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CSTV launches with ‘Hoops’

Coke pops up with $10 mil stake in college sports net

Coca-Cola has bought its first equity stake in a cable network, laying out $10 million to CSTV: College Sports Television for the financial share, plus another $5 million for marketing, promotion and advertising of the net.

Dubbing itself the first cable web devoted exclusively to college sports, CSTV engineered its official launch Monday night with “CSTV 2003 College Hoops Honor Roll,” a 90-minute special making its TV debut.

The only subscribers able to receive CSTV immediately are DirecTV customers who pay extra monthly fees for the digital tier that includes NBA TV, Fox Sports World, Golf Channel, Outdoor Channel and various regional sports nets throughout the country.

Brian Bedol, president and CEO of CSTV, said he’s negotiating with cable operators and will announce a few completed deals within the next month.

The CSTV rate card asks cable operators and satellite distributors to pay a monthly license fee of 15¢-25¢ per customer, depending on the number of subscribers guaranteed by the operator. A big subscriber rollout will even get an operator free carriage for the first year because CSTV wants viewers. The network will be fully ad-supported: The quicker it gets to critical mass (which would begin at about 15 million subscribers), the faster Madison Avenue will start buying time on CSTV.

The most imposing college deal CSTV has lined up so far is with Notre Dame. Contract covers every Notre Dame sport except football and men’s basketball, both of which are tied up in long-term network contracts.

As part of its deal, Coca-Cola has agreed to be the main advertiser within a Sunday-night block of Notre Dame sports programming that premieres in the fall.

Programming highlights on CSTV this spring include Johns Hopkins lacrosse, Rice baseball and UCLA softball, with all of those teams first ranked in their respective sports. The network will carry tournament action from the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mountain West and Pac 10.

Bedol said CSTV plans to co-produce many of the events it cablecasts with local broadcasters and regional sports nets.

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