Play ball: City cable franchiser last to add HTS to basic package

Media Watch

March 05, 1996|By Milton Kent

The last domino has fallen and cable-subscribing baseball fans all across the Baltimore region will be able to see the Orioles without paying premium fees.

That's because TCI Communications, the city's cable franchiser, will make the Home Team Sports signal a part of its expanded basic package, beginning April 1, which just happens to be Opening Day.

Officials at TCI deferred comment to an official announcement later in the month, though subscribers should receive official notice in their March billings.

Since Comcast added HTS to its basic package in late December, TCI had been the last holdout among area cable systems to make the Bethesda-based regional sports channel -- which also airs Washington Bullets and Capitals games, as well as selected college contests and Baltimore Bandits games -- a part of a lineup that didn't require subscribers to fork over additional fees.

Local operators have been hesitant to surrender the $10-15 per month premium charge they had been collecting from the smaller pool of HTS viewers, but TCI may very well grab new subscribers, and likely a favorable change in the compensation formula it pays to HTS to carry the channel.

With the addition of the 110,000 TCI subscribers, HTS, which debuted in 1984, now reaches into 3.6 million homes in an area that includes Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware and portions of North Carolina, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Infinity makes waves

Remember how we were saying in this space yesterday that the prospects of an all-sports station here in town were dimmed?

Well, that was before Infinity Broadcasting, which operates all-sports stations in New York and Philadelphia, laid out more than $400 million yesterday to buy 12 radio stations across the country, including Baltimore outlets WCAO (600 AM) and WAXY (102.7 FM).

Add those two stations to the two already owned by Infinity, namely WJFK (1300 AM) and WLIF (101.9 FM), and one could draw up a scenario involving the city's NFL team and the Orioles the team formerly known as the Browns and the Orioles where an all-sports station could come into existence.

Infinity officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, but here's a possible plan of action:

Infinity, which has the radio rights to seven NFL teams, snags the package of the newly relocated football team here and splits

the actual Sunday afternoon game coverage between one of its AM stations and one of its FM outlets, while keeping weekday team coverage on the AM station.

Taking this Oliver Stone-esque theory one step further, Infinity could then make a run for the Orioles, whose current contract with WBAL (1090 AM) expires after this season, amid whispers that team management is displeased with previous criticism of its moves by station personnel.

If it grabbed the Orioles, Infinity wouldn't have to do much to make an all-sports outlet out of WJFK, which simulcasts the signal of its sister station in Washington. A couple of local talkers could be used in certain key slots and syndicated programming in others.

It all sounds reasonable and certainly interesting, but, to paraphrase comedian Dennis Miller, of course, we could be wrong.

The guest list

Mark Mussina of the "Sports Showdown" on WWLG (1360 AM) has headed south to the Orioles' spring training site in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and will report from there the rest of the week for the 10 p.m. show.

Meanwhile, Mussina's partner, Spiro Morekas, will talk tonight with CBS basketball analyst Quinn Buckner and Steve Evans of HOK, the architectural firm that designed Oriole Park and will plan the new football stadium at Camden Yards.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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