Cox Launch Due, TV Games Says

TV Games Network, having secured a multiyear deal with Cox Communications Inc. in San Diego, is champing at the bit to land more carriage pacts.

The horse-racing channel, which features online and telephone wagering components where in-home betting is legal, is slated to launch on Cox's digital sports and information tier in April, according to Ray Hopkins, executive vice president of the affiliate sales and marketing group for parent Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.

Hopkins said TVG would be available to "70 percent to 75 percent of Cox's digital universe" in that market.

TVG at present counts about 10 million subscribers and is available in 14 million cable and satellite homes through contracts with Insight Communications Co. (Kentucky), Adelphia Communications Corp. (Southern California), Comcast Corp. (Maryland) and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network, plus simulcasts on Fox Sports Net regional channels, Hopkins said.

Magna Entertainment Corp.'s HorseRacing TV, which came out of the starting gate early this year, provides competition. It gained a post position on Time Warner Cable's digital tier in San Diego and has 900,000 analog homes in Western Pennsylvania, where it replaced Meadows Racing Network.

Other TVG distribution pacts could be announced soon with Cox and Adelphia in Cleveland, according to Hopkins, who predicts "lots of deals over the next 18 months."

Hopkins, who came over from Fox Cable Networks Group last October, has taken a page from that company's book in reorganizing Gemstar-TV Guide's affiliate marketing department. Under the realignment, executives will now be able to represent TV Guide Channel, TV Guide Interactive, TVG and TV Guide

Tonia O'Connor, formerly vice president of affiliate sales, has been promoted to senior vice president of national accounts and is now responsible for sales strategies and managing the 10 largest MSO accounts.

Amy Bates, who had been serving as senior vice president of marketing for TV Guide Networks, is now senior vice president of affiliate marketing, with oversight for marketing strategies in the cable and satellite marketplace for Gemstar-TV Guide products and services.

Hopkins said Bates would help integrate national programs down to the regional and system level.

Patrick Dodd will be the point person at the regional and local level, as senior vice president of sales operations. Dodd had been working as Western division vice president of affiliate sales for Outdoor Life Network.

To close expected deals, Hopkins hired David Mandell, formerly vice president of business and legal affairs at Playboy Entertainment Group Inc., as senior vice president of business and legal affairs.