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Pawlenty wants mediation in Twins TV feud

Governor says blackout hurts chance for new stadium

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- For years, the Twins have argued that they are a statewide asset worth preserving with a new ballpark, even for people who don't attend games.

But Gov. Tim Pawlenty and other lawmakers are warning the Twins that the recent cable TV impasse is becoming an anchor on a stadium bill working its way through the Capitol. Constituents are registering their complaints and supporters of the stadium legislation are having second thoughts.

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This season, only 27 Twins games are scheduled for local broadcast television, and national networks are expected to carry only a handful of games. Victory Sports One is due to show 105 games. It's the first season for Victory, which the team created to increase revenue.

But a number of cable and dish networks say that Victory is asking for too much money. Kevin Cattoor, president of Victory Sports One, said the network has reduced its rate proposals significantly during ongoing negotiations. He wouldn't say what the current per-subscriber offer is.

In justifying his call for mediation, Pawlenty said the blackout is causing bad will among Twins fans and hurting the team's stadium push at the Capitol.

"This has dragged on for awhile," Pawlenty said. "It's time to get it into gear and get solved."

Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, tried earlier in the week to pass legislation that would require binding arbitration in the TV dispute. He withdrew the proposal without a vote but has vowed to bring it back at another time.

He said he backed Pawlenty's call for mediation even if it was nonbinding.

"Any idea to get this done is a good idea," Sertich said. "If this works, great. If not, we'll look to the next step."

Cattoor said there is precedent for involving third-party negotiators. In New York, an arbitrator settled a long-running dispute last month that had left subscribers of Cablevision unable to watch Yankees baseball games and New Jersey Nets basketball games.

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But the companies in the Minnesota dispute say their case is different because it involves six providers, not one.

Cattoor said reaching the first agreement should speed the others.

"If we can agree to terms and conditions with one of the national providers that we think is fair to both parties, that has to send a strong message to the other five," he said.

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