CSN Bay Area and California are about to become NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California. It’s the second rebrand in a year, as those channels changed names from “Comcast SportsNet” to “CSN” last summer, but this is a larger brand change, and one that may be repeated at other NBC/Comcast regional sports networks. It’s also happening over six years after Comcast finished its acquisition of NBC Universal in January 2011. Here are the details from NBC’s release:
NBC Sports Regional Networks will rename CSN Bay Area and CSN California to NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California, respectively, on April 2, in conjunction with the start of the San Francisco Giants’ 2017 MLB season. The announcement was made today by David Preschlack, President, NBC Sports Regional Networks and NBC Sports Group Platform and Content Strategy.
“From a consumer and business standpoint, it’s ideal for fans to engage with one brand, regionally and nationally,” said Preschlack. “The re-branded name allows us to better associate the prestigious NBC Sports legacy with the strength of our Comcast Sports Networks’ local sports coverage in Northern California. The re-brand will not affect our coverage, however, as fans should expect to continue to receive the most compelling news and content on their favorite local teams in our markets on the platform of their choosing.”
So, this is mostly a cosmetic change, but it’s certainly interesting that these RSNs are going to the NBC branding and away from the Comcast branding. That may help a bit in negotiations with non-Comcast providers, and as John Ourand of Sports Business Journal notes, it may also pave the way for similar changes at NBC’s other CSN-branded regional networks (Chicago, New England, Philadelphia, Northwest and Mid-Atlantic). However, NBC hasn’t committed to anything there yet:
The two Northern California-based networks will be the first of NBC Sports Group’s nine regional networks to incorporate the “NBC Sports” brand. A re-brand for the remaining RSNs is currently in exploration, given the unique partnerships with team partners across the RSN markets.
The name history here is thanks to these channels initially coming from the Comcast side (and how they actually came together is fascinating), but many have wondered why they haven’t switched to the NBC brand before this, given how Comcast acquired NBC Universal in 2011. The NBC brand certainly has more national recognition, and while there’s been a lot of work on integrating NBC, NBCSN and the CSNs since that acquisition, the old Comcast branding has stuck around until now.
Some in the industry argued that keeping “Comcast” or “CSN” was beneficial for improving the perception of the Comcast brand (understandable, considering how many mostly complain about cable companies). However, by the same token, that Comcast brand leads to more negative associations than NBC does, and NBC is certainly more known for its sports coverage, according to analysts from https://gamblerzz.com. So this seems like a logical move, where the main surprise is that it took this long (and that it still isn’t confirmed for markets outside California). It does fit into the long history of regional network name changes, however.
This isn’t the only change coming to these regional sports networks. We wrote earlier this month that Sling TV was adding four CSNs (CSN Bay Area, CSN California, CSN Chicago and CSN Mid-Atlantic) by the start of the MLB season on April 2, at no extra cost for Sling Blue subscribers in eligible markets, and Sling has now confirmed to Awful Announcing that those all officially launched Wednesday. Get ready for those CSN Bay Area and California channel listings to change on April 2 thanks to this rebrand, though.