CSTV Spin-Off Ascends With Comcast Deal

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CSTV Networks’ new regional sports network will get its start out west, but may wind up playing on a national TV-sports field.

Comcast Corp., which has secured a 50% stake in The mtn. — MountainWest Sports Network, will handle distribution efforts for the “super-regional,” which will offer college football and other live sports events from such schools as Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah.

As part of a deal reached Wednesday between the MSO and the CBS-owned college sports-based programmer, Comcast will initially launch the service Sept. 1 to expanded-basic subscribers in its Salt Lake City system and to digital-cable customers in its Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo., and Albuquerque, N.M. systems, according to CSTV CEO Brian Bedol.

While the network will have distribution in the aforementioned states via Comcast, it will have to secure carriage deals with cable operators in San Diego and Las Vegas (Cox Communications Inc.), Texas (Time Warner Cable) and Wyoming (Bresnan Communications) in order to reach the nine-member MountainWest Conference’s seven-state footprint.

Representatives from Time Warner, Cox and Bresnan could not be reached for comment at press time.

Bedol said Comcast, which declined comment, would also push for national distribution for the service.

Select MountainWest Conference events will also appear on Comcast-owned sports network OLN, which will be renamed Versus in September, as well as through Comcast’s video-on-demand platform. Content will also be available via broadband via CSTV.com (www.cstv.com).

Bedol said the Comcast deal was huge for the fledgling network, which, prior to the agreement, had not secured any significant cable carriage.

“It certainly answers a lot of the questions related to distribution,” he added. “From the beginning, we felt that this service — which will allow fans to follow their teams regardless of where they live — was the next wave in really taking advantage of the technological advances.”

Bedol said Fox Sports’ announcement earlier this month that it will launch a Big Ten Conference-based national sports network in fall 2007 played no role in its deal with Comcast.

He added that CSTV doesn’t have any immediate plans to launch similar stand-alone services for other conferences.

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