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Fox Sports Launches Regional Nets In Tennessee, Carolinas

Continuing its push to provide more localized coverage, Fox Sports Networks, has carved out a pair of regional sports networks from its Fox Sports South service.

Fox Sports officially rolled out Fox Sports Tennessee and Fox Sports Carolinas RSNs this weekend.

Although Fox Sports had been peeling back the names for new services with new on-screen graphics and arena signage with the start of the National Hockey League season in early October, their christening is now official with the start of the 2008-09 National Basketball Association campaign and the tip-off of college hoops season just a couple of weeks away, according to Jeff Genthner, senior vice president and general manager of FS Tennessee, FS Carolinas and SportSouth, another regional that will be supplying programming into the states.

Serving fans in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky, as well as the three aforementioned states, FS South had been the largest regional sports network in the nation with almost 12.4 million subscribers. With the establishment of the subregionals, FS South now has 6.6 million subscribers, while FS Tennessee and FS Carolinas count 1.8 million and 4 million, respectively. 

“ESPN does a tremendous job as a national service. Fox Sports' goal is to provide the localism of sports,” said Genthner. “As we re-brand the networks, we can show even more games that sports fans in these areas want to see and talk about.”

Genthner said the hyper-localism also plays well with other constituencies: "The local aspect works better with the teams, the communities, our affiliates and advertisers." 

Fox Sports, which over the years has re-branded sub regionals like FSN Kansas City and FSN Houston from larger services, now owns and/or operates 19 RSNs.

The roots of the re-brandings can be traced back to Fox Cable Networks' acquisition of the sports-lifestyle regional network then known as Turner South, a $375 million deal that was finalized in May 2006. That transaction, said Genthner, gave Fox Sports control over most Atlanta Braves games – the total grew from 25 that season to 106 in 2008 and going forward -- plus exclusive regional rights to Atlanta Hawks NBA games and NHL Atlanta Thrashers action.

For its part, FS Tennessee is anchored by 55 Nashville Predators NHL contests and 52 Memphis Grizzlies NBA games, with ith 18 additional Grizzlies games being made available on Fox Sports Tennessee’s sister network SportSouth.  Every Predators telecast on Fox Sports Tennessee will be flanked by Predators Live expanded post-game coverage, while all Grizzlies games will feature Grizzlies Live coverage before and after the contests. Eighteen additional Memphis games will be available on Fox Sports Tennessee’s sister network SportSouth.  

Additionally, FS Tennessee will also air local collegiate programming, notably SEC men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, Olympic sports and coaches’ shows. All told, the service will televise more than 200 live events of local interest during the 2008-09 seasons. 

Rounding out the FS Tennessee roster is such regional fare as MLB games featuring the Braves, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, as well as Atlantic Coast Conference men’s and women’s basketball.

As for FS Carolinas, the NHL Carolina Hurricanes and the NBA Charlotte Bobcats are the top draws, with 65 and 39 contests, respectively. Another 31 Bobcats’ battles will air on sister service SportsSouth. Every NHL telecast on FS Carolinas will include Hurricanes Live expanded post-game coverage, while all of NBA matchups are complemented by Bobcats Live coverage, leading into and out of the club's contests.

ACC men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, Olympic sports and coaches’ shows are also on tap for FS Carolinas subscribers. With its professional and collegiate product, the RSN will televise more than 300 live events of local interest during the 2008-09 seasons. 

Rounding out its roster, FS Carolinas’ regional showings extend to Braves action, as well as Southeastern Conference men’s and women’s basketball, Olympic sports and coaches’ shows.

As alluded to above, subscribers in Tennessee and North and South Carolina will also continue to receive SportsSouth fare. In the former, 1.5 million cable and satellite homes can view a minimum of 56 University of Tennessee athletic events and shows annually, a total of 78 hours of programming, including encore presentations of Tennessee football, men’s and women’s basketball games and Olympic sporting events. Coaches shows featuring women’s and women’s basketball coaches Pat Summit and Bruce Pearl and pigskin leader Phillip Fulmer are also in that mix. 

Similarly, SportsSouth, available to 2.5 million homes in the Carolinas, will televise a minimum of 73 University of South Carolina athletic events, 93 hours in all. There will be encore presentations of South Carolina football, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, and coaches shows featuring Steve Spurrier, Darrin Horn, Dawn Staley and Ray Tanner. 

SportSouth is also the exclusive regional sports network for Southern Conference athletics, televising a minimum of 24 SoCon athletic events each year, 55 hours of total programming, highlighted by live football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball. 

To get fans even closer to their local squads and personalities, Genthner said the RSNs will continue to develop more local programming. FS regionals offer such fare as interview show, In My Own Words; all-access programming via the Under the Lights umbrella; a Q&A series called Straight Up; and more intimate portraits through At Home features.

Genthner also notes that FS Tennessee and FS Carolinas are currently assessing new Web development, with the RSNs expected to sport revamped sites in 2009.