Cable Operators

Gov. to Twins: Cable Dispute Hurting Stadium Chances

4/21/2004 10:07 AM Eastern

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is getting tough with Major League Baseball’s Twins.

Pawlenty said Wednesday that the team’s campaign for a new stadium was being jeopardized by its Victory Sports Network’s failure to come to terms with the state’s major cable operators, according to AP.

“Baseball is a vital piece of our quality of life, and it's unconscionable to think Minnesotans will be deprived of the enjoyment of a simple baseball game on TV because of bickering between corporate boardrooms,” Pawlenty said in a prepared statement.

“I can tell you pretty directly it is affecting their stadium debate at the Capitol," he added. “It really is bad timing. It seems like they have succeeded in ticking off part of their fan base over this ... This Victory Sports thing wasn't their smartest PR move.”

He offered the services of the state Bureau of Mediation Services to help end the stalemate, AP said. Under Pawlenty’s plan, the Twins' new cable network would immediately provide its games to any cable provider that agrees to mediation.

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 said they won'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.

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

“There are ongoing discussions, and we remain hopeful that you're going to see breakthroughs with some of the six remaining providers," Twins president Dave St. Peter told AP. “We understand the urgency and understand the fans' frustration with this.”

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