Fox/Liberty adds cable stake

'Speedvision', 'Outdoor Life' get new part-owners for $100 mil

NEW YORK — Fox/Liberty Networks has bought a one-third ownership stake in two cable networks, Speedvision and Outdoor Life, for about $100 million.

Confirming a previous report (Daily Variety, March 17), Roger Werner, who will stay on as president and CEO of Speedvision and Outdoor Life, said Cox Communications will retain one-third ownership and jointly manage the two networks with Fox/Liberty. The four other original shareholders — Comcast, Media One (formerly Continental Cablevision), Daniels Programming and Werner himself — will share the remaining third.

Werner says a clause in the new deal allows Fox/Liberty to increase its stake to a majority ownership in the two networks after three years.

According to projections of Paul Kagan Associates, Speedvision and Outdoor Life will each pull in about $15 million in 1998 from cable-operator fees. The 1998 advertising-revenue forecast is for Speedvision to harvest $9 million and Outdoor Life $7.5 million. Speedvision gets into about 14.5 million cable and satellite homes, and Outdoor Life about 13.5 million. As a general rule, Madison Avenue doesn’t begin to sit up and take notice until a cable network gets beyond 30 million subscribers.

But Werner says the revenue projections may be on the low side, because Fox/Liberty has a shot at getting more clearance by selling the two networks in a package to cable operators with the company’s four other cable networks: Fox Sports Net, which operates 17 regional sports networks throughout the U.S.; FX, which schedules a mix of entertainment and sports programming; Fox Sports World, which fills its lineup with taped sports programming from countries outside the U.S.; and Fit TV, the 24-hour exercise channel.

Speedvision, Werner says, will be spending more money to bid on the Nascar races that are now under contract to the broadcast networks and to the cable networks TBS and TNN: The Nashville Network. The high cost of a Nascar winning bid, he continues, would be justified by a sharing of the burden: Qualifying events leading up to the main Nascar event would run on Speedvision and the main event on the Fox broadcast network.

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