In a suit filed Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court, the team asked for declaratory relief that would allow the Warriors a closer inspection of the channel's ownership to determine whether the new deal breaches their broadcast contract.
Among other complaints, the Warriors take issue with the Giants' acquisition of a reported 30 percent ownership stake in the rebranded channel. According to the suit, before the Warriors agreed to a contract in May 2002, they requested but were denied permission to see other teams' arrangements because of confidentiality concerns. The Warriors say they received a pledge of confidentiality and that the Giants' new status as station owners violates that pledge.
Comcast isn't named despite its controlling interest; the defendants are SportsChannel Pacific Associates, Pacific Regional Holdings, Regional Pacific Holdings II, and "Does 1 through 20, inclusive." The Warriors are asking the court to "pierce the corporate veil" in order to see if any of the defendants' shareholders can be held liable as well.
The Warriors aren't yet asking for specific damages. Warriors spokesman Raymond Ridder and his Comcast counterpart, Tim Fitzpatrick, declined to comment.
But signs of hostility have been evident for weeks. On March 26, Comcast hosted a ritzy "Night of Legends" dinner at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis Hotel. The Warriors were the only broadcast partner that wasn't represented at the head table, didn't have its TV voices in attendance and didn't provide an autographed picture for the partygoers' gift pack.
Furthermore, recent programming decisions have gone against the Warriors, whose ratings are, on average, nearly three times the Sharks'. On March 21, the Rockets-Warriors game remained on the less visible FSN Plus while Sharks-Ducks was on FSN; after the conversion to CSN, a crucial Warriors game in San Antonio wasn't picked up for telecast because of conflicts with the Sharks and the A's home opener. (Comcast has close ties to the NHL, airing games on its Versus cable channel.)
On Monday night, too, the Warriors' last-gasp game against Phoenix was on CSN Plus, while the Diamondbacks and Giants held the main channel.
A case-management conference is scheduled for Aug. 27. Warriors owner Chris Cohan is no stranger to the civil courts, nor is Comcast. So it's hard to see either one blinking.
If next season rolls around and the Warriors are brushed to CSN Plus more often -- or if Comcast has trouble launching its planned Warriors pregame and postgame shows, which will require heavy cooperation from the franchise -- this might be why.
Contact John Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.