Rocky times at FSN

Cabler bets survival on $200 mil baseball pact

NEW YORK — Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain will pony up a strapping $200 million for a 10-year extension of its deal with Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies.

The contract also calls for FSN Rocky Mt.’s parent Fox Cable Networks to shell out an additional one-time payment of $20 million for a 12% equity stake in the team.

The big reason why FSN Rocky Mt. was so gung-ho about getting the Rockies under lock and key for the next decade is that the network has lost the games of its two main winter attractions, the pro basketball Denver Nuggets and the pro hockey Colorado Avalanche.

As of this fall, Stan Kroenke , the owner of the Nuggets and the Avalanche, will kick off a new regional sports network called Altitude Sports and Entertainment.

Under the previous contract, FSN Rocky Mt. had Rockies’ games under contract until the 2007 season, but Altitude was drawing up plans to target the Rockies for 2008 and beyond.

If Altitude had succeeded in luring the Rockies, FSN Rocky Mt. would’ve had a hard time surviving, fueled only by college sports.

Focus on EchoStar

Altitude Sports is negotiating with EchoStar, the Denver-based satellite distributor, and with cable operators in the area like Comcast, Charter and Adelphia. But these companies already pay millions of dollars a year for FSN Rocky Mt. and will be less than thrilled about encouraging a competing regional, which is initially asking a stiff monthly fee of $1.75 a subscriber.

But if Altitude can sign up EchoStar, cable operators might be forced to follow suit to keep subscribers who are fans of the Nuggets and Avalanche from shifting to satellite.

One of the benefits of the extended deal with the Rockies is that FSN Rocky Mt. will get 25 more games each year, for an annual total of 150 contests. FSN Rocky Mt. now licenses 75 Rockies’ games to KTVD-TV, the UPN affiliate in Denver. FSN has carried Rockies’ games since 1997, the team’s fifth season of operation.

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