Comcast Sports Net Slides Into VOD Fare

3/22/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Comcast's regional sports nets are sliding head first into video-on-demand, with many of its owned-and-operated networks offering some form of on-demand daily sports-news content, local sports interview shows and repeats of live sports games.

With baseball season around the corner, Comcast SportsNet services in Chicago and Bay Area will offer Cubs, White Sox, Giants and Athletics baseball games on an on-demand basis this season, in an effort to better serve its fans, according to CSN senior vice president of news operations Princell Hair. Several CSN channels began experimenting with on-demand content last season, although Hair would not reveal specific VOD performance numbers.

Regional sports networks in the past have been reluctant to offer such valuable game replay content on demand for fear that it would siphon off viewers who watch such replays on linear television. Regionals often sell advertising packages based off of the combined audiences for live telecasts and replays.

But Hair said while the VOD audience is growing, it's still too small to affect network ratings. Instead, the on-demand replays provide a value added option for both fans and local cable operators.

“[VOD] is not a game changer for us — it's really an incremental revenue source for us,” Hair said. “It's a matter of wanting to offer our programming on as many platforms as we can and we do that as a service to our audience. But it's not a big revenue driver for us.”

Fox Sports Net, which runs 19 regional sports channels, is still examining the opportunities to offer replayed games on demand, according to network officials. With regards to other VOD options, the company is currently offers on-demand via its Detroit, Carolinas and Arizona networks, offering around five to 10 hours a month of originally-produced news and interview shows. The remaining networks will roll out VOD in the near future.

But replay games aren't the only sports content filling up Comcast SportsNet's VOD bandwidth. Hair said the regionals offer two to five hours daily of original VOD content, including replays of daily sports news and analysis shows. Given the short life span for sports news and information, Hair said its important that the network frequently switch out its programming to keep its offering fresh and relevant to sports fans.

“Sports content is a bit more perishable than movies or non-live entertainment,” he said. “We'll offer a daily talk show that's typically an hour, and we'll do some half-hour news shows that we change on a daily basis.”

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