NEW YORK — Turner Broadcasting’s new cable web, Turner South, can legally carry games of the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and the new NHL Atlanta Thrashers, a Fulton County, Ga., judge ruled late Tuesday.
Regional sports web Fox Sports Net South had taken Turner to court in an attempt to keep Turner South from televising games from the three professional sports teams — games that would compete directly against Fox Sports Net South (Daily Variety, Sept. 2).
Fox Sports had argued before Judge Roland Barnes that when Turner sold its regional sports network to Fox, Turner had signed a clause forbidding any regional Turner network from televising pro sports games that could compete with Fox Sports Net South’s pro sports lineup.
But the judge ruled the new net is an entertainment web, not a sports one.
Turner South, scheduled to launch Oct. 1, is the latest cable network from the Turner Broadcasting empire. The web, targeted to the 6 million cable subscribers in the Southeastern region of the U.S., is set to become a big revenue producer for Turner, which is owned by Time Warner.
Turner South is skedded to carry 30-35 Braves games, 15 Hawks games and 48 Thrashers contests. In addition, Turner South plans to air movies and originally produced programs targeted at Southerners.
Had Turner South been stripped of its it pro sports coverage, the cable web would have been less appealing to potential cable operator affiliates. Because of the pending legal action, Turner South has been unable to sign up any affiliates so far.
“We are pleased with the court’s decision and its recognition that Turner Broadcasting System Inc. has complied with its legal obligation,” Turner said in a prepared statement.
“Turner South is a general entertainment network that will present a mix of movies, sitcoms, original programming, regional news and sports to cable and DBS affiliates in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and regions of North Carolina,” continued the Turner statement.
Hunter Nickell, general manager of Fox Sports Net South and senior VP, Sports Net regional operations/Eastern Group, left the door open for Fox Sports to appeal the judge’s ruling.
“We are obviously disappointed with Judge Barnes’ndecision that Turner South is not a regional sports network, but a regional entertainment network,” said Nickell, in a prepared statement. “We will be examining the legal options available to us.”