HTS says it retains O's rights Industry sources say cable's claim is not contractual

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

Officials at Home Team Sports announced last night that they have retained the cable telecast rights to the Orioles, as well as the Washington Bullets and Capitals.

Jody Shapiro, vice president and general manager of the Bethesda-based regional sports channel, said HTS had matched a proposal made this summer by Fox and TCI, working as partners, for a long-term deal to carry the three teams on a new channel.

"We are looking forward to carrying their games for a long time to come. We think the best place for these teams is on Home Team Sports," said Shapiro.

Shapiro, however, did not specify the length of the deal or any financial terms. Michael Lehr, Orioles director of broadcasting, declined comment on the HTS announcement. A Fox spokesman also declined comment.

Industry sources indicate, however, that the Orioles and Fox have a signed deal and that HTS does not retain a contractual right to match any Orioles' offer, but can attempt to counter one. When asked about those scenarios, Shapiro said, "You'll have to ask the team about that."

Last night's announcement is the latest maneuver in a high-stakes game played out between three of the nation's largest media conglomerates, and almost certainly not the last.

In one corner is Westinghouse, the parent company of HTS as well as Channel 13 and Infinity radio, which carries the Ravens.

The broadcasting giant, which also recently purchased CBS, is expected to use its local over-the-air television station and its six radio outlets between Baltimore and Washington, in a multimedia attempt to keep the Orioles on HTS, where they've been since 1984.

"The television and radio broadcast rights for the Orioles are still in play. Stay tuned," said Marcellus Alexander, vice president and general manager of Channel 13.

Meanwhile, Fox and TCI, the nation's largest cable operator, have joined to form "Fox Sports Net," an amalgam of nine regional sports channels, which goes on the air Nov. 1.

The Fox/TCI alliance is said to be interested in the Orioles, Bullets and Capitals as the programming core of a Mid-Atlantic sports channel that effectively would supplant HTS.

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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