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Company says costs keeping Olympics off cable system

February 14, 2002

Company says costs keeping Olympics off cable system



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Scott Wenzel of southern Washington County wanted to watch the U.S. women's hockey team compete in the Winter Olympics Tuesday but since it wasn't shown on MSNBC on Antietam Cable he drove to Frederick County to watch it on a different cable system there.

Wentzel said he was frustrated by Antietam Cable's decision not to provide extended Olympics coverage on CNBC and MSNBC this year. Antietam Cable made the same decision for the Summer Olympics in 2000.

Other Tri-State cable companies are showing the Olympics on all three channels.

About 20 people have called Antietam Cable to ask or complain about the decision to broadcast only the Olympics coverage provided on NBC, said Director of Marketing Cindy Garland.

Wenzel said he was one of those callers.

To get the Olympics feed from CNBC and MSNBC, Antietam Cable would have had to agree to a three-year contract with NBC. She described the cost as "an enormous fee," but said she could not disclose the amount.

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The fee was so high that the cost would have had to be passed on to all Antietam Cable customers, including those who did not want to watch the extended Olympics coverage, Garland said.

National market research has shown the ratings for Olympics programming on those two channels is low, Garland said.

Antietam Cable decided it did not make sense to pass on a fee to provide two weeks of Olympics coverage that did not draw many viewers, Garland said. She said Antietam Cable's customers do not like to see fee increases.

Antietam Cable asked NBC if it could get the Olympics feed for just two weeks and charge a higher fee to those who want it, but NBC refused, Garland said.

Antietam Cable is owned by Schurz Communications Inc., which also owns The Herald-Mail Co.

Garland said Antietam Cable's rates are lower than those of other area cable companies.

Low cost service is good, but not if it means customers can't get what they want, Wenzel said.

He said he may make more trips to Frederick to see the events he can't view via Antietam Cable.

"If there is another event I am really interested in seeing I will get in the car and go over to Frederick," he said. "It is kind of a pain but I will do it."

Adelphia, which serves Sharpsburg, Keedysville, Frederick County, Md., and Jefferson and Berkeley counties in West Virginia, is providing extended Olympics coverage, a spokeswoman said.

Comcast Cable, which provides cable service in Pennsylvania, also is providing extended Olympics coverage, a spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for Tele-Media Company, which provides cable coverage in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., did not return phone calls Wednesday.

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