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Borderless sports

Murdoch cabling up Fox Sports World

NEW YORK — Rupert Murdoch is putting together a new 24-hour cable network called Fox Sports World that will consist of soccer, rugby and other sports taped outside the U.S.

A spokesman for Fox/Liberty Sports, the partnership owned by Murdoch’s News Corp. and John Malone’s Liberty Media that will distribute the network to cable systems in the U.S., declined comment. Other sources say Fox Sports World will have plenty of programming to draw on, from Murdoch’s three Sky Sports channels based in the U.K. to other Murdoch cable networks focusing on sports in Australia and Brazil.

The one requirement of the new U.S. channel, according to one insider, is that all of the events must be exclusive and not available to U.S. audiences in any other form.

During the times between the actual sports events, the new channel will program sports-oriented news reports and feature pieces taken off Murdoch’s international channels, the source said.

Because Fox Sports World is not likely to appeal to a mass audience, Malone’s Tele-Communications Inc., the giant multisystem cable operator, will offer the channel on one of its new digital tiers with 13 other basic cable networks. Fox/Liberty itself is not yet contacting cable operators individually to take the new service because it hasn’t settled on a firm launch date.

TCI has set up a division called HITS (headend in the sky) to help cable operators expand their channel capacity through digital technology without having to bear the huge cost of rebuilding their systems.

All of the other 13 networks on the HITS 1 digital tier are available to cable systems now. Four of the 13 are channels created for digital pods by Discovery Network: Kids, Science, Travel & Leisure and Civilization.

The other nine are History Channel, ESPN News, Turner Classic Movies, IFC (Independent Film Channel), Game Show Channel, BBC World, Spice, CBS Eye on People and Much Music.

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