As Paragould Light, Water and Cable acknowledges, there are a lot of St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans on the city’s cable system, so the renegotiation of contracts with the Fox sports networks that carry Cardinals baseball has obliged some realignments.
“If you look at the regional sports networks for Fox,” Telecommunications Division Chief Marcus Dowdy told a recent meeting of the PLWC board of commissioners, “Arkansas is in the Southwest region.”
That fact, he continued, means the teams that are featured on the Fox Sports Southwest Network (FSSN) do not include St. Louis. More typically, FSSN would show games played by the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros and such, “that nobody here really has much interest in.”
Dowdy said that Paragould is so close to the Fox Sports Midwest Network’s coverage area (in which the Cardinals are included) that the utility had sought unsuccessfully to carry that network instead of FSSN. “Contractually they will not let us do that,” he said.
On the other hand, Dowdy continued, Fox Sports worked out an arrangement with PLWC by which the utility can continue to carry the Fox Sports Plus channel. The channel, which has been available on channel 14 of the Economy Basic tier of channels for several years, is part of the bundle of channels contractually required of cable providers to carry, along with FSSN.
To do so, however, will require PLWC to move Fox Sports Plus from channel 14 to channel 76, in the Expanded Basic tier of channels. The change is effective March 31.
FSSN will remain at channel 32. “They can negotiate a little bit on price,” Dowdy said, “but they are pretty much able to dictate what the terms are, and where you’re going to put these channels.”
Because Fox Sports Plus is a free channel “given” to subscribers who are already paying for FSSN, he said, PLWC will no longer carry Fox Sports Plus on the Economy basic tier. To do so would require PLWC to carry FSSN on Economy Basic as well. “If we put Fox Sports Southwest on the Economy Basic tier,” Dowdy said, “it would push up the price.”
He added that he expected the change would not be very popular. “We are constantly looking for either very low-cost and free programming,” Dowdy said, “but the problem we run into is what is ‘low-cost’ and free’ when you put it on there is not ‘low-cost’ and not ‘free’ when the contract comes up [for renewal].”
Dowdy added that the Economy Basic tier as it is constituted nationwide, typically features “must-carry” channels, educational channels, and such.