Cable Operators

Minn. Operators Won’t Play Ball

4/22/2004 9:58 AM Eastern

A group of cable and satellite operators that have yet to come to terms with Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins’ Victory Sports Network turned down a mediation offer from Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, AP reported Thursday.

Under Pawlenty’s plan, the Twins' new cable network would have immediately provided its games to any cable or satellite provider that agreed to mediation.

The only agreements Victory has reached thus far have been with several-dozen small, outstate cable systems.

Victory president Kevin Cattoor told AP the network has reduced its rate proposals significantly during ongoing negotiations, but he wouldn't specify the current per-subscriber offer.

The major players in the Minneapolis area are Comcast Corp. (340,000 subscribers) and Time Warner Cable (210,000). The largest system outside of the metropolitan area, which belongs to Charter Communications Inc., has 270,000 subscribers.

Mediacom also has a 100,000-subscriber system in the state, and Victory has yet to secure deals with direct-broadcast satellite services DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network.

Minnesota cable operators had said they wouldn't pay Victory's per-subscriber asking price of $2.20-$2.30 and are eyeing putting the network on a digital tier, while the Twins and Victory said the games should be on expanded basic, as was the case with the team's previous partner, Fox Sports Net North, AP said.

Cattoor said reaching the first agreement should speed the others. “If we can agree to terms and conditions with one of the national providers that we think are fair to both parties, that has to send a strong message to the other five,” he told AP.

September