Nothing But Air for Blazers Net

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Another National Basketball Association team lost a key cable outlet last week when the Portland Trail Blazers pulled the plug on its owned-and-operated regional sports network.

Action Sports Cable Network, which carried 27 Blazers games, went dark at midnight Tuesday after failing to reach enough cable homes in the Portland, Ore., marketplace.

The two-year-old, high-definition channel — owned by Charter Communications Inc. chairman and Blazers owner Paul Allen — failed to convince dominant MSO AT&T Broadband to ante up 50 cents per subscriber for a slate of Blazers, local high-school and college games.

Kagan Associates analyst John Mansell believes the channel's lack of a second professional sports team, as well as the cost of developing HDTV-quality broadcasts, contributed to the demise. Locally, 31 Blazers games are already available on over-the-air station KGW, an NBC affiliate.

Sources said the Blazers would look at other outlets, including Fox Sports Net Northwest. A Fox Sports representative could not be reached for comment at press time.

In years past, the team offered games on pay-per-view. In 2000, the Blazers distributed 25 games on an AT&T Broadband local-access channel.

Elsewhere last week, a Fox Sports West spokesman confirmed that talks with the Los Angeles Clippers for a new carriage agreement have broken off, with no new negotiations scheduled. The Clippers want a rights-fee increase for the 35 to 40 games the network carried in previous years.

The Houston Rockets want more money from Fox Sports Southwest for 37 regular-season games currently not on local TV.

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