Comcast to Blaze Regional Trail in Portland

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Fresh off its acquisition of regional sports networks in San Francisco/Oakland, Calif., and Boston, Comcast is now looking to play ball in Portland, Ore.

The MSO’s sports arm, Comcast SportsNet, is negotiating with the National Basketball Association’s Portland Trail Blazers to start an RSN in the market.

The deal -- which comes on the heels of Comcast’s $570 million purchase of Cablevision Systems’ interests in FSN Bay Area and FSN New England -- could be finalized as early as this week, according to executives close to the negotiations.

The Trail Blazers ended its five-year affiliation deal with FSN Northwest at the end of the 2006-07 NBA season. The network carried 35 live Trail Blazers games per year, with a local broadcast station affiliate picking up the remainder.

An FSN spokesman said in a prepared statement that the programmer ended negotiations with the Trail Blazers two weeks ago, adding, “They are simply unrealistic about the increase and we do not believe it is in the best interest for us to continue at that level for our distributors and consumers.”

Ratings for the team have declined steadily during its run on FSN, dropping from a 3.4 in 2002-03 to a 1.5 rating during the 2006-07 campaign.

Comcast SportsNet executives would not comment on the matter and Portland Trail Blazers executives could not be reached for comment at press time.

The move to a stand-alone regional-sports entity isn’t the first for the Paul Allen-owned Trail Blazers: The team distributed its regular season games via pay-per-view during the 1990s before launching its own Action Sports Cable Network basic service in 2000. That service lasted two years before the team folded it for lack of distribution. The team reached a carriage deal with FSN during the 2002-03 season.

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