, but we all know how much info the UO likes to give to the public.
Mostly, I resent being a pawn for all these big businesses.