The high school basketball Class A state finals in Portland will not be televised by Maine Public Broadcasting Network this March because of a disagreement between Time Warner Cable and the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Time Warner informed MPBN that it has been unable to come to an agreement to continue its partnership with the Cumberland County Civic Center and would be unable to install equipment needed to produce the games in Portland, according to an MPBN news release.
“As a result, MPBN will not be provided with the boys Class A championship and the girls Class A championship signals needed to broadcast these two games statewide as scheduled on March 1,” the release said.
Steve Crane, general manager of the Cumberland County Civic Center, said the civic center isn’t stopping Time Warner from producing the games but Time Warner wants to leave all of its equipment in the facility after airing the games and isn’t willing to pay or work out a deal to do so.
“If they want to come in for the day and produce the games, no problem. All they have to pay for is the power,” said Crane.
Time Warner used to leave its equipment in the civic center as the result of a deal it had with the facility’s management, said Crane.
But all of the network’s equipment had to be removed because of renovations at the facility.
“They used to pay us something like $10,000 a year and we would give them tickets to our events and allow them to advertise on our scoreboard. It was a sponsorship deal,” said Crane.
Joli Plucknette, spokeswoman for Time Warner Cable, acknowledged that the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement but said, “I can’t go into details about it.”
Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said he would entertain conversation from other television networks that would be interested in carrying the two games. Streaming the games live on the Web would be a second choice, he said.
“It’s nobody’s fault. They were just unable to reach an agreement,” Durost said. “It’s disappointing. But we’ve always had a good partnership with the Cumberland County Civic Center, Time Warner Cable and MPBN.”
Time Warner has partnered with MPBN in past seasons and since tourney games run at multiple sites simultaneously, MPBN needs several partners to provide the equipment and personnel to cover Eastern and Western Maine semifinal games, regional finals and state finals in Classes A, B, C and D.
“This is a tough situation as we definitely do not want to disappoint any of our viewers and basketball fans across the state,” Gil Maxwell, MPBN’s chief technology officer, said in a news release. “We are in our 35th year of broadcasting the tournament and we completely stretch our own resources and rely on our partners in order to cover as many games as we can. We don’t have the equipment or personnel to fill the void and attempt to cover the Portland Class A championship games — our hands are tied.”
MPBN will carry 42 tournament games this season, 21 games from Bangor and 21 games from Augusta as scheduled. MPBN’s coverage of the tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
The civic center also has been involved in a lease dispute with the Portland Pirates minor league hockey team, which is playing its games in Lewiston this season instead of Portland.
Both sides have been working on a resolution and the civic center’s board of trustees sent a new lease proposal to the Pirates on Wednesday, according to a report in the Maine Hockey Journal.
The civic center and the Pirates had disagreed over the division of revenues generated by concessions and advertising in the venue. The team dropped its lawsuit in December.