By Larry Stewart in the LA Times on April 1, 1997: (some paragraphs snipped)
When Fox Sports West 2 was launched in January, only a few Southern
California cable companies—and no major ones—offered the new
regional sports network.
The conjecture, though, was that other companies would come around
before the start of the baseball season because of Fox Sports West 2’s
40-game Dodger package that begins with today’s season opener.
But cable operators, as a group, are resisting Fox Sports West and its
parent company, Fox Sports Net. There have been no significant cable
deals regarding Fox Sports West 2 since the spinoff channel was
launched Jan. 27.
Fox Sports has since lowered its asking price for Fox Sports West 2
from 75 cents a subscriber per month to 60-65 cents. There has still
been resistance, even though Fox believes the price is fair. Fox also
believes cable operators will eventually give in, or risk losing
That could be the case, since DirecTV began carrying Fox Sports West 2 last Friday. Viewers can choose that option and get the Dodgers’ first
basic cable package—35 homes games, five road games—plus the
Clippers, Mighty Ducks, daily horse racing, high school sports and all
the other programming on Fox Sports West 2.
What’s more, Fox Sports West began a heavily advertised promotion with DirecTV on March 21 that allows consumers to buy a digital satellite
system (DSS) for as little as $49.95, counting a $200 rebate from
DirecTV and an instant $50 discount from Fox. In most cases, however,
consumers need more than one receiver, which adds to the cost.
After buying a DSS system with one, two or more receivers, there is a
monthly fee of $29.95 for DirecTV’s basic service, which includes Fox
Sports West 2. It’s one of more than a dozen new channels DirecTV
added to its basic package Friday. Another is Chicago superstation
Most consumers have chosen to add premium packages to DirecTV’s basic service, and that’s where the monthly cost can get expensive. An
average DirecTV subscriber pays $65-$80 a month.
Most cable operators say they aren’t overly concerned about the
"We’ve had virtually no response to it," said David Auger, general
manager of Time-Warner cable in the San Fernando Valley.
Others say it has done more harm than good and has set back
negotiations. One operator complained about the anti-cable tone in the
newspaper ads, calling the wording “out of line.” Another said Fox was
"cutting off its nose to spite its face" and was making a mistake by
trying to force operators to pay for a channel they never asked for.
The cable industry considers DSS little more than a thorn in its side. (Emphasis mine)
There are more than 60 million cable households in the United States,
and DirecTV, the major player in the fledgling DSS industry, is in
only about 2 1/2 million.
However, DirecTV has been cutting into cable’s business ever since the
first DSS unit was sold in Jackson, Miss., on June 17, 1994.
"Two-thirds of our new subscribers coming on now are from cable
territories,” said Eddy Hartenstein, the president of DirecTV.
About DirecTV’s deal to carry Fox Sports West 2, Hartenstein said, “We
just felt it is important to give our subscribers a complete package,
and without Fox Sports West 2, we wouldn’t be providing a complete
Even with the DirecTV deal, Fox still has to win over cable operators.
"Some deals are imminent," said Kitty Cohen, the general manager of
Fox Sports West.
Bill Rosendahl, senior vice president of public affairs for Century
Communications, said, “We were all bludgeoned with this
gun-to-the-head strategy when we were first hit with this a couple of
months ago, and as an industry we’re all concerned with the bottom
line and trying to keep spiraling programming costs down.
"But all of that said, I believe reasonable people, in dealing with
something as important as one’s sporting interests, can get through
all of that. I’m optimistic that eventually something good will come
out of all of this.”
Fox at least has made a gesture to appease fans who want to see the
Dodgers’ season opener against Philadelphia but don’t have a ticket.
Fox has set up jumbo screens and bleachers at five Southland locations
where the Fox Sports West 2 telecast will be shown.
Those locations: Century City Entertainment Center, City Corp. Plaza
downtown, the Warner Center in Woodland Hills, Planet Hollywood at
South Coast Plaza and the Ontario Mills shopping center.
"We’re making the attempt to be fan friendly," Cohen said.
But it seems no matter what Fox Sports West and Fox Sports Net do—and
that includes filing an antitrust suit against Disney for its alleged
role in influencing cable operators—nobody flinches.
This dispute, which has viewers caught in the middle, appears to be
one that isn’t going to go away any time soon. (Emphasis mine again)