When employees of Philadelphia Media Holdings (Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com) dream about a world where media companies grow, their thoughts often wander several blocks southwest, and their eyes skyward, toward the glistening Comcast Tower. In real life, few have made the jump. But in May, Comcast hired Eric Grilly, top dog at newspaper website Philly.com, to bolster the cable company’s local sports websites around the country. Grilly won’t contrast the bankruptcy-induced frugality of his old employer with the cash-flow machine he’s joining, as chief digital officer of Comcast Sports Group. But his explanation of Comcast’s advantages shows he’s a quick study in Comcast execu-tese: “Looking at the unique combination of assets that Comcast has assembled in the markets we’re in, the relationships with the teams, the existing infrastructure, and the willingness to aggressively invest, I was very excited about the opportunity.” Say no more.
The websites he’ll oversee are tied to Comcast’s 10 regional TV sports networks in markets including Philly, New York and Chicago. He’ll compete with the sites of newspapers, local radio and TV stations, and with ESPN.com, which in April launched its first local site, ESPN Chicago. Part of Grilly’s job inside the Tower will be knocking down walls. Comcast indeed has a broad “combination of assets,” including teams (Flyers, 76ers), national channels (Versus, Golf Channel), the regional SportsNets, and Comcast.net, the default home page for the company’s 15.3 million Internet subscribers. But those units haven’t yet played well together online. And though Grilly’s Web sports push may give newspapers one more headache, he’ll also explore partnerships with papers, where most local sports journalists still toil. He said contacting the Inquirer and Daily News about their sports content will be “one of the first calls I’ll make.”