Bee Line Cable’s 7,000 subscribers in its eight-town area haven’t had the options other cable networks have offered for coverage of the Olympic Games in London.
They can watch the Olympics on WLBZ-TV (Ch. 2), which is their NBC affiliate, but the NBC Sports Network, MSNBC and CNBC and Bravo are also covering events in the NBC chain.
Bee Line Cable has continued with its regular programming on those stations rather than carry Olympic coverage at a significantly increased cost.
Bee Line Cable is available in Farmington, Industry, Wilton, Millinocket, East Millinocket, Skowhegan, Madison and Anson.
“We would have to pay extra to carry the Olympics on those stations and it’s very expensive,” explained Paul Hannigan, the president and owner of Bee Line Cable Inc.
George Allen, Bee Line’s general manager, explained that it would have cost them $37,000 to purchase the Olympic package and that would have been passed on to the subscribers, even if they didn’t want to watch the Olympics.
“We’re a small operation with only 7,000 subscribers. A $37,000 hit would be exorbitant,” said Allen. “And it would be for only three weeks [of viewing].”
“A lot of it had to do with the economy. You look at what has happened to the [paper] mills in the Millinocket area. It has been hard out there for our customer base,” said Allen, referring to the shutdown of the paper mills.
Allen said they had already raised their rates for 2012.
“Every three years, we go through retransmission consent negotiations for the right to carry the signals and we were hit with a 30 percent increase from WLBZ/NBC and their 14 networks,” said Allen. “That was, by far, one of the largest rate increases.”
He said their basic cable rate is now $64.32 per month.
“And that’s one of the lowest rates in the state,” said Allen.
However, due to the rising rates, he said “we have still lost subscribers.”
He said there haven’t been many complaints from their subscribers about the lack of Olympic coverage.
“We’ve had about a dozen calls among 7,000 subscribers,” said Allen. “If we had lost a Red Sox game, they would hang me.”