FOX AND TCI READY TO ANNOUNCE CABLE COMPETITOR TO ESPN
Fox Broadcasting and Tele-Communications Inc. are expected
to announce a new joint cable sports venture as early as this
week, according to reports in this morning's L.A. TIMES and N.Y.
TIMES. In L.A., Sallie Hofmeister sees it as a "challenge" to
ESPN. Hofmeister reports, as part of the agreement, Fox would
take a "substantial equity stake" in Liberty Media, TCI's
programming arm which has interests in numerous regional sports
networks. For Fox, a strong cable outlet gives them "leverage in
bidding for sports rights against the three stronger networks,"
especially ABC -- sister network to ESPN. For Liberty, Fox
"brings financial firepower to its longstanding ambition to use
its far-flung regional networks to take on ESPN." Questions
still remain on the relationship between Liberty and Cablevision,
which jointly operate some SportsChannel RSNs, including New
York, and on the local-national split of coverage on a new
network. Hofmeister reports, "Sources close to the company
[Liberty] say those questions are still being worked out, as is
the configuration of the partnership" (L.A. TIMES, 10/31). In
New York, Geraldine Fabrikant notes that Cablevision Chair
Charles Dolan "has shown no interest in joining the merger" --
which could become a "particularly sticky point." However, one
exec familiar with the talks said there were still hopes Dolan
would join (N.Y. TIMES, 10/31).