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Volume 24 No. 219
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HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? OH CABLE OPERATOR PROPOSES BIDDING WAR

          OH cable operator Bob Gessner "thinks he's found a way
     to control his sports programming costs" and plans to "start
     a friendly bidding competition between ESPN and Fox Sports
     Ohio [FSO]," according to Steve Donohue of ELECTRONIC MEDIA. 
     The network with the lower carriage fee will remain on the
     basic tier of Gessner's 45,000-subscriber system, with the
     other going to a new sports tier that would require
     customers to pay an additional cost.  Gessner: "Since they
     (Fox and ESPN) love competition so much, let them compete
     for our basic subs."  Massillon Cable will launch a PR
     campaign "if it decides" to go ahead with its plan and will
     notify subscribers of the proposal.  Massillon "would likely
     charge about $5 per month for the network that gets bumped
     off of its basic tier."  Donohue: "Not surprisingly, both
     ESPN and Fox Sports executives said they oppose Massillon's
     plan."  ESPN said that its contracts "require" that the net
     be carried on basic cable.  Fox Sports Senior VP/Media
     Relations Vince Wladika: "Tiering is as unacceptable to us
     as it is for ESPN."  Gessner said that FSO "is a cheaper
     service," but declined to specify how much he pays for
     either FSO or ESPN.  Donohue reports that subscriber fees
     for Fox generally run from $.60 to $1.20 per subscriber,
     while ESPN, which is upping its fee by 20% to help pay for
     its NFL contract, will cost cable operators "an average
     $1.07 per subscriber" (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 6/22 issue). 
          TIME IS ON ITS SIDE? In Sunday's BOSTON GLOBE, Howard
     Manly reviewed FSN's "Fox Sports News," and wrote that it
     gives viewers "a credible show an hour earlier than" ESPN's
     "SportsCenter" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/21).