Inside Move: B’caster Victory strikes out

Cablers won't play ball with new sports nets

Reality is beginning to slam into the owners of pro sports teams who succumbed to the siren song of untold riches from regional cable nets.

The vision posits that cable systems and satellite distributors must furnish a big chunk of those riches through monthly license fees. But that’s where the new-network strategy has collided with a wall of resistance.

The latest owner to run afoul of cable-system intransigence is Carl Pohlad, owner of the Minnesota Twins baseball team, who just folded the rookie Victory Sports One net after just six weeks of carrying Twins games.

Pohlad’s problem was that the four major cable operators in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and Mediacom) and satcasters DirecTV and Echostar refused to pay the monthly fee of $2.12 per sub Victory was asking.

Victory dropped the price to $1.85, but the potential buyers still found the deal exorbitant, considering that they were already paying for the established local regional Fox Sports Net North as well as nationally distributed ESPN.

Victory prexy Kevin Cattoor finally called a forfeit, selling local cable rights to the games for the next eight years to Fox Sports Net North, which had carried the games in previous years.

Victory isn’t the only net to shut down. Regional sports networks cobbled together by the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and MLB’s Kansas City Royals folded when local cable systems balked at the license fees.

Nationally, ESPN, taken aback by public protests from cable operators, has modified its new contracts to lower yearly increases from 20% to 7%. Cox and Charter have already signed the deal.

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