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Archive for Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Plug to be pulled on Fox Sports Midwest

January 15, 2002

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Fox Sports Midwest will not be available on Sunflower Broadband, the city's cable television outlet, after Friday.

Patrick Knorr, general manager of Sunflower Broadband, announced last month the regional sports network would be dropped because Sunflower did not want to pass an FSM rate hike to its customers.

Fox Sports Midwest officials countered that their rate boost was not out of line.

"We're not asking a premium," said Jack Donovan, FSM's general manager. "Just market value."

Sunflower would have to tack another $1 on its monthly bills, Knorr said, in order to absorb the rate hike. Still, Knorr emphasized he does not consider the move permanent.

"We'll continue to work with them," he said. "We're here to serve our customers. It depends on customer feedback."

Since the decision to drop FSM was announced, Knorr has received dozens of phone calls, the majority wanting Sunflower to retain FSM.

"But that's only a small percentage of our 33,000 customers," Knorr said. "There also appears to be a misconception that Fox Sports West carries Big 12 men's basketball. They do not."

Fox Sports Midwest does carry other Big 12 sports, including football and women's basketball, as well as Royals games, St. Louis Blues hockey, Denver Nuggets basketball and men's basketball from the ACC and Pacific-10.

Outdoor Life Network, currently available on Sunflower's channel 77, will replace Fox Sports Midwest in the channel 50 slot starting on Saturday. OLN will also remain on channel 77 for awhile.

Knorr said the leading candidates to replace FSM are EWTN, a Catholic network; National Geographic Channel; and Metro Sports, a Kansas City-area sports outlet.

"We hope to decide on a replacement in February," Knorr said.

Sunflower Broadband, a division of The World Co., which also owns the Journal-World, isn't the only area cable outlet dropping Fox Sports Midwest. St. Joseph, Mo., Cablevision will also cease to provide FSM's signal on Friday.

"I don't look at it as us dropping them," said Bill Severn, general manager of the St. Joseph outlet. "Fox is shutting us down. Without adding anything, they're asking for an 86 percent increase tomorrow and 150 percent over four years."

Reactions from his subscribers, Severn said, have been running 2 to 1 in favor of dropping FSM.

"The No. 1 request we receive is for lower rates and for lower rate increases," he said.

Sunflower's Knorr noted that many callers have told him they would be willing to pay the extra dollar for Fox Sports Midwest.

"That's another misconception," Knorr said. "They (FSM) will not allow us to offer it as a premium channel. They want it to remain on our base package."

Cable isn't the only TV provider balking at higher Fox Sports Net rates. Dish Network, with 16 million DirectTV subscribers, has also threatened to dump Fox Sports programming.

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