26 February 2007

Hetch Hetchy Hitch

The Niners keep running into obstacles with the Santa Clara site. First it was the power substation, which can be avoided without much difficulty in the design phase. Now comes the old Hetch Hetchy aqueduct, upon which nothing can be built. According to Matier & Ross, the aqueduct, officially called the Bay Division Pipelines 3 & 4, could be a bone of contention from both land use and political standpoints. But how big a deal is it?

First, let's take a look at the land use aspect. The pipelines run south through Fremont and Milpitas before turning west through North San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. Where they run through residential neighborhoods, you'll find narrow landscaped greenbelts. In industrial and office parks, the aqueduct usually runs underneath surface parking lots.

The red area represents the lot the 49ers are targeting. The blue line is the aqueduct. I placed the Coliseum there because it represents a possible footprint (sizewise) for the stadium. As you can see in the photo, the Coliseum fits quite snugly between the substation and the pipelines' right-of-way. There's another graphic put together by the Support Our Niners advocacy website but it's a bad perspective for understanding how the right-of-way relates to the rest of the land.

The stadium is doable without moving or reconfiguring the substation, as was discussed for the Diridon South ballpark site. The pipeline right-of-way can stay intact, and when the time comes for the pipeline itself to be replaced, a partnership of the SFPUC, the City of Santa Clara, and the 49ers can jointly build a walkable plaza that would beautify the buffer between Great America and the stadium.

As for the political side of things, you can't count out the possibility of the City of San Francisco making things difficult through the PUC. It wouldn't be the first time I used the word cockblock with this situation.

Wolff on KLIV, Comcast to buy FSNBA

Lew Wolff will be on San Jose AM station KLIV Tuesday night @ 7 p.m. (repeat at 10 p.m.). From the KLIV website:

Please tune in this Tuesday night (February 27) for an engaging and interactive conversation with Lew Wolff and Dave Holland.

Oakland A's owner Lew Wolfe (sic) and Cisco Systems Executive Dave Holland will join The CEO Show, on 1590 KLIV.

Lew and Dave will discuss the plans to bring the Oakland A's to the City of Fremont, and the high-tech, state-of-the-art ballpark they envision for their fans.

The weekly talk show (starting at 7pm with a 10 pm repeat) features prominent CEOs and Senior Officers who impact our Valley, State, Nation and World, for an unrehearsed discussion on the key issues facing our Valley's economy and quality of life. It is a show about Silicon Valley for Silicon Valley.

The show includes a call-in portion for interested listeners who would like to participate in the conversation. The call-in number is 408/575-1600.

I hope you can join us this Tuesday, February 27 at 7pm, or the repeat broadcast at 10pm for an engaging conversation with Lew Wolff and Dave Holland.

KLIV is a low-power station that can't be picked up anywhere outside the valley, and as far as I know they don't webcast.

The San Jose Business Journal reports (subscription required to read full article) that Comcast is closing in on buying Rainbow Media's 60% share of FSN Bay Area. The long-discussed deal would give Comcast control over both Northern California regional sports networks, its own Comcast Sportsnet and FSNBA (40% owned by Fox). What are the ramifications of this arrangement?

It would be double-edged sword. FSNBA and Comcast have long had a good working relationship as content provider and cable operator, respectively. The entry of CSN to the Bay Area a while back made CSN a potential competitor, but FSN smartly locked up all of the Bay Area teams to long-term deals that shut out CSN. Without good local content, CSN had little reason to heavily market in the Bay, choosing instead to wait until FSN's agreements expired. Since CSN would own part or all of either channel, it could choose to be more aggressive since it would win either way. Here are some possibilities:
  • CSN could remake itself as an Expanded Basic channel, not a Digital Only channel (400). Such a move would make CSN available to almost as many subscribers as FSN, though arrangements would have to be worked with independent cable providers. It would be the costliest move for Comcast since they might have to deal with the displacement of an existing Expanded Basic channel.
  • CSN could stay Digital Only, which would limit exposure but reign in costs. I could see this happening CSN were to be established as a lower profile network compared to FSN, with lower cost/ratings programming. It's possible that the scenario could be flipped with CSN getting the prime spot while FSN is pushed aside.
  • CSN and FSN could have a programming sharing agreement with lots of cross promotion. The two networks could be peers, or one could be the "backup" for the other. That would probably mean the end for FSN+.
  • CSN could withdraw from the Bay Area completely, leaving FSN/FSN+ as the sole regional sports provider.
Whatever happens, it will make for a definite landscape change among the Bay Area teams. Wolff has expressed interest in creating a regional sports network, which I dismissed previously due to Comcast's 800-lb. gorilla status. The time might be ripe for a new alternative RSN, but there are startup costs and programming questions to be answered. A new RSN would only work if there's enough programming (not just baseball) to warrant it. That means pairing with a winter sport and having other deals in place. I could definitely see an A's-Sharks-Quakes relationship happening on either CSN or Wolff's channel.

One other thing: there will certainly be questions about HD content. Right now delivering HD has a premium associated with it, about $30,000 per game in production costs. That should go down over time, but right now it's pretty hefty.