FOX AND TCI READY TO ANNOUNCE CABLE COMPETITOR TO ESPN
Published October 31, 1995
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).