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OLN could be seeking to add baseball, lacrosse

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  • CSD
    Si Eyes Tv Deal With Comcast




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    August 26, 2005 -- Sports Illustrated once again has TV ambitions.
    More than three years after Sports Illustrated's TV venture with corporate cousin CNN failed, SI is now eyeing a partnership with Comcast's Outdoor Life Network that would give the venerable magazine a new television platform, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

    Executives at Time Inc. — SI's corporate parent — have been holding internal discussions about such a deal, but sources say talks between Comcast and Time Inc. have not yet begun in earnest.

    Word of a possible link-up comes as Comcast is seeking to rebrand OLN as a mainstream sports network to take on the industry juggernaut ESPN.

    Time Inc. and OLN already have a relationship — OLN licenses the name "Outdoor Life" from Time Inc., which publishes a magazine under that name, and the two companies have worked together in the past on programming. And Time Warner and Comcast are already in the sports business together. The two media giants are co-owners of a new network that will begin airing New York Mets games next year.

    A spokesperson for Time Inc. declined comment. A Comcast representative also had no comment.

    Comcast recently inked a rights deal with the National Hockey League to air games on OLN, and are expected to make a run at rights for Major League Baseball and a Thursday and Saturday night NFL package. Comcast is expected to re-name the network — which until now has broadcast minor sporting events such as the Boston Marathon and the Iditarod dog sled race — as it builds the channel into a competitor to ESPN.

    So formidable — and profitable — is ESPN that Comcast made a hostile takeover bid for ESPN parent Disney last year. The bid, which ultimately failed, was motivated in part by the escalating fees that ESPN charges cable operators such as Comcast.

    Time Inc. is looking outside its corporate boundaries for a television partner is another sign of the failed promise of media consolidation, as SI already tried, and failed, to launch a viable competitor to ESPN with CNN.

    In 1996 the two Time Warner properties launched CNN/SI, a 24-hour sports network. The network, which reportedly never turned a profit, was shuttered in 2002, when it reached just 22 million homes. That network was mainly focused on sports news, rather than live games, although it did air such events as women's soccer and early-round Wimbledon matches.

    CNN and SI weren't the only ones who have been forced to abandon ambitions of forming a national competitor to ESPN. In 2002 Fox Sports dropped a national sports show that was designed to compete with ESPN's "SportsCenter." Fox Sports is owned by News Corp., the parent company of The Post

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  • kah
    It would be good for ESPN to have competition.

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  • CSD
    started a topic OLN could be seeking to add baseball, lacrosse

    OLN could be seeking to add baseball, lacrosse

    OLN could be seeking to add baseball, lacrosse

    OLN, the Comcast subsidiary that recently acquired the rights to NHL telecasts, may be seeking to expand its coverage of team sports.

    The cable channel, which before the hockey deal had focused on hunting, fishing, bull riding and bicycle racing, is reportedly trying to add major-league baseball and indoor lacrosse to its programing mix.

    OLN reaches about 64 million homes in the United States.

    MediaWeek reported that OLN is seeking to wrest Sunday and Wednesday baseball games from ESPN when ESPN's contract to televise the games ends after this season.

    An OLN spokeswoman declined to comment on the report. She did, however, confirm a MediaWeek report that OLN is evaluating a proposal from the National Lacrosse League for the TV rights to its games. The Philadelphia Wings are members of the NLL.

    "We have a proposal in to OLN along with some other cable networks, and we hope to finalize our cable package by the end of September," said Doug Fritts, vice president of communications for the NLL.

    "With the synergy of our existing NHL partnerships - six of our 11 teams are owned or operated by NHL teams - OLN would be a great partner for us," Fritts added.

    NBC carried the NLL all-star and championship games last season, although the league purchased the time.