Cox Yet To Reach Carriage Deal With Rivals For Padres Channel
Cox Communications last June offered to license its Channel 4 San Diego station to rival operators, but with Opening Day "just a month and a half away, there has not been an agreement reached between Cox and other pay TV providers that would allow access" to the Padres broadcaster, according to Mike Freeman of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The "drawn out nature of the talks has led analysts to speculate that AT&T, DirecTV and others are balking at the per subscriber fees that Cox is seeking for Channel 4." Federal law "requires cable companies to offer access to channels that they own to competitors at reasonable rates." But "for years the law contained a loophole that allowed cable operators to deny access to rivals if the channel's video didn't travel by use of satellite at some point between the TV studio and the consumers home," and Cox has "used the 'terrestrial loophole' to keep Channel 4 from rivals." Freeman noted Cox' current contract with the Padres expires in '11, and there "could be several bidders for the programming rights." Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable last week "wrestled away rights to the Lakers games" from FS West and KCAL-Ind, and "one way Time Warner Cable is likely to earn back the price it paid for the Lakers is [to] charge higher fees to other pay TV distributors in the market -- DirecTV, other cable providers -- to carry the channel in their line-ups when it launches" in '12 (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/20).
LOSING THEIR LAKERS: An L.A. TIMES editorial stated the 20-year deal between the Lakers and TWC that is worth around $300M is a "sign of how the economics of sports are pushing the game out of the reach of many fans." An estimated 620,000 HHs in L.A. "rely on over-the-air TV, more than in any other U.S. market," and for "many years, Lakers fans with rabbit ears have been able to watch a little more than half of the team's games." However, under the TWC deal, "which analysts speculate could be worth five times what Fox pays, all games not broadcast nationally will be carried only on Time Warner's new networks." Those nets are "certain to exact a heavy price, which operators will pass on to their customers" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20).