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Comcast sweetens sports deal

In one of those "strategic" deals that was about more than just cash, Viacom agreed to sell Home Team Sports and Midwest Sports Channel to MSO Comcast, receiving, in part, analog carriage of some of its networks.

Industry executives familiar with the deal put the price at $200 million in cash. But Viacom also got Comcast carriage commitments for MTV's digital package, The Suite, plus analog carriage of MTV spin-off M2 and Nickelodeon splinter Noggin to much of Comcast's 8.2 million subscriber base.

Comcast, led by Brian Roberts, its president, is buying only a two-thirds interest in Home Team but will control the operation.

However, Comcast may choose to resell Midwest Sports to FOX because the MSO has no systems in the network's Minneapolis-Milwaukee core.

Comcast already has one regional sports network in its core Philadelphia market, and jumped at the opportunity for a second, Home Team Sports, in the Washington-Baltimore market.

After securing almost 90% of the systems in its headquarters market, Philadelphia, Comcast is getting close to that level of concentration in Washington and Baltimore where pending deals will leave Comcast systems serving 1.5 million subscribers.

Home Team has 4.7 million subscribers from North Carolina to Pennsylvania and holds cable rights to most of the major teams in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, including the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Wizards, Capitols, Mystics and D.C. United.

Midwest Sports has the cable rights to the Minnesota Twins, Timberwolves, University of Minnesota, plus Milwaukee Brewers, Bucks, University of Wisconsin and Marquette University sports.