Baltimore County fans face Bullets-Capitals roadblock


August 18, 1994|By MILTON KENT

Comcast's decision to lift WDCA-TV 20 from its Baltimore County lineup last month has broader implications than whether you have two places to see "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

In six weeks, the Washington Capitals will open their 1994-95 schedule on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Washington Bullets will play their first road game in Chicago against the Bulls on Nov. 5.

But if you live in the county, you'd better have a TV set that is not wired for cable and a pretty good antenna to see either game on Channel 20, the television home away from home for the Caps and the Bullets.

Essentially, Comcast's move means that subscribers must sign up for Home Team Sports to see Landover's finest, which, for folks without an addressable converter box, entails a $25 refundable deposit for the box and a monthly $2.52 box charge.

But that's not all. There's the monthly charge for HTS, which could be $10.65 with another premium channel, like HBO, Showtime or Cinemax, or $14.65.

All in all, there's an extra outlay for something that had come with the basic package.

David Nevins, a Comcast spokesman, said the decision to drop Channel 20 for Turner Classic Movies, a new pay channel that offers uncut classic movies without commercials, came in response to requests from older viewers for such a channel.

"That was the No. 1 requested service by our viewers," said Nevins. "We've received more letters on that the last two years than we've got on putting HTS on the basic service."

That's another discussion for another time, but at any rate, Nevins said Channel 20 offered virtually no programming that's not already available in another place in Comcast's lineup, except, of course, Bullets and Caps road games.

With the channel lineup at capacity, Nevins said, something had to give, and WDCA was it in Baltimore County, though its services in Howard and Harford counties retain Channel 20, because they are not at capacity.

Nevins said technological advances may make it available for Comcast to increase its channel capacity, allowing Channel 20 to return, possibly before the seasons start.

Stay tuned.

HTS rebates?

Two of the New York area's cable systems, Time-Warner and CableVision, have announced plans to provide rebates to customers who subscribe to the MSG network, which carries the Yankees, and Sports Channel, which televises the Mets, for games lost by the baseball strike.

So far, Westinghouse, which purchased the Orioles' television rights for its O's TV network, has not asked the Orioles for a refund of its rights fee, which means there likely won't be a rebate to the local cable carriers, which, in turn, means no immediate rebate for you.

Magazine merger

After nearly three seasons of butting heads in competition, Baltimore Baseball Outside Pitch (formerly GameDay) and The Baltimore Gazette (formerly The Orioles Gazette), are on the verge of joining forces.

Outside Pitch editor David Hill said negotiations to purchase the Gazette from publisher Ted Venetoulis are nearly complete. After the sale, the Gazette will disappear, to be replaced by an expanded Outside Pitch, Hill said.

Bob Brown, the former Gazette editor and former Orioles public relations director, will continue to write a "Where Are They Now" column for Outside Pitch.

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