Lucky Lucchino…instrumental in the development of the “Local Cable Syndicate”.
On March 13, 1997, Cox Communications Channel 4 wrapped up its first live broadcast of Padres spring training baseball when Dan Novak’s cellphone rang.
It was Padres then-President Larry Lucchino, a tough East Coast lawyer known for scathing critiques. Novak, who at the time ran Cox’s fledgling effort to produce Padres games, didn’t know what to expect. Cox’s local cable system had acquired the Padres’ TV rights just seven months earlier. It was ill equipped to produce big-time sports.
“He picked up the phone and said, ‘That was remarkable,’” Novak said. “Here was this little cable company and a baseball team that shared a vision about what (Channel 4) could be, and together changed the media marketplace here.”
That 15-year partnership — which was controversial and showed signs of strain recently — will come to an end Wednesday. Cox has confirmed that the Padres granted future TV rights to a another producer — most likely Fox Sports, which is expected to create a regional sports network to house the Padres games.
...Back then, the Dodgers, the Giants and most Major League Baseball teams protected the home stadium gate by limiting TV broadcasts to 60 to 80 games a year.
“Larry Lucchino thought that the more games that were available on TV, the more often you watched the games, the more likely you were to come out to the ballpark,” Geppert said. “That was very counter to the prevailing view (in baseball) at the time.”