Fall for Turner South Transformation

The ownership transfer of Turner South has been completed and some tweaking has begun, but the regional channel’s full transformation won’t be finished until the fall.

FSN South vice president and general manager Jeff Genthner, who added day-to-day management of the 8.3 million-subscriber sports and entertainment service, said a name change and a shifting of professional-game programming are in the offing for autumn.

Fox Cable Networks completed the buyout -- valued at $375 million and first announced in February -- and assumed operational control of the network from Turner Broadcasting System Inc. May 1.

Turner South offers Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball games, Atlanta Hawks National Basketball Association matchups and Atlanta Thrashers National Hockey League contests, plus entertainment-based programming with a Southern sensibility.

Genthner said the new name would not be a variation on “FSN South 2 or FSN South Plus.” In other markets where Fox runs two regional sports networks, the approach has been to make them quite different -- Sun Sports and FSN Florida in the Sunshine State and FSN West and Prime Ticket in southern California.

Genthner added that Turner South would remain “hyper-local,” with a mix of 70% sports product and 30% recreational and lifestyle fare reflective of its six-state coverage area.

FSN South, with 11.3 million subscribers, or Turner South’s successor likely would host all of the Hawks games or all of the Thrashers contests, starting with the 2006-07 NBA and NHL seasons, Genthner said.

Turner South had been the exclusive RSN home to Thrashers games, while FSN and Turner South aired 30 and 40 Hawks games, respectively, this season.

FSN South’s baseball-announcer team of Bob Rathbun and Jeff Torborg are now calling Braves games on Turner South, with encores of both networks’ MLB contests airing at 11 p.m. and at noon the following day.

Together, the two channels have the rights to 83 Braves games this season, rising to a collective 110 or so starting in 2008.

College Flash Classic, vintage college-football contests supplemented with interviews and factoids, and profile series Beyond the Glory have also been added to Turner South’s lineup.

Turner officials declined to comment about the future of the regional network’s original series, such as Blue Ribbon, Home Plate and Junkin’. But sources familiar with the deal said the shows would be back in the Turner camp within six months and could be distributed via broadband or existing channels.

Neither party would comment about Turner South’s license fee.