Twins fans upset about lack of air time

The Minnesota Twins began their 2004 season April 5 playing a game nearly every day, but Twin Cities baseball fans have seen very little of them on TV.

Last fall, the Twins launched Victory Sports One, a regional sports network featuring television broadcasts of more than 100 Twins games, as well as University men’s basketball, football and Western Collegiate Hockey Association games.

But the channel’s officials have been unable to negotiate a contract with the region’s six major cable and satellite providers, leaving many fans without the ability to watch their favorite teams.

This fall most fans were unable to view most broadcasted University men’s basketball games in their recently completed season, but the lack of Victory Sports access is now coming to a head as the Twins start their season.

Currently, 8 percent of households in Minnesota have access to the Twins-owned and -operated Victory Sports.

The channel’s president Kevin Cattoor said he understands fans’ frustrations.

“They just want to watch the games,” Cattoor said. “We knew launching Victory wasn’t going to be pleasant. We ask for their patience as we work to get the national providers to the table to negotiate a deal.”

Cattoor said the providers’ unwillingness to negotiate has been the largest obstacle.

“Someone comes to you and says that your price is too high. You ask, ‘How much are you willing to pay?’ And they don’t give you a price. That’s what we’re dealing with,” he said.

In a written statement, Mike Munley, president of Time Warner Cable’s Minnesota division, said the company is willing to negotiate.

“It must be a misunderstanding,” Munley said. “In fact, we last got together on this subject in mid-March at a meeting that we initiated. We’re always open to trying to find a solution that works for everyone involved.”

Those without Victory Sports can watch a limited number of Twins games on other channels. Channel 45 will broadcast 26 of the Twins’ 162 scheduled games on Friday nights.

FOX is currently scheduled to air the Twins regionally June 5, July 17, Aug. 7, Aug. 21 and Aug. 28. ESPN does not have the Twins on their early-season schedule but could add Twins games later in the year if the team is in the pennant race.

Morgan Kavanaugh, a University political science major and Time Warner Cable subscriber who lives on campus, said he will probably go to more games if watching them on television is not an option.

“I’m a huge Twins fan and I’m disappointed by the whole thing because I won’t be able to watch the games on TV,” Kavanaugh said. “But I figure that will just make me head over to the (Metrodome) more often.”

But not everyone has that option. Francis Materi, a Wishek, North Dakota, resident and DirecTV subscriber, is one of many out-of-state sports fans without Victory Sports as an option.

Materi said missing Gophers basketball was an issue for him, but being able to see the Twins is more important.

“I would have watched a few of the (basketball) games if they had been available to me,” Materi said. “But I am just a casual Gophers basketball fan. I am a serious Twins fan.”

Materi said he is frustrated that it seems as though the Twins and the television providers are unwilling to serve him as a customer.

“The biggest reason I switched to satellite was so I could watch the Twins and now I can’t, no matter how much money I am willing to spend,” he said.

Minneapolis resident Sarah Johnson, a Time Warner Cable customer and University alumnus, wrote in an e-mail interview that she does not want to hear the details of the negotiations, just the results.

“The bottom line is that the Twins have to be on television as soon as possible,” said Johnson, who also was upset at not being able to watch Gophers basketball earlier in the year.

“This whole dispute is taking that away from the fans and I think deep down that’s what angers people the most.”