SBJ/December 11 - 17, 2006/This Weeks News

Cox adds ESPNU, near deal with The mtn.

Cox is spending the holiday season filling its digital sports and information tier with college sports networks.

The country’s fourth-largest cable operator signed a deal last week that puts ESPNU on its digital tier, a move that will add up to 2 million subscribers to the service. The deal includes carriage for ESPN2 HD as well.

UNLV and San Diego State fans
should soon see the Mountain
West net on Cox.

The deal is an important one for ESPNU, which has resisted being placed on poorly penetrated digital sports tiers. It was left out of last month’s ESPN-Comcast deal, in part, because it refused to accept carriage on Comcast’s digital sports and information tier.

Network officials say the penetration of Cox’s digital sports tier is widespread enough, about 30 percent, that they were not scared away from cutting the deal.

Cox also is close to completing a deal for the Mountain West Conference’s network, The mtn., in the markets of Las Vegas and San Diego, home to conference schools UNLV and San Diego State. Both sides have said that a deal should be worked out by the end of the year.

Sources have said the deal will include carriage for CSTV, which is a 50 percent owner of The mtn. Both networks would be carried on the sports and information tier in Las Vegas and San Diego.

Cox already signed its deal with ESPNU and has started launching the network in several markets. Last week, the network rolled out in New England; Phoenix; Omaha, Neb.; Wichita, Kan.; Virginia Beach, Va.; and several Florida markets. It expects to launch in Oklahoma City, Las Vegas and San Diego over the next several weeks.

“This particular deal is monumental for us,” said Burke Magnus, ESPNU’s vice president and general manager. “Cox is the fourth-largest cable operator and serves a lot of college markets.”

The deal gives ESPNU about 10 million subscribers, thanks to deals with DirecTV, EchoStar and the country’s seventh-largest MSO, Mediacom.

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