SBJ/April 3 - 9, 2006/World Congress Of Sports

Shell: OLN wants its own identity, not ESPN’s

The top programming executive at cable giant Comcast said that the company’s OLN network would never try to compete with ESPN by having nightly sports news, but that it would continue acquiring exclusive sports rights in hopes of becoming a destination for fans of particular sports.

Comcast President of Programming Jeff Shell said OLN is looking for “tent pole” properties such as the Tour de France or NHL, for which it already holds rights.

“We’re simply looking for ways to … create a true identity for OLN,” he said. “We’re not going to be all sports for all people. During our NHL coverage, for example, we’re not going to be spending time on the NBA action going on that night. If you want that, then you should go over to [TNT].”

The NFL Thursday-Saturday package, which the league decided to put on its own network, would fit with that strategy, he said, because the games would be clustered in a brief period and make OLN perceived as a home for football in that time. He conceded that NFL rights would have a transformative effect on the network, which counts bull riding as its highest-rated programming.

He noted that OLN would be renamed at some point this summer.

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