DAN TURNER Staff Reporter

Fox Sports Net, frustrated by the refusal of local cable companies to pick up its new Fox Sports West 2 channel, is accusing Walt Disney Co. of conspiring to keep its programming out of Southern California homes.

In an antitrust suit filed in U.S. District Court Feb. 24, Fox claims Disney is planning to launch its own regional cable sports network, and is putting pressure on cable operators to convince them not to carry the new Fox channel.

Disney officials declined to comment on the lawsuit or to say whether they plan to launch a regional sports network.

Cable operators also were reluctant to discuss the Fox suit. Individual cable companies are not currently part of the suit, but they may be added to it later since court papers cite numerous unnamed cable operators as co-conspirators.

Fox Sports West 2 debuted Jan. 27 as a spin-off of West L.A.-based Fox Sports West. The fledgling network is anchored by 40 Los Angeles Dodgers games, and also carries games for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Los Angeles Clippers.

Signs of trouble appeared even before the network hit the air. Southern California's two biggest cable systems, Continental Cablevision Inc. and Century Communications Corp. both declined to carry the new channel.

So far, Fox Sports West 2 is carried by regional cable systems reaching only between 350,000 to 400,000 subscribers, according to Fox spokesman Vince Wladika. That compares with 4.2 million subscribers reached by Fox Sports West.

A conflict between Fox and Disney first arose in early February, when the Disney-owned Mighty Ducks filed suit against Fox for switching the team from the original channel to the new one. Because Fox Sports West 2 reaches so few people compared with its parent, the Ducks claimed the switch would lead to a loss of ticket, merchandising and other revenues.

A request by the Ducks for a preliminary injunction forcing Fox to move the team back to the original channel was turned down by an Orange County Superior Court judge on Feb. 26. Two days earlier, Fox had filed its own suit against Disney in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Fox's antitrust suit claims that Disney is planning to launch its own regional cable TV sports network anchored by its Ducks and the Anaheim Angels baseball franchise (another Disney-owned team whose games are now broadcast on Fox Sports West).


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