Fox, Century brawl

2nd sports net, cabler at odds over carriage

Fox Sports West 2, the upstart regional sports channel that carries Dodgers baseball, Clippers basketball and Mighty Ducks hockey as well as local college action, officially declares war today on Century Communications over what it says is Century’s refusal to strike an equitable deal for carriage.

The channel is taking its case to the press and to Century Cable’s estimated 335,000 subscribers in the FSW2 circulation area, purchasing full-page ads in consumer and trade publications that implore the subs to pepper Century’s offices with phone calls if they “don’t want to miss out on the Dodgers pennant race.”

Fox Sports West 2 spokesman Steve Webster said that while the channel now claims 2.1 million subs, deals with seven of the 10 major local MSOs and is in ongoing talks with Time Warner Cable and Comcast, negotiations with Century broke down on Wednesday.

“We had made Century an offer comparable to the one we made every other operator, but they came back to us (Wednesday) and said no thanks,” Webster said.

In response, Carter Bland, VP of programming for Century Communications out of its corporate offices in New Canaan, Conn., countered Thursday that it was Fox that had issued an ultimatum.

“We did not walk away from the table,” stressed Bland. “It’s Fox that told us there is nothing to negotiate. They drew a line in the sand and said ‘Take it or leave it, and if you don’t take it by such and such a time we’re walking away.’ The deadline passed, and that’s just what they did.”

Bland explained that the sticking points in negotiations were Fox Sports West 2’s insistence that the channel be offered as part of the basic system package (Century wants to offer FSW2 as a premium add-on), the hefty subscriber costs and concerns over future team coverage.

“There’s a big question mark over whether the Mighty Ducks will stay there,” Bland said, “and that’s terribly important to our subscribers in Orange County. This also represents just a huge price increase, and what’s aggravated the problem is that much of the programming that was once on the first channel (Fox Sports West) has been put on the second channel.”

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