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Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Hawaii News Now general manager Rick Blangiardi said the University of Hawaii cost itself "millions of dollars by not sitting down and listening" to the stations' TV rights proposal, and cited the process as an example "of the lack of transparency" at the school.

UH announced a six-year extension of its TV and pay-per-view sports rights contract with Oceanic Time Warner Cable on Feb. 28, the last day of a four-month exclusive negotiating window with the cable operator. Oceanic will pay UH $2.3 million initially in a deal that escalates to $2,539,386 by June 30, 2020, and show at least 60 events a year, according to terms of the contract.

Asked this week if HNN and Blangiardi had notified UH of a wish to be part of the process once the exclusive window expired, Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple's office said in an email, "Yes they did. Hawaii News Now expressed some interest, but informal discussions indicated that the $2.3 million offer could not be matched and meeting the bottom line had to be the first priority."

On Friday, Blangiardi said that assertion was "preposterous" and said "I don't understand where he (Apple) is coming from. I never, ever indicated that we couldn't pay that bill."

Blangiardi said he'd known of the $2.3 million minimum since last summer and HNN and its owner, Raycom, were prepared to commit to a $28 million investment over five years that could be modified for a six-year term. Blangiardi said, "We're not some body shop in Kakaako." He said he had a 32-page business plan to share with UH but was not given the opportunity.

In addition, Blangiardi said his proposal would have included free TV of 100 events per year, no pay-per-view and free telecast of UH football road games, plus significant promotional value to the athletic department across three stations and online.

HNN and KFVE were partners with Oceanic in UH TV rights until 2011, when Oceanic became the sole rights holder.

Blangiardi said he told UH officials HNN would respect Oceanic's contractual window but, in messages as recent as last week, said he told them, "We're hopeful that we can be given an opportunity to present our offer. (We've) avoided this subject with you because of the contractual situation, but you owe it to the university and the people of Hawaii to see what we have to offer."

In an email statement Friday, Apple's office said, "We are not going to get involved in a war of words with Rick. Nothing stopped Rick, or anyone else, from making us a firm offer. Rick didn't and no one else did, besides OTW. We needed to deal with our athletics department deficit, in a sensible and responsible manner and we did. The agreement the University made with OTW was, we believe, the best possible business decision for our athletics program. No one offered as much money as OTW and we have not seen a model of free television that will also put more fans in the stadium."

HNN is a broadcast partner of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Blangiardi said the station's attorneys have requested a copy of the contract.

"We're weighing those options," Blangiardi said. "We are going to be very deliberate here, but we're not going to go gentle into the night. We're not."

Credit: Ferd Lewis




March 10, 2014


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