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May 1, 2013 Comcast’s NBC Sports moving to Connecticut

POSTED: May 01, 2013

Officials call Connecticut the sports-media headquarters of the world, with the 19-building complex that is ESPN in Bristol and offices for World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. and the Yankees’ YES Network here.

Now they can add NBC Sports.

Comcast will also buy NBC’s studios and offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan and CNBC’s offices and studios in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., for $1.4 billion. (CHRIS HONDROS / Getty Images)

Lured by generous tax credits and modern TV studios, the Comcast Corp.-owned NBC Sports is bailing on 30 Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan – the most prestigious address in the TV business – after rehabbing and reconfiguring a Clairol hair-products factory for $100 million.

The project has transformed the cavernous building into a state-of-the-art facility with conference rooms, high-ceilinged white corridors the length of two football fields, and seven production studios.

Developers tore the cement blocks off one wall of the factory and replaced it with glass, drenching the interior with sunlight.

One downside to being in the upscale suburbs of the Gold Coast: NBC Sports will no longer be amid the buzz and vibe of New York’s TV district.

NBC Sports Network is already televising NHL Live from the complex, and last week one could find Jeremy Roenick, the former Flyer and now NBC studio analyst, with his feet on a table in a viewing room looking for highlights. Other shows broadcast from Stamford will be NHL Overtime, F1 Extra, Formula One auto racing, Premier League soccer coverage, Pro Football Talk, and NBCSports.com digital content.

About 500 NBC Sports employees from Philadelphia, New York, and Stamford will relocate by this summer to the new complex. The independent NHL Network, with a studio in Toronto, also is expected to eventually make its home here.

NBC says it’s not abandoning 30 Rock and there are indications that Comcast, which purchased the building as part of its deal for NBCUniversal, will renovate part of the iconic tower. NBC Sports will retain just a half-floor in 30 Rock for meetings and offices.

Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said, “Some people love to be in New York, and we will continue to do Football Night in America there for the foreseeable future.”

But the football studio show also will move to the suburbs eventually. Lazarus said that it was nice to be in New York but that 30 Rock was cramped and NBC Sports employees were spread over offices in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Now they will be under one roof.

Comcast’s former 24-hour Versus sports channel and its regional sports division, both based in Philadelphia, now are part of NBC Sports. NBC Sports says about 120 Philadelphia jobs will relocate to Stamford.

Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia operations will remain at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia, televising 76ers, Flyers, and Phillies games.

Over the weekend, Yahoo! Sports, relying on a single unnamed source, reported that Fox Sports could bid to take television broadcast rights for the Phillies from Comcast SportsNet. A Fox spokeswoman Monday had no comment.

The new NBC Sports complex is a short drive from the Stamford train station, and NBC Sports will operate a train-to-office shuttle. The building will include a 150-seat dining commissary, and the company is subsidizing membership at the high-end Chelsea Piers fitness club attached to the new headquarters.

NBC’s relocation is part of a broader trend with TV production.

George Norfleet, director of the Connecticut Office of Film, Television and Digital Media, said the labor pool and presence of ESPN in the state helps attract TV operations to the state.

There also is a 20 percent infrastructure tax credit on the construction of studios and a 30 percent tax credit on the production costs themselves.

One TV studio is producing 100 episodes of One Life to Live in Connecticut that will be available on iTunes and a separate NBCUniversal division produces the Jerry Springer and Maury Povich talk shows in Stamford. ESPN employs about 3,800 in Bristol.

Lazarus said that with the new facility, he hopes to create the “best culture in all of television.”


By Bob Fernandez, Inquirer Staff Writer