News

Comcast Hatches Niche Nets

8/29/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

Comcast Corp. is creating sports-based programming in Dallas and Detroit of a type different than its Comcast SportsNet regional services in Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore/Washington.

The top U.S. cable company will team with the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys on a 24-hour channel starting in September.

And it will serve up high-school and college sports programming on an owned-and-operated channel launching this week in South Michigan.

PRESEASON GAMES

The Dallas Cowboys Channel will rebroadcast preseason contests and offer magazine shows and a series featuring Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, Comcast vice president of sports content Mike Sheehey said. There will also be shows about the team’s players and cheerleaders.

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

The Cowboys net will launch in front of about 200,000 Dallas-area subscribers on Comcast’s digital plus and on a sports tier, Sheehey said.

The Dallas Morning News reported on the Comcast-Cowboys plans last week.

Comcast also will add the service in Los Angeles, because the Cowboys’ preseason training camp is in Oxnard, Calif. And the channel could join other Comcast lineups around the country, minus the preseason telecasts, due to league restrictions.

Sheehey said Comcast will re-evaluate the channel after the season to see if it will stay on following the Super Bowl. Comcast has rights to Dallas Desperados Arena Football League games to help fill the void in spring and early summer, though.

Berke said Comcast is in carriage discussions with other operators in the region, but would not reveal rate-card terms.

Comcast also carries a 24-hour channel for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Sheehey wouldn’t rule out similar Comcast-owned networks elsewhere.

“We’re very excited about this type of programming,” he said. “It’s niche programming that really works well on a digital tier.”

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

The service, for more than 1 million customers, will offer a significant amount of local amateur sports. “We’ll also cover college football games from historically black colleges, which [have] a large following up in this area,” McKelvey added.

NO PRO FARE

It won’t compete with Fox Sports Net Detroit for rights to high-profile college or pro games. The regional sports network holds rights to Major League baseball’s Detroit Tigers, National Basketball Association’s Detroit Pistons and National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings.

“It’s not the focus of the network right now,” said Diane Dietz, vice president of corporate affairs for the Midwest division.

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