In a surprise move, U S West Communications has reached a
20-year corporate-partnership agreement with the Phoenix Suns National Basketball
Association team that provides the telco with the rights to all of the teams'
communications efforts, including local cable television.
Beginning in 2003, USWC will have exclusivity in
residential- and business-communications services for the Suns, including all of the
team's telecommunications business, directory services, long-distance service, pay
phone services, Internet services and television-distribution deals.
It's unclear, however, whether USWC will get the
exclusive rights for Suns games via cable, as they have been the property of Cox
Communications Inc.'s Phoenix system for years. Ironically, the system only two weeks
ago reached a multiyear deal to distribute all Suns cable games on basic through 2002.
Previously, the MSO, which has 583,000 customers in Phoenix, offered a split
basic-cable/pay-per-view package of about 40 Suns games.
"We fully expect to be able to continue providing
games to our customers," said Gregg Holmes, vice president and general manger for
Cox's Phoenix system. "I would be surprised if the Suns would strike a deal that
precluded our viewers."
USWC plans to provide digital-TV and online service to
Phoenix subscribers by 2000.