People in Portland love their beer. At last count, Portland had more breweries than any other city in the country. But Portlanders also love their Trail Blazers. The city has one of the most passionate fan bases in the NBA. Yet, for the last few years they've been getting a raw deal. And not just at the hands of the Lakers.
Comcast is the biggest villain in Portland right now.
While Portland may seem pretty distant for those of us on the East Coast, the situation in Portland is actually a cautionary tale for the rest of the country. If the Comcast-NBC merger is successful, sports fans around the country may end up feeling like Blazers fans.
In 2007, the Trail Blazers signed a 10-year, $120 million agreement with Comcast, giving the company the rights to show Trail Blazer games on Comcast Sports Network. Not surprisingly, Comcast then jacked up the fees for other cable and satellite carriers in the region to show Blazers games. In effect, Comcast is forcing customers to switch to Comcast in order to see Blazers games. (Comcast has signed agreements with local cable carriers who don't compete with Comcast.)
Nevermind that Blazers fans in rural areas can't even get Comcast service (or local cable service) if they wanted to.
And bear in mind that fans in Portland kicked in $35 million to help build the Rose Garden.
While the Trail Blazers themselves are certainly not without fault, they are not happy about the situation and are fighting back against Comcast.
Blazers team president Larry Miller wrote the FCC stating that Comcast has broken its promise with the team to increase the Blazers' exposure. Miller complained that the Blazers fans were being "held hostage."
Without an NFL, MLB or NHL team, Portland fans - and fans around the state of Oregon - have only the Trail Blazers. Their fans are called Blazer Maniacs for a reason. It's crucial that all those Blazer Maniacs join SFC Portland chapter chair Sarah Moon and demand that Comcast quit holding Blazers fans hostage.
As for the rest of us, Portland should serve as a wake-up call for what can happen when content providers and cable/satellite providers merge. If the Comcast-NBC merger is ultimately allowed to go through, sports fans around the country who don't subscribe to Comcast may lose NBC Sports - NBC Sunday Night Football, the NHL, the Olympics, etc.
And if Comcast withholds The Office and 30 Rock ... watch out.
Brian Frederick is the Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication and lives in Washington, D.C. His favorite teams are the Kansas Jayhawks, North Carolina Tar Heels, and whichever team his brother is coaching for. And the underdog. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org