SportsTime for Massillon

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Massillon Cable TV became the latest distributor to ink a deal with Fastball Sports Productions LLC for analog basic carriage of SportsTime Ohio, the new cable home for Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians.

Fastball also inked pacts Monday with WideOpenWest LLC, Clear Picture Inc. and GLW Broadband.

Massillon president Bob Gessner said the operator is scheduled to bow the network March 29. He added that Massillon -- which counts some 45,000 customers -- is looking to launch SportsTime Ohio on Channel 11 on its system in Massillon, Ohio, and on Channel 10 in its Wooster service area.

Massillon will subsequently look to reposition the regional sports service -- which launched March 12 and will carry some 130 regular-season Indians games -- to a permanent channel location.

Deal terms were not disclosed, although Gessner -- who has always been a vocal opponent of the high costs of sports TV rights -- said Massillon’s deal only encompasses pregame and postgame coverage, as well as the games themselves.

SportsTime is coming out of the gate with about seven hours of coverage per night, including a late-night encore, plus a weekly preview/recap show about “The Tribe.” Fastball president Jim Liberatore said the service will add a spate of vintage sports and local programming starting in July.

“Our customers want to see the Indians games. We have made some significant progress. We’ve come a long way from where we started,” Gessner said.

SportTime’s term sheet, which was disseminated to distributors in mid-February, called for zone pricing, ranging from 94 cents per subscriber, including two minutes of ad time per hour, to $1.83 for those closer to Cleveland.

Gessner said Massillon didn’t avail itself of the two minutes per hour of local avails on SportsTime Ohio, adding, “It wasn’t worth it.”

SportsTime Ohio, succeeding FSN Ohio as the Indians’ cable home, had signed deals with a host of cable operators, including Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc., giving it about 1.8 million of the 2.8 million cable homes in its coverage area, Liberatore said last week.

Fastball is controlled by Larry Dolan’s family, which owns the ballclub.

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