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Fox Cable pursues Speedvision

NASCAR deal a big factor, sources say

NEW YORK — A batch of complicated negotiations is under way that could end up giving Fox Cable complete control of the Speedvision cable network and handing Comcast Corp. full ownership of the Golf Channel and Outdoor Life Network.

Sources say Fox is eager to take over Speedvision because in 2000 it agreed to pony up $1.6 billion for an eight-year contract to cover NASCAR auto-racing events for roughly the first half of each year, beginning in 2001.

Fox wants to funnel some of these NASCAR races to Speedvision, as well as engineering heavy cross promotion of NASCAR among all of its owned networks, including FX and Fox Sports Net.

Fox Sports already owns one-third of Speedvision. Although none of the parties to the deal would comment because of ongoing negotiations, sources say Fox has landed commitments from Cox Communications to sell Fox its one third of Speedvision and of sibling Outdoor Life, and from AT&T to sell its 15% of both networks.

By purchasing the Cox and AT&T stakes (plus the 3% each owned by Roger Werner, chairman and CEO of the two networks, and by the Bill Daniels estate), Fox would own 85% of Speedvision and Outdoor Life. Comcast now owns 15% of both networks.

To get the final 15% of Speedvision from Comcast, Fox would sell the 85% it would now own in Outdoor Life to Comcast for about $500 million.

Wall Street analysts say the total value of Speedvision, which is available in about 41 million cable and satellite homes, comes to about $825 million. Industry estimates put Outdoor Life’s worth at $675 million or so.

But sources say Comcast wants control of the Golf Channel, which it would secure by purchasing Fox’s 30% stake in the network.

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