SBD/31/Sports Media

FOX AND TCI READY TO ANNOUNCE CABLE COMPETITOR TO ESPN

     Fox Broadcasting and Tele-Communications Inc. are expected
to announce a new joint cable sports venture as early as this
week, according to reports in this morning's L.A. TIMES and N.Y.
TIMES.  In L.A., Sallie Hofmeister sees it as a "challenge" to
ESPN.  Hofmeister reports, as part of the agreement, Fox would
take a "substantial equity stake" in Liberty Media, TCI's
programming arm which has interests in numerous regional sports
networks.  For Fox, a strong cable outlet gives them "leverage in
bidding for sports rights against the three stronger networks,"
especially ABC -- sister network to ESPN.  For Liberty, Fox
"brings financial firepower to its longstanding ambition to use
its far-flung regional networks to take on ESPN."  Questions
still remain on the relationship between Liberty and Cablevision,
which jointly operate some SportsChannel RSNs, including New
York, and on the local-national split of coverage on a new
network.  Hofmeister reports, "Sources close to the company
[Liberty] say those questions are still being worked out, as is
the configuration of the partnership" (L.A. TIMES, 10/31).  In
New York, Geraldine Fabrikant notes that Cablevision Chair
Charles Dolan "has shown no interest in joining the merger" --
which could become a "particularly sticky point."  However, one
exec familiar with the talks said there were still hopes Dolan
would join (N.Y. TIMES, 10/31).
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