Turner, Fox compete for South

Networks suit up in sports battle

CHICAGO — In yet another chapter of the battle between moguls Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, Murdoch’s Fox Sports Net South on Tuesday filed a complaint against Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner.

Fox’s complaint, filed in Superior Court in Fulton County, Ga., alleges that Turner’s plans to launch the regional network Turner South violates a noncompete agreement that Turner and Time Warner signed in 1996.

Fox maintains that when Fox/Liberty Networks bought Turner’s 44% interest in regional sports web SportSouth in 1996, Turner and Time Warner agreed not create their own regional sports network to compete with SportSouth, which was renamed Fox Sports Net South.

Won’t back down

Fox executives, such as Fox chief Chase Carey, have met with Turner reps over the last several months, but Turner has not backed down from launching Turner South.

Fox’s complaint seeks to enjoin Turner and parent company Time Warner from launching and operating Turner South as a regional sports network.

Earlier this year when Turner announced plans to launch Turner South, the company said the channel will carry 30-35 Atlanta Braves baseball games, 15 Atlanta Hawks NBA games and 48 Atlanta Thrashers hockey games each year. Turner owns all three sports teams.

Other features

Turner South will also carry theatrical movies and at least three originally produced entertainment series targeted to the service’s Southern viewers.

According to Fox’s complaint, as a condition of Turner’s sale of its interest in SportsSouth to Fox/Liberty, “Turner and Time Warner also agreed that they would not combine their resources after their merger and use them to form a new cable television network to telecast, among other things, Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks games in competition with SportsSouth.”

Fox Sport Net South carries Braves and Hawks games. Turner has not sold the broadcast rights to its new NHL team the Thrashers to Fox Sports Net South.

A Fox Sports spokesman said the company would let its complaint speak for Fox’s position.

A Turner spokesman said the company does not comment on litigation.