Lacrosse League Adds Comcast as Owner of New Philadelphia Team

(Bloomberg) -- The National Lacrosse League is getting another deep-pocketed owner.

Comcast Corp., through its subsidiary Comcast Spectacor, has agreed to pay about $5 million for a new franchise in Philadelphia, according to people familiar with the matter, less than a month after Alibaba billionaire Joe Tsai paid about the same for an expansion team in San Diego.

The yet-to-be-named new team will begin play in the 2018-19 season, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the league hasn’t made an announcement. NLL spokeswoman Ashley Dabb and Comcast Spectacor spokesman Tim Buckman declined to comment.

Comcast and its media business, NBC Universal, are trying to adapt to a fast-changing media landscape where more consumers watch TV over the internet and sporting events are one of the few types of programming that people still watch live, drawing higher ad dollars. Owning a lacrosse team gives Comcast another sport to stream via its new paid streaming service, NBC Sports Gold, designed for fans of niche sports like cycling, track and field, motocross and rugby.

Comcast already has experience owning both a sports franchise and a channel to broadcast their games. Last year the cable provider bought the remaining stake in the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, whose games air on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

The combination makes Comcast an attractive owner for the NLL, which describes its media strategy as digital-first, Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz has said. Now with 11 teams, the NLL has its own channel that’s offered online, including on Twitter, where the league’s game of the week averaged about 344,000 viewers. The league plans to add a couple of teams a year over the next five seasons.

New England, where Comcast already has millions of TV and internet customers, has long been a hotbed of lacrosse. Philadelphia had a professional indoor lacrosse team for 28 years, until the Wings moved to Connecticut in 2014 and became the New England Black Wolves.

The new lacrosse team will play at the Comcast-Spectacor-owned Wells Fargo Center, which also houses the Flyers and NBA’s 76ers.