SBD/1/Sports Media

FOX AND LIBERTY OUTLINE PLANS FOR NEW CABLE VENTURE

     News Corp., Liberty Media and TCI announced yesterday the
formation of a "worldwide alliance to own and operate sports
programming services on a global basis."  In the U.S., Liberty
will contribute its sports networks, including Prime's national
and regional outlets and other RSNs.  Fox will offer its cable
channel, fX, which will be transformed into a national general
entertainment and sports network.  The RSNs operated under the
Prime Sports name will be relaunched under the Fox Sports banner.
Internationally, News Corp. and a 50/50 TCI-Liberty partnership
will operate currently existing sports services in Asia, Latin
America and Australia and new services in the U.K., Japan and New
Zealand.  News Corp. will contribute various int'l sports rights,
including the Asian Star sports channel.  Liberty/ TCI is
offering Prime Deportiva and other sports and satellite rights.
Fox TV Chair & CEO Chase Carey:  "In a business that has become
increasingly driven by events and worldwide growth, sports
represents a force in the media entertainment business second to
none."  Liberty President & CEO Peter Barton:  "This is a
commencement of a new era in televised sports."  David Hill, who
will remain President of Fox Sports, has been named CEO of the
new venture.  Anne Sweeney will remain fX's CEO.  Liberty Sports
CEO Ed Frazier and his team will continue to oversee the RSNs
(News Corp.).
     IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES:  BLOOMBERG notes the deal "is
expected to firmly brand the Fox name in the minds of viewers as
the premier source of sports on an international basis."  Hill
notes existing network deals (NHL and NFL) could not be passed to
cable (N.Y. POST, 11/1).  However, Rudy Martzke reports a "first
step" could be MLB, with Liberty expected to pay $43M a year for
non-exclusive national rights to Tuesday and Friday nights most
likely starting in '98 -- or as early as '96.  In exchange for a
three-year extension to its national deal, ESPN might allow a
partner in regular-season coverage (USA TODAY, 11/1).  The WALL
STREET JOURNAL notes, "Liberty Sports could promote its games on
nationally broadcast pro football, and jointly bid on cable and
broadcast rights with Fox" (Robichaux & Jensen, WALL STREET
JOURNAL, 11/1).  Fox's Carey put the value of the deal at "north
of $2 billion" (REUTERS/VARIETY, 11/1).  In Atlanta, Prentis
Rogers sees Fox "at the center of all the action in sports
television" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/1).  On CNN's "Moneyline,"
Smith Barney analyst John Reidy said the deal will be "great" for
team owners because it could push up the cost of TV rights.  But
he added, it will be "expensive" for News Corp. and TCI because
"the advantage is always with the incumbent" (CNN, 10/31).
     TIMETABLE:  Neither partner could say when fX would begin
airing sports programming or what the mix on the channel would be
(Sallie Hofmeister, L.A. TIMES, 11/1).
     RESPONSE FROM BRISTOL:  ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein:
"Competition is nothing new to us" (USA TODAY, 11/1).  One ESPN
source told the L.A. TIMES:  "They'll try to build using baseball
as their leverage.  But baseball does not travel well
internationally and is no longer the American pastime at home.
Murdoch is most interested in the international market, but he'll
have a hard time getting local events overseas and at home
because rights are sewn up long-term" (Sallie Hofmeister, L.A.
TIMES, 11/1).  ESPN's Keith Olbermann, after reporting on the
Fox-Liberty deal:  "In an unrelated development, our area code
here has just changed from 203 to 860" ("SportsCenter," ESPN,
10/31).
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