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An artical from the Chicago Tribune:


Teams to sideline Fox; new channel on deck



Published September 30, 2003



The owners of the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls say they will end their agreements with Fox Sports Net Chicago on Oct. 1, 2004, as the clubs explore a deal that could give the teams an equity stake in a new sports cable channel in the city.


In recent weeks, sources close to the teams and Fox Sports Net say Comcast Corp., the country's largest cable TV provider, has been negotiating to buy Fox Sports Net in Chicago and at least one other market from Rainbow Sports parent Cablevision Systems Corp.


But any deal would hinge on the teams' committing to the new arrangement beforehand, these sources said.


And those negotiations appear to be complicated by other talks taking place between Comcast and Tribune Co., which owns the Cubs. Tribune Co. is also in discussions with Comcast about a new contract to carry the WGN Superstation, which runs in several cable TV markets across the country.


"Everything is being discussed," said a source close to the negotiations. "It's not just about the sports channel."


But even before the teams struck the 10-year deal with Fox Sports Net in 1999, Tribune Co., Jerry Reinsdorf, who heads a consortium that owns the White Sox and Bulls, and Bill Wirtz, owner of the Blackhawks, had discussed creating their own sports cable channel as a way to keep all advertising revenue in-house.


The Chicago teams, which had to give Fox Sports Net a year's notice before exercising their out clause after five years, aren't alone. Last year, the New York Yankees started the YES Network in the Northeast to carry Yankees games and other related cable programming.


Other teams are considering launching their own cable networks as well.


Either way, the future of Fox Sports Net is uncertain at best. Though it pays the teams millions of dollars in rights fees to carry the games, it's the teams that bring in viewers.


After Fox Sports Net chose to pursue a local strategy rather than try to compete with ESPN nationally, there has been more pressure on the local Fox Sports Net affiliates to hook on with the local teams.


Most local television observers expect the teams to start their own network or start a new network with Comcast with or without a deal to buy Fox Sports Net.


Jim Corno, executive vice president and general manager of Fox Sports Net Chicago, didn't return phone calls for comment late Monday.


Comcast says it doesn't comment on speculation.


A spokesman for the White Sox said the teams had no choice but to end the agreement now while they considered their options. "If we didn't, we'd have to wait another five years," said Scott Reifert, a spokesman for the White Sox.


Those close to the discussions between the teams and Comcast said the talks about a new channel have occurred at the highest levels and have included Tribune Co. CEO and President Dennis FitzSimons, Wirtz and Reinsdorf.


Much will depend on which way Tribune Co. decides to go. The Cubs remain the biggest audience draw of the teams at this moment, and they will have a lot of say in how a new arrangement with Comcast will look.


A spokesman for Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune, wouldn't comment on any negotiations.


Both the Cubs and the White Sox said a new deal wouldn't affect the number of games on broadcast TV versus cable. Fox Sports Net carries 72 regular-season Cubs games, 102 Sox games, 44 Bulls games and 39 Hawks games.


Edelman's Singerman to H&K: Steve Singerman, head of Edelman's huge consumer practice, jumps to Hill & Knowlton, Chicago, as the new head of the Chicago office and head of the agency's consumer practice. Edelman executives downplayed the departure, saying there were no plans to replace him. Three current consumer general managers will handle his duties, according to Edelman Chicago chief Nancy Ruscheinski.


H&K spent months looking for an executive to build its consumer business. Singerman, who starts Nov. 1, replaces Gene Reineke, chief operating officer of Edelman, who now also runs the Washington, D.C., office.


Harlan Teller, who did a top job keeping things intact during the monthslong, laborious search, remains chief client officer for H&K and head of its worldwide corporate practice.


On the move: At BBDO Chicago, account supervisors Elke Anderle and Katie Clow were promoted to vice president.


Network Chicago bug gone: In what may be the most visible symbol of the downfall of WTTW-Ch. 11's "Network Chicago" experiment, the "Network Chicago" bug in the corner of the screen has been replaced by "WTTW.
 

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From the multichannel news article about the same topic:

Quote:
Comcast has been in talks with Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Rainbow Sports division to gain Rainbow’s majority interest in FSN Chicago -- where Comcast controls most of the cable homes -- as well as in Rainbow's FSN Ohio, FSN Bay Area, FSN New England and FSN Florida.
and,

Quote:
But sources said one caveat toward purchasing the regional service was its ability to secure long-term deals with the area’s pro-sports teams.
FSN Bay Area shows Giants, A's, Warriors, Sharks and Earthquakes games. I don't know whether its deals with those teams are "long term" or when the various contracts expire. Anybody know?
 

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The thing I think these Chicago teams is doing right is banding together. My beloved KC Royals started their own network this year with about 116 games. The bad part is what will the MSO's do when there is no game. With all these teams together, they could show repeats or old games and fill a good chunk of time, like YES does. However the Royals had been part of FSN Midwest, and most MSO's had a contract with FSN and they said, wait a minute, I already am paying for the Royals.


I still think the Royals would have been better off had they tried to bundle UMKC(a local college), the KC Wizards, KC Knights, and a couple other small teams around and went that way. They had a rough go getting people on to their package, and eventually had to sign FSN on as a distributor.
 
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