Sports cable network moves to Maryland

December 12, 1991|By Michael Pollick

The Home Team Sports network is moving to Maryland thi weekend from downtown Washington.

Westinghouse Electric Corp. is spending $5 million to give this cable network subsidiary new headquarters and studio facilities in the same Bethesda high-rise that already houses Discovery Networks, operator of two cable cannels, the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel.

HTS is setting up all-new equipment. The company will use fiber optics cable to carry the broadcast signals from HTS' new studio to its satellite dish.

When it is time to run a commercial, the technician currently reaches for a cassette tape. In the new set-up, commercials will be part of a digital library run by a computer, and will be inserted electronically rather than mechanically.

1% "Joe Subscriber won't notice, but

we will have a cleaner look on the air," said Scott Broyles, communications manager for HTS.

HTS, which will occupy the first and second floors of Bethesda Place, has about 55 full-time employees. Another 50 or so work on a free-lance basis for specific events.

The network covers 90 Orioles games a year (70 from Baltimore), plus 30 Capitals games and 30 Bullets games a year from Capital Center in Landover, east of Washington.

In addition, its crews provide coverage of more than 400 college events per year.

The company's latest acquisition is the right to do live broadcasts of Atlantic Coast Conference college basketball games.

HTS' Home Team Sports channel is picked up by 230 cable television systems throughout the mid-Atlantic region and reaches 2.2 million subscribers. Its cable outlets include United Artists and Comcast Cablevision in the immediate Baltimore area, all three systems in Anne Arundel County and Howard Cable TV in Howard County.

The company has spent three years deciding where to move and considered 125 buildings from the Dulles Airport area in suburban Virginia to Baltimore.

Bethesda was chosen in part because it provides relatively easy access both to the Capital Center and to the new baseball stadium in Baltimore's Camden Yards, said Mr. Broyles.

Another consideration was a site that would allow effective receiving and transmitting from satellite dish antennas. Two dishes have been installed on the roof of Bethesda Place.

In addition, many of the company's workers already live in Montgomery County and were commuting to downtown Washington, so the new site is very convenient for them.

"Our last day in D.C. will be Friday," said Mr. Broyles. "The movers come in over the weekend and move a few boxes. We will be up and running in Bethesda Monday."

The company's new home will feature a complete production studio, and there are plans to expand the range of shows produced beyond the three that HTS handles now -- two Redskins shows and the Washington Post Sports Talk show.

"The new facility will allow us to do so much more in production. We'll definitely be expanding studio work, not only for HTS but other people as well," Mr. Broyles said.

In a complicated string of corporate ownership, HTS is owned by Home Team Sports Limited Partnership. Group W Satellite Communications, a division of Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. Inc., is the majority owner of the partnership. Westinghouse Broadcasting is part of Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric.

Group W Satellite Communications, which is based in Stamford, Conn., is the cable division of Group W. It also runs two other cable channels: the Nashville Network and Country Music Television.

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