A couple of recently-announced media mergers may have some affect on local media. The first is the acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast. The Philadelphia-based cable conglomerate’s takeover of the peacock network was just approved by the FCC. It’s expected to be completed by February.
What effect it will have around here is up in the air, but there are too many synergistic opportunities to pass up. Aside from owning almost every cable franchise in the Bay Area, Comcast owns CSN California and has a majority stake in, and operates, CSN Bay Area. NBCU owns and operates KNTV channel 11.
CSN already produces Giants games for KNTV, so it appears that, right out of the box, this arrangement will continue. In fact, it may give KNTV a leg up over other stations bidding for rights to air the World Series champions in the future.
It could also mean that other teams who are exclusively on CSN could score a few games on KNTV as well. The Warriors? Sharks? It’d sure be nice to see them back on broadcast TV.
It might also mean appearances by KNTV sports anchors on CSN programs and vice-versa. Or maybe the NBC station moves its SF bureau to Comcast’s multi-million-dollar SOMA facility, or perhaps just does the sports out of there. Maybe CSN takes over KNTV’s sports reports. The possibilities are endless.
Meanwhile there was another merger announced this week. ESPN will operate the University of Texas’ new TV network. OK, technically it’s not a merger, but it’s a 20-year contract scored by the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports.
When Texas spurned the Pac-10’s bid to bring the Longhorns and 5 other Big 12 schools into the conference, and agreed to remain in the Big 12, it was under the condition that the Big 12 allow Texas to launch its own network. And now, for the first time, a single university has its very own media outlet.
It also means that, for the first time, ESPN is in bed with a specific university. If UT football is involved in some scandal, can the Disney-owned network be trusted to report on it fairly? Will the Longhorns get more coverage on the network than other schools?
More importantly, what will this do to other schools with popular football programs? Will it inspire USC to negotiate its own channel apart from the new Pac-12 network? If Oregon and Stanford football remain strong, will they follow suit?
OK, the Stanford Network is a long way off. First they have to figure out how to get fans to actually show up for games. But you can see the possibilities down the road. And you can also imagine ESPN, Fox, and Comcast in bidding wars to partner with these schools.
As for that Pac-12 Network? All three are expected to bid on running it. Fox is the most likely candidate, but now we know that ESPN may make a serious bid as well.
The media landscape is changing, for better or worse, or some of both. How it will ultimately affect the Bay Area remains to be seen. Hook ‘em, ESPN.