23 February 2009

DirecTV not to carry A's games on CSN California?

In a further sign of the tightening economy, Comcast and DirecTV are sparring over A's games on the new-and-improved Comcast SportsNet California, which as you remember, signed the A's two weeks ago. DirecTV already carries the channel, but it hasn't come to terms over the carriage of the A's 2009 season, which includes 145 regular season games (75 in HD).

Hardball negotiations aren't unfamiliar ground for the two parties. They've been duking it out over CSN Northwest for a while. Comcast is trying to bump up subscriber fees for both of its California properties, CSNCA and CSNBA. Only last week, DirecTV and Salt Lake City channel KJZZ finally came to a retransmission agreement 50 games into the Utah Jazz season.

Years ago, DirecTV was quick to sign agreements with the various RSN's as their strategy was to siphon sports-loving subscribers away from the big cable companies. These days, it appears that carriage is now considered on a case-by-case basis. They have reason to do so, as a rising subscriber fee for a channel gets passed along to the consumer, and we all know how much we like our pay TV rate hikes.

Will this get resolved prior to the start of the season? Hard to say. A bunch of issues are on the table, from blackout rules to the Sharks' potential move to CSNCA. The Earthquakes also don't have a TV schedule for their upcoming season, and it's been assumed for a while that the A's and Quakes are sort of a package deal.

A different perspective

The best take I've seen on the demise of the Fremont plan comes not from the sports page, but from the Examiner's Architecture and Design writer George Calys. His insightful piece de-emphasizes the hot-button issues that seemed to dominate the media of late and gets to the true bottom of the situation: money. Here's a sample:
The residential market is suffering a shut out. What’s that got to do with a ballpark? The proposed ballpark village (like others already constructed or underway) relies on a mix of residential properties to make the project “pencil out”. Without the condos, homes, and apartments that are a part of the development, you don’t have a project. Anyone noticed how the residential market is practically scoreless?
The entire model for delivering Cisco Field and the baseball village completely blew up in a 6-month span. It's bad enough if you're the A's and you've already put up millions to pay for additional real estate, EIR studies, and such. The collapse of virtually every part of private enterprise spelled doom for the plan. Any thoughts of planning anything similar in fashion or scope should be reined in. Some of you have asked whether Site A or Site B can support X amount of ancillary development to support a ballpark. For the time being, it's not even worth projecting because of the economy. If the A's are focused on building a ballpark anytime soon, wherever it is, it will just be that. Nothing more.