Shutout: Contract dispute leaves Cable One customers with no baseball coverage
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Oct 03, 2013 | 6241 views |  0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Braves fans Jacob Camp and Mitch Williams, both Jacksonville State University students, watch their team in the Major League Baseball playoffs Thursday night at Heroes in Weaver. They could watch at their apartment because of a contract dispute between Turner Broadcasting and Cable One. (Photo by Brian Anderson/The Anniston Star)
Braves fans Jacob Camp and Mitch Williams, both Jacksonville State University students, watch their team in the Major League Baseball playoffs Thursday night at Heroes in Weaver. They could watch at their apartment because of a contract dispute between Turner Broadcasting and Cable One. (Photo by Brian Anderson/The Anniston Star)
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WEAVER – George Lauderbaugh has waited 21 years to see the Pittsburgh Pirates return to the playoffs, and Thursday night he couldn’t even enjoy it from the comfort of his own home.

The Pittsburgh native and Jacksonville State University history professor said he was shocked Tuesday when he flipped to TBS to see his team play the Cincinnati Reds in the opening round of the Major League Baseball postseason and was greeted with a black screen.

“There was no warning,” said Lauderbaugh, wearing a Pittsburgh hat and watching the Pirates battle the St. Louis Cardinals at Heroes American Bar and Grille in Weaver on Thursday night. “I called Cable One and that’s when I heard the message.”

That message, one familiar to some 24,000 Cable One subscribers in Calhoun County, was that Turner Broadcasting stations, including TBS, the station scheduled to broadcast all but one game of the current round of MLB playoff games, had been dropped from the company’s channel lineup due to a contract dispute.

“We don’t get CNN or Headline News, and that’s all we watch,” said Lauderbaugh’s wife, Sue. “If this goes on any longer, we’re going to switch.”

Citing rising prices for the channels, Cable One removed Turner Broadcasting’s CNN, CNN en Espanol, Headline News, Turner Classic Movies, TruTV and Boomerang from its lineup on Monday. Turner, in return, pulled TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network from Cable One’s lineup.

“Turner has chosen to punish our customers by deauthorizing the signals for these channels so that they will no longer receive them,” said Trish Niemann, Cable One public relations manager, in a press release. “We believe that they have deauthorized these channels in retaliation for us dropping their less popular programming.”

The move affects approximately 730,000 Cable One customers in 19 states.

But Cable One’s loss might be some local business’ gain. Marc Spaulding, the owner of Heroes, which uses the satellite service DirectTV, said Thursday he expected a huge turnout for that night’s Atlanta Braves postseason game.

“Welcome to Heroes,” said Lee’Air Campbell-Luster, a bartender at Heroes greeting customers walking in the door. “And yes, we have TBS.”

JSU students Jacob Camp and Mitch Williams, Cable One subscribers — “for now,” Camp insists — said through the playoffs they hope to hit up Heroes and Jefferson’s in Jacksonville to catch the Braves’ games.

“We’re just trying to get through midterm week and I can’t watch the Braves,” said Williams at Heroes on Thursday night. Williams said he found out about the TBS outage on Monday through an email to subscribers from Cable One.

And while the email said Cable One users will be compensated in their bill for the outage, Camp said that’s not good enough.

“We don’t want compensation,” Camp said. “We just want to watch the Braves.”

Cheaha Brewing Company in Anniston, also a DirectTV subscriber, has a pull-down screen for sporting events. Owner Rodney Snider said Thursday morning he’d leave it up to that night’s restaurant patrons on showing either the Braves game or the National Football League’s Thursday game.

TBS is scheduled to broadcast the MLB’s National League Championship Series as well. Should the Braves, or Lauderbaugh’s Pirates, advance to the next stage of the playoffs and Turner and Cable One’s contract dispute extends into the next few weeks, local fans could still face a blackout on watching their team make a run at the World Series.

Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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