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Hindery Says 'Yes' To Yankees Network

Cable veteran Leo Hindery officially made his return to the industry Sept. 10 as CEO and part owner of the Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network.

Hindery — along with Quadrangle Group LLC, Goldman Sachs and Co., and cable veteran Amos Hostetter — will own a 40-percent interest in YES. YankeeNets LLC will hold the remaining interest in the service, which will take its first swing in March of 2002.

Hindery announced that YES will air 125 to 130 regular-season New York Yankees telecasts next season.

Meanwhile, Bresnan Communications Inc. president Bill Bresnan could join the YES team. Bresnan said he's in discussions about joining the YES Network board of directors, although nothing has been finalized. He added that YankeeNets has been talking to him about joining the board "off and on" for several months.

Although Hindery said the YES Network is not seeking additional investors — and will not swap equity stakes to distributors in exchange for carriage — Bresnan said he is open to acquiring a stake if it is offered to him.

"I'd be interested in an equity stake," he noted.

In addition to covering Major League Baseball's most successful franchise, the network is expected to telecast 75 New Jersey Nets basketball games and New Jersey Devils games once the respective teams' carriage deals with Fox Sports Net New York expire in 2002 and 2007.

The service will also distribute select games from the United Kingdom's Manchester United Football Club as part of a marketing and promotional agreement YankeeNets inked with the soccer team last year. Hindery also said he would talk to other content providers about providing "lifestyle" sports programming specific to the region.

Hindery said he would begin discussions with local operators "right away" in an effort to secure distribution for the network. Though he wouldn't reveal specific rate-card figures, sources said the service could cost operators as much as $2 per subscriber.

"These deals aren't going to happen overnight, but we'll reach out to our cable brethren right away," Hindery said.

Local operators are ready for the pitch. "We remain very interested in carrying the channel," Time Warner Cable vice president of corporate communications Mike Luftman said.

In a statement, Cablevision Systems Corp. CEO James Dolan said: "We expect to continue to carry the games. We know that many of our customers want the programming and that the Yankees want to reach our customers. We look forward to hearing specifics from the new network."

Cablevision-owned Madison Square Garden Network will end its 13-year relationship with the Yankees at the conclusion of this season. Under terms of a litigation settlement reached in April, MSGN was granted the right to televise 85 regular-season games in 2002, but YankeeNets controlled an option to buy back those rights for $30 million, which it exercised in June.