No Games, Higher Rates Turn Off Cable Customers

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Subscribers to the local cable company found they were turned off when they tried to tune in to certain University of Arizona basketball games this winter on Fox Sports Channel 35.


The reason, said local cable manager Scott Flake, is that Fox Sports Net wants to charge CableVision an additional fee to carry the games.


"Fox decided they wanted to carry U of A games, but wanted to charge cable companies around the state extra for (some of them)," Flake said. "They're already our second most-expensive channel. We told them 'no, we're already paying them a lot of money.'"


Besides, Flake said, there were already plenty of U of A games airing locally on Channel 35.


"It was just this added 9- or 12-game package that they wanted us to buy," he said. "We just felt like if we caved on this deal, then we'd be opening the door for them to charge us additional fees in the future."


Flake said Fox even tried to do an end-run around the local company by running an advertisement in the Dec. 21, 1999, issue of the Roundup that promoted the Arizona/New Mexico game. The ad, Flake said, encouraged folks to tune in, or call CableVision if the game was not available.


"But we weren't carrying the game," he said.


Kyle Eng, director of marketing and communication for Fox Sports Net, said his network signed a five-year deal to carry the U of A games, and offers those games to cable systems throughout the state as part of a package deal.


CableVision's parent company is the only system in the state that turned down the package that includes U of A games, Eng said.


"I think the bottom line is, if what we were looking for was so outrageous or so expensive, we would have heard complaints from our other cable affiliates," he said.


At least one local cable subscriber -- and an ardent U of A fan -- said she wouldn't mind paying a little more each month to watch her favorite team play.


"I don't think it's fair," Maggie Anglemire said, "but I'd like to have the choice to do that."


CableVision officials plan to meet with Fox Sports Net officials Monday to try to work out a deal, Eng said. Subscribers have until then to let their local cable operator know how they feel about the Fox sports package.

Rate increase

Other customers are upset by a proposed rate increase scheduled to go into effect Feb. 1.


CableVision customers found a notice in their bills recently, notifying them that as of Feb. 1, their cost for basic service will go from $29.95 to $31.90 a month. That puts the local rate for basic cable service just slightly above the statewide average of $30.48, according to a survey conducted last summer by NPG Cable.


"Every day we have people coming in telling us they want more and more channels," Flake said. "As far as pricing, we try to keep our pricing as low as possible, while still offering the best service available."


Due to the deregulation of cable a few years ago, CableVision no longer has to seek the Payson Town Council's approval to raise rates, Flake said.


CableVision customers who would like to tell company officials their opinions on the U of A games, the planned price increase, service or any change in channel offerings can call Flake at 474-1211. He said he's always willing and interested in hearing from his subscribers.

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