The Prime Ticket sports channel has sued Paragon Communications, forcing the South Bay cable television company to pull the channel off the air and halt transmission of Lakers basketball games and other sporting events, a Prime Ticket official said Wednesday.
Paragon has 50,000 customers in Torrance, Hawthorne, Gardena, Lawndale and El Segundo. Officials in several cities said they had received hundreds of telephoned complaints from Paragon customers since service was suspended Friday, just before a Kings playoff game.
Prime Ticket President Tony Acone said the company filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to prevent transmission until a rate dispute "and other issues" are resolved.
"We have a disagreement," Acone said. "We see things one way and they see things another way, so we asked them to terminate the service."
He declined to elaborate.
Paragon Vice President Mark Mangiola said the two companies reached an impasse in negotiations that began in May, 1987, over what he called "exorbitant" rates charged by Prime Ticket to carry the sports network. Paragon had offered Prime Ticket as part of its basic subscription service, which costs $10.95 a month.
During Tuesday night's Torrance City Council meeting, Councilman Bill Applegate said suspending the service may have been "a great negotiating ploy" but "it was not appropriately done, whoever was at fault."
In Hawthorne, cable television administrator Larry Bender said city officials were sending a letter to Paragon officials urging them to continue the negotiations.
"The city is concerned about losing customers because we think Prime Ticket is one of the most attractive features of the basic service," Bender said. "The sad part is the subscribers are becoming pawns between these two companies."
Hawthorne resident and sports fan Brian Stripsky, who called The Times to complain, said the suspension "couldn't have come at a worse time." The Kings have been eliminated from the National Hockey League playoffs, but the basketball playoffs begin in May, and Stripsky said he may cancel his cable subscription if the dispute is not resolved by then.