Continental ducks out on Fox telecast

The war between Fox Sports West 2 and the Southern California cable community became a more-focused battle between FSW2 and Continental Cablevision Wednesday.

Continental, the area’s largest individual cable provider, was the only major system to announce it would not to carry tonight’s Anaheim Mighty Ducks NHL playoff game.

Every other large operator in Southern California, including Century, TCI and Time Warner, is finding either an empty channel or a leased access option to air the hockey match, which FSW2 is offering free to systems not currently carrying the service.

Only about 700,000 subscriber homes in the Southland normally are able to receive Fox Sports West 2, some 200,000 of those via satcaster DirecTV. But while the Mighty Ducks games are telecast exclusively over FSW2, hockey fans in non-FSW2 homes haven’t missed any playoff action, since Fox Sports West has been providing simulcasts.

Tonight however, Fox Sports West is carrying the Lakers’ NBA playoff game vs. the Utah Jazz at the same time the Ducks are facing off against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Nonetheless, with the game available on different channels, the broadcast will now be distributed to some 2.7 million homes.

Continental, with some 200,000 subscribers in Southern California has been steadfast in its refusal to negotiate to carry FSW2. The cabler’s refusal to pick up tonight’s Ducks telecast on an available channel was blasted Wednesday morning during the Kevin & Bean show on KROQ radio, when the hosts (along with sports reporter Jimmy Kimmel) took Continental to task and inspired a flood of protest calls to Continental’s offices.

But Perry Parks, VP public and governmental affairs for the Continental’s western region, said the operator couldn’t carry the game even if it wanted to due to technical and channel-capacity issues.

“Our head-end doesn’t face the Fox Sports West 2 satellite, and it’s not something we can just fix overnight,” Parks said. “We also happen to be channel-locked. There is just no shelf space to put this.

“The suggestion that we put the game on a local-origination channel in L.A. isn’t practical. It’s leased-access, and we’re under contract with independent producers for that space. We can’t just snap our fingers and put this on.”

Bunk, replies Fox Sports West 2.

“It’s a little bit ironic and strange that all of the other cable operators were able to not only find a channel for the game, but also to overcome any potential technical difficulties, and most of them have more complex setups than Continental,” said FSW2 spokesman Steve Webster.

Continental’s Parks stressed that if Fox decided to preempt programming on one of its other networks — say, Fox-backed FX — the cable operator would be “happy” to consider carrying the Ducks game in its place.

“Instead, Fox Sports West 2 chose to notify us of this option over the radio, a day before it’s supposed to happen, without any equipment in place,” he said. “We just think this is another attempt for Fox to accomplish its objective of having operators carry Fox Sports West 2 permanently.”

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