Comcast's Expansion of Local Coverage a Preemptive Strike Against ESPN

↵Some people think that without Pepsi, there'd be no Coca-Cola. Without Mac, there'd be no Windows. Without Yahoo there'd be no Google. ↵

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↵Maybe the same can soon be said for ESPN and Comcast. There's long been talk about a competitor to ESPN on the national sports landscape and the latest – and most likely greatest – challenger to behemoth that ESPN has become is clearly Comcast. A few years back, Comcast changed OLN to Versus and began showcasing copious amounts of hockey and secondary college football games. Add in a sprinkle of open-wheel racing and some MMA and Versus has begun to carve a niche as a poor man's ESPN2. Nobody is going to take the television market share from ESPN, but chipping away at its edges on a national level might work if a company has strong local roots. ↵

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↵And that's where Comcast has always been stronger than ESPN, which is why yesterday's announcement that Comcast will be focusing even more on the local markets should come as no surprise. SportsBusiness Journal reports that Comcast is adding reporters and editorial staffers to several existing websites, including those in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington. In fact, per SBJ: ↵

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↵⇥The moves clearly are coming in response to ESPN’s launch of locally tailored Web sites. This year, ESPN launched local sites in Chicago, Boston and Dallas, with launches planned in New York and Los Angeles next year. ↵⇥

↵⇥In the Mid-Atlantic market, for example, Comcast plans to fully staff two Web sites, one for CSNWashington.com and one for CSNBaltimore.com. ↵⇥

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↵The decision for ESPN to go local with the creation of ESPN Boston, ESPN Chicago and ESPN Dallas was like the engineering of a can of Coke Zero that runs Windows 7 with a Google toolbar. (I may have crossed analogies there.) Industry insiders – especially in the wake of Versus battle with DirecTV – were waiting to see Comcast's next move as ESPN continues to drop its servers and satellite dishes into nearly every major city. So it's no surprise that Comcast is focusing on galvanizing their local product, having existing partnerships with professional and college teams in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Portland and Washington D.C. among the growing number of cities. ↵

↵With online success for CSN in other markets – including in New England and in Philadelphia with the recently re-branded CSNPhilly.com – Comcast is splitting the existing 'Mid-Atlantic' coverage market into specific sites for Baltimore and Washington. CSNWashington.com is actually up and running, and, per SBJ, the company has a plan for even more resources going into the project. ↵

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↵⇥In its first year, it expects to have a beat writer hired for every professional team it covers. In ensuing years, it plans to hire reporters to cover local colleges and high schools. ↵⇥

↵⇥The key for Comcast is to attract big-name writers who could appear on both TV and online. ↵⇥

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↵If this is a preemptive strike against ESPN, it just might work in cities like Philly and D.C. And more sports writing jobs are always a good thing. ↵

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↵Let's just hope the new model isn't so successful that gobbles up all the talent in town – paging Dr. Steinberg. Dr. Steinberg and Dr. Wise, please report to the new CSNWashington.com site STAT – to the point where none of the existing local news outlets can compete with CSN or ESPN. You know, sometimes we miss the days sitting around surfing the internet with Lycos, a Roy Rogers burger in one hand and an RC Cola in the other. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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