Fight on TV not quite free for all Some cable watchers will pay for view

March 21, 1991|By Ray Frager

For Comcast Cablevision customers in Baltimore County, there were two ways to see Monday night's Mike Tyson-Donovan "Razor" Ruddock heavyweight fight -- spend $34.95 for the pay-per-view telecast, or watch it free.

Because of computer problems brought on by an unexpected volume of orders for the fight, Comcast was unable to scramble its transmission of the fight telecast, leaving it available to some customers who found it on channels 14 or 61. The pay-per-view telecast was on channel 43.

But those who ordered the pay-per-view package aren't so lucky -- they're stuck with the $34.95 bill.

Comcast spokesman Robert Gunther said yesterday that the company's computers were overloaded by a huge amount of callers -- he had no estimate of numbers -- trying to order the fight on Monday. The computers are tied into the phone system, he said, and those same computers help run Comcast's transmission equipment.

"We had not foreseen such a huge volume of orders," Gunther said.

Comcast was anticipating about 3,500 pay-per-view orders, he said, among its 155,000 homes. Gunther said he didn't have a figure on how many orders Comcast received.

In any case, those who didn't wait until the last minute are being rewarded with a charge for something they might have seen for free.

"The latest I heard was that the people who previously had ordered it would be billed," Gunther said, adding that it was possible the policy would be reviewed.

The computer system definitely is going to be reviewed, he said.

"The upgrading of the computer situation is going to be a high priority," he said.

Showtime has acquired rebroadcast rights to the fight and will telecast it Saturday at 10 p.m. and Wednesday at 10 p.m. In addition, highlights of the Julio Cesar Chavez-Johnny Duplessis and Simon Brown-Maurice Blocker under card bouts will be shown.

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