Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The alienable right to baseball on TV

The Declaration of Independence asserts that the "pursuit of happiness" is an unalienable right. Watching baseball makes me happy, but despite that I doubt that I have any true right to have it funneled into my television.

Which doesn't make the current squabble between Fox Sports North and a number of carriers any more palatable to the fans caught between them.

I did a quickie post Tuesday night when it became clear that Charter Communications (the dominant cable company in Mankato-North Mankato) was not carrying that night's Twins-Yankees game. I didn't have much time — I was supposed to be working on the front page — and avoided going into detail. Since then there have been comments that suggest some confusion about what's going on.

So let's backtrack a bit.

In recent seasons, the Twins broadcasts have been divvied up between FSN (which has generally carried something in the vicinity of 105 games) and WFTC, aka My29 (which carried games on Sunday afternoons), a total of something in the vicinity of 130 games. Weekday games were generally not carried by either, which accounts for the missing 30 or so games.

Both FSN and WFTC are part of the News Corp. empire. During the offseason, it was announced that the Twins games this year would be strictly on FSN — no more over-the-air broadcasts, strictly cable. (Reading between the lines of the announcement, I inferred that this was News Corp's idea more than that of the Twins, but I doubt the Twins put up much of a fight.) Also,  the number of day games broadcast would be increased. In all, FSN is to carry 150 games. About two dozen of the added games would have been WFTC's under the old system, the rest games that previously would be without TV coverage.

More games meant more money. FSN paid the Twins more and went to its carriers, satellite and cable, for the cash.

And some —  most notably, for the Mankato area, Charter and Dish Network — balked.

As of right now, Thursday's game, which is to be carried by FSN, will not be on Charter,  nor will Saturday's. I haven't the slightest notion how they determined which games are among the 45 in question. FSN lists six April games whose carriage is in dispute; that leaves 38 others scattered through the remaining months of the season.

That's the FSN website statement on the dispute. I tried to find something on Charter's site, but with no success. (Off my previous experiences with Charter, this is not a surprise.) The Twins, who are not directly a party to this dispute but probably aren't thrilled to have about a third of their TV audience cut off, also have nothing on their site.

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