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Saints, Series out for Vicksburg cable

[10/10/01]Without a home satellite system, Vicksburg residents won’t be seeing some NASCAR events, Saints football or baseball’s World Series and no solution is in sight.

The sports events and Fox Network programs were dropped over the weekend by WDBD in Jackson in favor of programming by Warner Brothers.

Although other NFL games are available on NBC, ABC, CBS and ESPN, Fox telecasts the Saints, the pro football team closest to Vicksburg, and also was the winning bidder for NASCAR and baseball’s World Series.

Other Fox programming, including Fox News and Fox Sports South continue to be available, but due to federal regulations, Vicksburg Video, which exclusively provides cable TV in Vicksburg, cannot just pick up the Fox signal from another provider.

“I’m rather perturbed,” said David Selkanic, a Vicksburg resident, about the prospect of losing the World Series, which begins Oct. 27.

“If you like baseball, that’s messed up for you,” said Louis Miles, who also lives here.

Scott Grogin, vice president of corporate communications at Fox, blamed the situation on contract fee disagreements.

Grogin said Pegasus Communications, the company that owns WDBD, had been negotiating with Fox for several months over the payment of fees for Fox broadcasting. “They didn’t want to pay the fees,” Grogin said, and so they severed their relationship with Fox.

Time Warner Cable in Jackson has subscribed to FoxNet, a satellite channel that provides access to Fox’s national sporting coverage. “We had to move something up to a different (cable) package and make room for FoxNet,” said Francis Smith, the public affairs director for Time Warner Cable.

Because of FoxNet, Jackson residents will see the World Series. But this is still in doubt in Vicksburg, where FoxNet is not a part of the cable package.

Beau Balch, general manager of Vicksburg Video, said he doesn’t know if Vicksburg cable can offer FoxNet. “I don’t know the answer to that question on my site,” Balch said. “It’s something for me to look into, but I haven’t yet.”

Vicksburg residents can receive Fox broadcasting through a satellite feed.

Negotiations between Fox and Jackson stations are under way, Grogin said. There’s also the possibility of another station dropping its network contract in favor of Fox.

“We’re looking at another affiliate for over-the-air broadcasting in Jackson,” Grogin said. “The challenge is that all of the stations in the Jackson market have contracts. They can’t switch that easily.” That means a change, if one comes, won’t be soon.

“With that many people vying for it, somebody is going to get it,” Balch said. “It’d be stupid not to pick it up.”

Denise Rolfe, the vice president of broadcast communications at Pegasus, cited advertising strategies and viewer needs as the motivations for their switch to Warner Brothers. “The WB is a good fit for us,” she said.

Ted Rudolph, manager of WDBD, said “I have no comment about our relationship with Fox. I will say that we saw a tremendous opportunity with Warner Brothers and the quality of programming they provide.”