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BASIC TRAINING: COULD CABLE OPERATORS CREATE NEW SPORT TIER?
Published June 16, 1998
Cable operators "are stepping up their battle" against ESPN's move to raise programming fees 20% to help pay for its NFL contract, according to Steve Donohue of ELECTRONIC MEDIA. TCI, TCA Cable TV, Cable ONE, Charter Communications and Falcon Cable "have explored the feasibility of moving" ESPN from basic or expanded basic carriage to a new, separately-priced tier which would also include other sports programmers. TCA Cable TV has had "preliminary internal discussions" about placing ESPN, Fox Sports Southwest, The Golf Channel and Speedvision in a sports tier. While such a tier "would reduce" operators' ESPN programing costs, "many say that contractual and technical issues make it very difficult to make a new sports tier a reality." In addition, some MSOs said that ESPN "has rejected ideas" to move off of basic service. But ESPN VP/Affil Relations Sean Bratches said that ESPN "hasn't been approached by operators requesting a new sports tier," and that the network has reached agreements with "well over" 90% of its carriers on contract extensions, despite the cost of carrying ESPN increasing on August 1 from $.87 a subscriber per month to $1.07 per subscriber per month (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 6/15).