SBJ/March 8 - 14, 1999/No Topic Name
CNN/SI joins talks on new regional net
Published March 8, 1999
Ted Turner's CNN/SI has stepped into the battle to be part of a new Southwestern regional sports network led by Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks.
Hicks has talked with News Corp.'s Fox Sports Network for more than a year, and he also is still negotiating with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN unit about creating the regional sports network.
Now Time Warner Inc., parent of CNN/SI, has thrown its hat into the ring, said Michael Cramer, chief operating officer of Southwest Sports Group, the Hicks company that controls the financier's private sports holdings.
It is the latest sign that media giants like Time Warner are not yet willing to cede the regional sports business to Fox. Time Warner disclosed last month that it was launching regional network Turner South, which will carry sports, but only enough to make up about 10 percent of its programming.
ESPN, after dropping plans last year for a West Coast regional sports network, unexpectedly began discussions with Hicks. Both Time Warner and ESPN could also create a New York sports network by obtaining rights to the New York Yankees (see story, page 1).
CNN/SI, a venture between Cable News Network and Sports Illustrated, is a stand-alone sports cable channel that reaches 15 million homes and also has a Web site. That places it far behind rivals ESPN, which reaches 76 million homes, and Fox Sports Net, which reaches nearly 65 million.
The discussed deal with Hicks would not add new subscribers, but it would put the CNN/SI imprint on what could be a major new regional sports network in the Southwest. CNN/SI's only other connection to a regional sports network is to Wayne Huizenga's SportsChannel Florida, which shows CNN/SI when there is extra programming time available.
"We have had discussions with them [Southwest Sports], and we talk to a lot of people about business," a CNN/SI spokesman said. He would not comment further.
Hicks' network would need a sports desk, highlights and programming from a media partner, said John Mansell, an analyst with Paul Kagan Associates, which tracks the cable industry. CNN/SI could provide those elements, he said.
"Turner is looking for exposure since it is not as big in sports as Fox and Disney," Mansell said.