Owners of HTS to fight for O's Team reportedly has deal with Fox/TCI

counteroffer expected

August 19, 1996|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

Officials of Westinghouse Broadcasting, the parent company of Home Team Sports, are expected to mount a last-gasp effort to keep Orioles broadcasts amid signs that the team's telecasts will be controlled by a new venture.

Westinghouse, one of the nation's largest broadcasting conglomerates, is expected to make a counteroffer to the Orioles this week in response to a proposal from Fox and TCI, the nation's largest cable operator.

However, sources within the local broadcasting community indicate that the Fox/TCI deal with the Orioles is completed and not likely to be overturned by Westinghouse's efforts.

Included in the Westinghouse offer is a proposal for its newly acquired radio arm, Infinity, to begin carrying Orioles games on company-owned stations in Baltimore and Washington, according to sources familiar with the package.

Specific financial figures were unavailable, but broadcasting sources say that whatever package the Orioles finally agree to will represent a significant increase in the estimated $12.5 million annually the club receives from over-the-air and cable television and from radio.

An Orioles spokesman could not be reached for comment. Spokesmen for both Fox Sports and HTS declined to comment.

Westinghouse owns Channel 13 and has a majority stake in HTS, a Bethesda-based regional sports cable outlet.

The Orioles' contracts with both Westinghouse and WBAL (1090 AM) expire at the end of this season, and the team has been in negotiations with the two entities.

However, the club, in conjunction with the Washington Bullets and Capitals, received an offer from Fox and TCI to move its games to a new, regional channel. The Bullets and Capitals' contracts with HTS expired at the end of last season.

Reportedly, the Fox/TCI partnership has made it clear that if Westinghouse matched its offer, it would then attempt to buy HTS, of which TCI owns 20 percent, though recent industry publications indicate that Westinghouse has preliminarily rejected the partnership's offer.

Industry sources indicate that Westinghouse does not retain a contractual right to match any Orioles offer.

Until a deal is settled, the impact on local cable viewers is still unclear, but if the two channels operate concurrently, local cable TTC operators likely would have to decide between the channels because cable systems are limited in channel capacity.

Westinghouse's recent acquisition of both CBS and Infinity gives the company the ability to present the Orioles with a multi-medium approach, with games airing on HTS, Channel 13 and on its own radio stations in both cities.

Infinity, which purchased the radio rights to Ravens broadcasts, could place the Orioles on one or more of its four Baltimore stations, as well as on its Washington outlets.

However, Jeff Beauchamp, station manager of WBAL, which has held the Orioles' radio rights since 1988, said he wasn't surprised that Westinghouse made the radio offer as a part of its attempt to keep the team's television package.

"We're being very aggressive in terms of keeping the rights. Why wouldn't they pick us?" said Beauchamp.

Pub Date: 8/19/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.