Cable Operators

Comcast Tees Up New Nets in Dallas, Detroit

8/26/2004 7:24 AM Eastern

Comcast Corp. will soon kick off a pair of sports-based networks in Dallas and Detroit.

The MSO is teaming up with the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys to launch a 24-hour channel in September.

Before that, Aug. 30, Comcast will offer local high-school and college sports programming as part of an owned-and-operated channel serving its South Michigan region.

Neither network will be branded under the Comcast Sports Net umbrella, which includes regional sports networks in Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington, D.C.

The Dallas Cowboys Channel will become Comcast’s second team-dedicated network: The MSO offers a 24-hour channel for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

The Cowboys Channel will showcase rebroadcasts of the club’s preseason contests, as well as magazine shows and a program featuring “America’s Team” coach Bill Parcells, according to Comcast vice president of sports content Mike Sheehey.

“It will provide an inside look at what’s going on in the Cowboys organization,” Cowboys consultant Lee Berke said.

The network will bow in front of about 200,000 Dallas-area subscribers on both Comcast’s “Digital Plus” and “Sports” tiers, according to Sheehey. In addition, the operator will launch the service in its Los Angeles system -- the Cowboys’ training camp is in Oxnard, Calif.

He added that the channel could air in other Comcast systems around the country, although the MSO would have to black out the preseason telecasts due to league restrictions.

Sheehey said Comcast will re-evaluate the channel after the season to determine whether to run it during the NFL’s offseason. Comcast, though, holds the rights to Dallas Desperados Arena Football League games to help fill the void during the spring and early summer.

Berke said Comcast is in carriage discussions with other MSOs in the region for carriage of the service, but he would not reveal the network’s rate card.

And Comcast’s southeast Michigan region will launch a 24-hour network Aug. 30 featuring local content, including sports and entertainment events, said Kerry McKelvey, VP of marketing and sales for Comcast’s Midwest division.

The channel, which will serve more than 1 million subscribers, will offer a significant amount of local sports programming, including area high-school and college football games, McKelvey said.

“We’ll also cover college-football games from historically black colleges, which have a large following up in this area,” he added.

The network, however, does not see itself competing with Fox Sports Net Detroit for the rights to high-profile college and pro team games. “It’s not the focus of the network right now,” said Diane Dietz, VP of corporate affairs for the Midwest division.

In addition to sports, the network will feature town-hall meetings, as well as a Detroit-based classic-car event and the Detroit Auto Show. It will also seek to distribute local concerts and other entertainment events in the area.

While Comcast controls more than 95% of the southeast Michigan region, Dietz said the MSO would most likely offer the network to other systems in the area.

September