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Local sports launch on CNN/SI cable

NEW YORK — Three days after landing one of the choice 11 new dial positions on Time Warner’s million-subscriber cable system in New York City, CNN/SI has begun allowing cable operators to insert up to six hours a day of local sports programming into the network’s 24-hour schedule.

“This strategy will allow each system to wrap their local games around the CNN brand and the Sports Illustrated brand,” says Carter Maguire , executive VP of Turner Network sales.

The first cable operator to take advantage of the localist strategy, Maguire says, is Time Warner’s American Cablevision system in Kansas City, Mo., which is now able to go live on CNN/SI with high school games, college events and professional games, as well as pre- and post-game shows and sports highlight shows.

Not surprisingly, since Time Warner owns CNN and Sports Illustrated, two other TW systems — in Honolulu and Milwaukee — are planning to intercut local programming into the CNN/SI schedule; Bresnan Communications systems in Michigan is also employing the strategy.

CNN/SI has had slow going since it kicked off in December 1996. Maguire says the network now reaches about 1.4 million cable subscribers. It also gets 3 million subscribers through its wraparound deal with Sportschannel Florida, programming everything but the local games the Florida network is committed to.

CNN/SI has a few million more subscribers through a deal with Primestar, the direct broadcast satellite distributor, and through various deals with packagers of programming to C-band dishes.

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