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GCI drops Mariners, keeps rates steady

GCI and ROOT SPORTS fail to reach agreement for 2012 MLB season

Posted: January 11, 2012 - 12:03am

GCI’s Seattle Mariner’s fans may have to find a new venue to watch their favorite team this baseball season. ROOT SPORTS and GCI have failed to reach an agreement for televised baseball for the 2012 season. GCI dropped ROOT SPORTS on Jan. 1.

GCI made the decision to drop ROOT to keep customer rates down.

“We made a commitment not to raise cable rates in 2012,” David Morris, GCI spokesman said.

GCI went through what Morris called “exhaustive” negotiations with ROOT to find a deal. However, Morris said the two companies couldn’t reconcile one important change. GCI wanted to list ROOT as a “Standalone” option, or digital sports tier where customers pay for the service if they want it. For instance, standalone programming would be like horse racing, hunting or fishing programs. ROOT wanted to remain part of the standard package paid for by all GCI customers.

“ROOT has 5,000 customers but it wanted to have all of GCI’s customers pay,” Morris said.

GCI’s action is pushback by operators against programmers, Morris said.

“They can’t keep raising cost,” Morris said.

Still, Morris said, in the end it is about what viewers get to see.

“In video,” Morris said, “programming is king. You want the best programming,” Morris said. “Would we want to have the mariners on there? Yes.”

But the price just wasn’t right, Morris said.

“We apologize for that but at some point you have to draw a line,” Morris said, “or you have to start raising rates.”

The Mariners blackout only applies to regular season games - post-season games will be available on GCI.

Based in Bellevue, Wash. ROOT is the cable home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers, Gonzaga Bulldogs and Seattle University Redhawks. ROOT also offers opening season games for the Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates in their respective markets.

ROOT SPORTS services Wash. Ore., Mont. and Idaho. ROOT is owned by DIRECTV Sports Networks.

The sports channel offered to accept GCI’s proposed terms, according to a ROOT SPORTS press release.

“But GCI withdrew their offer and dropped our channel,” ROOT said. “We definitely want to return to GCI. We’ve been in business together for over five years and we would hope to continue to serve their customers for many more.”

However, ROOT SPORTS said GCI is doing a disservice to its customers by making the switch. GCI customers will have to pay “nearly 20 percent more per month to see any sort of replacement live MLB action.”

Customers should switch television providers to see Mariners baseball, ROOT says.

GCI is replacing ROOT with the Major League Baseball Network. GCI says that Major League will offer more games and more diversity of games than ROOT SPORTS.

For more information about ROOT SPORTS visit http://bit.ly/zVuG3l.

For more information about Major League Baseball Network visit http://mlbnetwork.mlb.com/network/index.jsp

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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