Hargray, Fox Sports Net continue to battle in Beaufort County

mmccombs@beaufortgazette.comAugust 8, 2012 

Some customers in Beaufort County have missed out on Atlanta Braves games this year after a switch in cable providers.

FILE -- THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

If the dispute between Hargray Communications and Fox Sports Net Carolinas that has kept Beaufort baseball fans from watching Atlanta Braves games on the network this season has resembled a cold war, it just escalated.

Fox Sports Net has started airing a 30-second spot during Braves games broadcast on SportSouth, which Hargray carries. The advertisement features Braves' announcers Chip Caray and Joe Simpson and implores Braves fans in Beaufort to "Call 1-877-Hargray and tell them you want FSCarolinas."

Hilton Head Island-based Hargray dropped FSN Carolinas in January, citing an unreasonably high carrying charge requested by the Atlanta-based cable affiliate.

Since Hargray acquired Charter Communications in April, former Charter customers in northern Beaufort County have lost FSN Carolinas, upsetting Braves fans -- the cable channel will broadcast 70 of the team's games this season.

Hargray officials have called FSN Carolinas' demands "out of line" and said fans' anger is misdirected, going as far as to take out a full-page advertisement in the sports section of The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet for a week in late June, blaming the impasse on Fox Sports Net.

The two sides disagree on whether FSN Carolinas should be available to all Hargray customers or only to those paying for its premier package of channels.

"Hargray continues to insist that (FSN Carolinas) be restricted to a tier where it would be limited to a small number of its customers, whereas every other cable provider in South Carolina widely distributes the network to fans everywhere on a basic level of service," Chris Bellitti, vice president of communications for FOX Sports Networks said in an email.

If the two sides are trying to reach an agreement, the negotiations aren't going anywhere.

According to Robert Gilbert, Hargray's digital marketing and public relations manager, "Things are exactly where they were." Hargray's official position, he said, is there is nothing to update.

If that's the case, several other groups of fans soon will join Braves fans in their disappointment.

In addition to the remaining 20 Braves games FSN Carolinas will air through the end of September, college football coverage kicks off Sept. 1 on the network. FSN Carolinas will air an ACC and an SEC contest each Saturday.

Included in those games are Clemson's Sept. 15 home game against Furman at 3 p.m. and South Carolina's 7 p.m. home contest against UAB.

Follow sports editor Mike McCombs at twitter.com/IPBGSports.

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