In Age of Uncertainty, Bonds Between Regional Networks and Teams Make a Difference

The relationship enables both to focus on serving fans in a given market

Sports Business Journal’s 2017 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference, held at the Marina del Rey, CA, Marriott, kicked off yesterday with a discussion between David Preshlack, president, NBC Sports Regional Networks and NBC Sports Group Platform and Content Strategy, and Larry Baer, president/CEO, San Francisco Giants. The focus? The tight bonds between local sports franchises and their RSN partner that allow both to thrive in an era of uncertainty.

The Giants own 33% of NBC Sports Bay Area, and Baer described the relationship between the team and the network as seamless. “If we didn’t have Comcast at our side,” he said, “I don’t think we would have had the power of the brand to sell out [537 games straight]; and they come up with creative ways to sell tickets.”

Dave Preshlack of NBC Sports Regional Sports Networks and NBC Sports Group Platform says that RSNs have an advantage because they can focus on a single marketplace.

Planning, he added, is the key to avoiding conflict and creating a relationship that can help the Giants grow their brand.

The good news for those involved in regional-sports-content delivery, Preshlack said, is that the goals are often in lockstep with those of the local franchises: serve the fans with the best product possible, make it easy for them to access, and make sure that regional nuances are addressed. Also, when an NBC regional sports network is broadcasting an NHL or NBA game, that game is always ranked in the top three programs within a given market.

“There is no better place to be than the regional-sports business,” said Preshlack, “because we aren’t trying to crack the code of a product for multiple markets: we have one market and can figure out what does and doesn’t resonate there.”

For example, NBC Sports has a 33% stake in the Monumental Sports Network, which is figuring out how to serve sports fans in the Washington, DC, area. And in Portland, OR, where there is no carriage deal with Dish or AT&T DirecTV, a new offering allows Trailblazer fans to subscribe to a package where they pay $34.99 and can choose up to 15 games.

“The focus is on serving fans and knowing as much about them as humanly possible,” Preshlack explained. “And partners like Larry are aligned with us, whether or not there is equity. We can take calculated risks.”

He noted that everyone’s future in the business is increasingly mobile, but TV is still going to provide the best available screen for consuming sports content. But, he advised, don’t take a programming philosophy designed for TV and apply it to mobile-content delivery.

“It’s not fruitful,” he explained. “You need to find the right way to program per device. The NBA, for example, has different cameras for mobile devices that are more focused on individual players and offer a better viewing experience.”

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