The move to CSN California may be good for the A's long-term financial security, but they sure have taken a major hit on TV to do it according to Sports Business Journal. Having moved from CSN Bay Area to the sister network, the A's posted a paltry 0.82 rating locally for the season, a drop from 1.72 in 2008. The Giants, having been in playoff contention until the last week of the season, scored major gains of 25,000 households, or roughly one full ratings point.
The drop can be traced to two major factors, team performance (poor for most of the season) and channel availability. Lew Wolff pointed to the lucrative dealed ink with Comcast as a source of financial stability. Both parties must have known about a possible drop in viewership and Comcast more or less subsidized the move, as it wants to beef up CSNCA in order to push other non-Comcast cable operators like Charter to add it into their systems. Comcast would then get subscriber fees from a competitor. The cable giant has been on a content grab over the last several years, potentially culminating in an acquisition of NBC-Universal (at least one game theory expert thinks it's going to happen). Comcast already has stakes in 11 regional sports networks including the aforementioned CSNBA/CSNCA, plus Versus, The Golf Channel, and an equity share of MLB Network. A merger with NBCU would give Comcast unprecedented control over content availability. Never mind that NBC has languished in last place among the four major networks for years. Content is king, and with content Comcast gets major leverage.
So if you're thinking that the A's are but a mere pawn in a much larger game, well yes they are. Comcast is in a position to seriously challenge ESPN and its networks, which bring in the heftiest subscriber fees thanks to bundling. Team performance notwithstanding, the A's need Comcast to win its battles for greater carriage. For most of you, it'll be difficult to root for a company like Comcast that's so often anti-consumer. Just don't think about it for now, and dream about IPTV being the technology that, once mature, will bring down the ridiculously archaic barriers (such as blackouts) that we deal with now.