BASIC TRAINING: COULD CABLE OPERATORS CREATE NEW SPORT TIER?
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).