Days after restoring its signal to Charter
Communications-owned Marcus Cable systems, Fox Sports Net West pulled the plug on its Los
Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball telecasts from both Charter and MediaOne Group Inc.
systems last week after the two MSOs failed to ante up a baseball surcharge.
While network executives said they expect to reach a deal
with Charter shortly for the games, it appears that Fox and MediaOne are miles apart.
The dispute is over a 15- to 20-cent surcharge that FSN
West wants for an additional 40 Los Angeles Dodgers games and 20 Anaheim Angels games
appearing on FSN West 2 and FSN West, respectively, sources close to the situation said.
Network executives said the company has reached agreements
with all other cable operators for the games.
"Everyone is signed except Charter and MediaOne, and
we expect to have a deal with Charter by the end of the week [July 9]," FSN West
director of public relations Steve Webster said.
Representatives from MediaOne could not be reached for
comment at press time. Charter representatives would only say that they were meeting with
Fox representatives last Friday (July 9) to discuss the situation.
The baseball fracas comes despite apparent progress in
negotiations between Charter and Fox Sports Net.
Fox reinstated FSN West and FSN West 2 to 90,000 Marcus
customers July 2, three weeks after pulling its signal over rate-card issues.
Executives from both companies said the move was a
good-faith effort while the companies continue to negotiate a new distribution deal.
Fox pulled the signals over Charter's unwillingness to pay
the exiting Marcus rates for the networks, which is more than what Charter currently pays,
according to sources close to the situation.
Fox's deal with Marcus for FSN West and FSN West 2 is
separate from its Charter agreement, according to Fox. On average, FSN West carries a rate
of 90 cents to $1 per subscriber, while FSN West 2 charges 45 cents to 55 cents, sources
The arrangement also keeps FX on the systems after Charter
warned subscribers that it might remove the service July 1 due to rate-card issues.
Meanwhile, in a legal turnabout, Fox Sports Net filed suit
against EchoStar Communications Corp. last week for what the network claimed were millions
of dollars in unpaid subscriber fees.
The July 1 suit, filed in U.S. Federal District Court in
Dallas, claimed that EchoStar has not lived up to its agreement to pay full subscriber
fees for programming from Fox Sports Direct -- Fox Sports Net's direct-broadcast satellite
The suit claimed that EchoStar is contracted to pay a
minimum subscriber fee based on a subscriber-penetration mark of at least 90 percent.
EchoStar, however, has allegedly paid only for its actual
Fox Sports Direct subscribers, which fall well short of the minimum subscriber level.
"We have made repeated attempts to collect amounts
that they owe us under their contract," Fox Sports Net general counsel Dan Fawcett
said. "They have refused to pay it, and thus, we've taken this action."
EchoStar representatives said the company's policy is to
not comment on legal matters.
The suit comes on the heels of an EchoStar suit filed
recently against Fox/Liberty Networks alleging price discrimination in the contract for
Fox Sports Arizona.
In a June 23 complaint filed at the Federal Communications
Commission, EchoStar said competing cable operators pay 60 cents per month, per subscriber
for Fox Sports Arizona.
Exactly how much EchoStar is paying was unclear. The DBS
provider redacted its Fox Sports Arizona license fee from the complaint, citing
confidentiality clauses in the contract.