Comcast partnership with Braves on new stadium includes establishing major Atlanta R&D center

Tom Paine

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Comcast today announced a partnership with the Atlanta Braves, in which it will provide all its technology goodies for the Braves' new stadium in suburban Cobb County, SunTrust Park, and the office and entertainment complex surrounding it. Comcast will also be an anchor tenant for an office tower in the complex. The stadium is scheduled to open in 2017.

What surprised me was that its plans for the office space are not only for it to house local employees serving the Atlanta market, where it is the major cable system incumbent. It also will have an Innovation Lab that will serve as a primary technology development hub for Comcast, along with the company's other major R&D centers in Silicon Valley, Philadelphia, and Denver.

Comcast plans to base about 1,000 employees at the new office, but its not known how many will be in the R&D workforce. (A Comcast spokesperson said they didn't have any numbers on that yet.)

A little back story: The Braves are currently owned by John Malone's Liberty Media. Cable pioneer Malone has been through the years both a frequent business partner and sometime nemesis to Comcast. He is currently involved in the pending Comcast / Time Warner Cable / Charter deal, through which Charter, in which Liberty Media owns a large stake, will acquire some of the subs Comcast plans to shed and enter into a joint venture with Comcast that will acquire other Comcast and TWC subs.

Comcast could also be interested in a cable rights deal with the Braves similar to the one it has with the Phillies. But last year Liberty Media renegotiated its previously subpar local cable package with Fox channels Fox Sports South and SportSouth. Its a long-term contract but of unknown length, and I don't know if it has any opt-out clauses that would allow the Braves to seek another deal. But the very fact that Liberty Media and Comcast are working together on the Braves makes me think other arrangements could be possible in the future.

See also Wall Street Journal blog article, Braves Hit Home Run With Comcast Deal.

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