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Cable dispute blacks out M's Northland is wary of the cost for 24 games.

"Friday evening, Mariner fans from Olympia to Bellingham were opening a cold one, sitting back in a comfy chair and getting ready to watch their boys take on the Texas Rangers and Alex Rodriguez.Fans on Bainbridge, though, got reruns of an old NBA game, due to a contractual impasse between Northland Cable and Fox Sports Network over royalties for 24 Mariners games. That didn't sit well with many viewers - particularly since the local television guide reported the game was being shown - who called Northland and then the local newspaper to complain.It's dumb, said Don Macaluso of Winslow, a Mariners fan frustrated enough to stop by the Review office Monday.With the Mariners and all the Japanese players, even people who aren't baseball fans are talking about (the season), he said.According to a press release put out by Northland Monday, the cable company and Fox had an agreement under which the network would feed 82 Mariner games to Northland.Fox then added a second 24-game package, but added an extra charge for those games. Northland refused to pay.We are trying to keep our costs low. We didn't want a rate increase, said Mark Graves, manager of Northland's Bainbridge office Monday.Graves said Northland did not want to pass on a fee increase to all customers, although he did not know what increase Fox was asking for, or how much of a per-customer rate increase would be required.Not everybody watches the Mariner games, Graves said, admitting that Northland doesn't have any program that all subscribers do watch. But I've learned that an awful lot of them do watch the Mariners.In addition to the 82 games on Fox that Northland will carry, Graves said KIRO TV in Seattle will televise 34 Mariner games, which Northland will carry. Graves said that last year, Northland carried only 63 games from Fox, but he could not say whether overall, the company will carry more or fewer Mariner games this year than last.Regional media reported that an identical dispute between Fox and the Seattle-area AT&T cable company was resolved last week. Graves said that negotiations between Fox and Northland are not occurring at my level, but he believes they are ongoing, and that the impasse might be resolved.What does Fox say? Macaluso called them too, to find out.They asked me if I had ever thought about getting satellite, and they gave me the name of several dish networks, he said. "

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