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As the Vertically Integrated World Turns Part II: Versus Network

2009 September 4
by Brian Goff

Two years ago, I posted on the ongoing battle between “Big Cable” and the NFL Network (NFL’s Game of Chicken). In that case, the NFL’s effort to move from a sports provider to a vertically integrated media outlet of its sports product setup the conflict with the next step in the supply chain — the media packagers.

Now, two media packagers, DirectTV and Comcast, are deuling over the Comcast-owned Versus network — home to NHL games, the Tour de France, and a variety of other sports. As of September 1, DirectTV dropped the network. In this case, Comcast is the vertically integrated firm not only serving as packager but also as upstream media source.

The “Puck Daddy” blog (via Yahoo Canada) provides a very thorough discussion of this dispute, drawing out the quite convoluted analytics — negotiation strategies and posturing, intracompany marketing strategies, comparable or not-so-comparable deals with other packagers like Dish, and so on. One of the ironic features of this dispute vis-a-vis the NFL Network case is the role of the NHL. To date, it has stayed out, but as Puck Daddy notes

the NHL isn’t stepping into this minefield until it needs to at the end of September. Even if we all know where their loyalties are; it’s not exactly DirecTV who owns the Philadelphia Flyers

That last tidbit highlights another twist in the tale — Comcast owns the Flyers. This makes me think that PD may have misconstrued the NHL’s role. While their loyalties may rest with the Flyers, so does their leverage.

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