Fox Cable Will Rise With Turner South Buy

Fox Cable Networks Group continued to build its sports empire, purchasing Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s Turner South regional network.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but officials close to the deal, which was rumored for weeks, said Fox paid Turner some $375 million for the network. Turner South offers Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball games, Atlanta Hawks National Basketball Association games and Atlanta Thrashers National Hockey League contests, as well as entertainment-based programming with a Southern sensibility.

The acquisition lifts the number of Fox Cable owned-and-operated regional programming networks to 15. Together, they reach more than 80 million subscribers. Time Warner Inc. is also looking to sell the Braves. Fox is not interested, and Arthur Blank, owner of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, last week called off talks over a $400 million-plus asking price.

It was unclear at press time who would run the network, which reaches 8 million homes and ultimately will sit side by side with the 11 million-subscriber FSN South. That Fox Cable regional sports network airs some 25 Braves games that it can show in some markets, and also has television rights to games from the National Basketball Association’s Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, MLB’s Baltimore Orioles and the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators.

Also undecided: the state of Turner South’s entertainment programs such as Home Makers, Southern Living Presents, 3 Day Weekend and Liars & Legends. Turner could re-acquire those rights and place the shows on any number of platforms, including its linear cable networks TBS and Turner Network Television, or via broadband.

“We would have a lot of possibilities in terms of moving that programming,” said Turner spokeswoman Shirley Powell.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.