SBJ/January 22 - 28, 2007/This Weeks News

Four-sight: Fox expects to run more conference nets

Fox eventually expects to end up running as many as four college conference sports networks similar to its fledgling Big Ten Network, Fox Networks Group president and CEO Tony Vinciquerra said last week.

Fox promoted Thompson (left) and Freer.

“That would be a stretch goal,” he said. “That would be an ideal situation.”

The Big 12 will be the next conference in play. Its football deal with ESPN expires after the 2007 season and its basketball deal expires after the 2008 season. Another possible target, the SEC, sees its TV deals expire in 2009.

Many college athletic officials have stated publicly that they are looking at the Big Ten Network as a test case. If it has problems gaining carriage, it’s likely other conferences will shy away from launching conference networks.

So far, the Big Ten Network has signed deals with DirecTV and AT&T’s fledgling video service. The network plans to launch in August.

Still, Vinciquerra is confident that Fox will be able to land other conferences, adding that future deals may not look exactly like the one it signed with the Big Ten.

“Each of the conferences has their own goals and objectives and structures,” he said. “One of the advantages of our company is that we can be very flexible and move on a dime and get things done quickly.”

Vinciquerra made his comments while discussing executive changes that promoted Bob Thompson to president of Fox National Cable Sports Networks, including the Big Ten Network. Thompson also will oversee Speed, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Español, Fuel and Fox College Sports’ three networks.

The moves also saw Randy Freer named president of Fox Regional Cable Sports Networks. Freer will continue to localize Fox’s regional sports networks, such as in Texas, where Fox is creating Fox Sports Houston. Previously, Fox Sports Southwest covered the Houston, Dallas and San Antonio markets.

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