In Depth

Fox Feed Ends as Net Ups Coverage

Some Subscribers May Be Stuck Without Signal

Fox Broadcasting has folded Fox Net, the feed that for 15 years was piped to areas of the country that were not served by local broadcast stations affiliated with Fox.

The move is a sign of how robust these times are for Fox, which will have added 11 new affiliates to its fold by year's end, giving it a total of 201 affiliates. When the network created Fox Net, the hope was that this day would in fact come, that the feed would become unnecessary once the network became fully distributed.

Fox Net was launched in 1991, when Fox's reach was only 91.75 percent of the TV homes in the country. Now, Fox's coverage is 98.97 percent.

At its peak, Fox Net served nearly 2 million viewers. By Sept. 1, when it was scheduled to shut down, the universe that could use Fox Net had become so small, it no longer made economic sense to operate.

"The success of the network has made it possible for [people] to start new affiliates in areas where we hadn't been before," said Jon Hookstratten, executive VP of Fox network distribution. "What's happened is the number of potential Fox Net subscribers is down so significantly that it can't survive anymore as a service."

Mr. Hookstratten and his network distribution team have been working their way down the list of cable systems-none with more than 1,000 subscribers-that will be affected by the demise of Fox Net to explain options to replace the signal.

At last count, an estimated 13,000 cable subscribers might find themselves without any Fox signal.

"There are solutions that the cable systems could opt for, but we don't have a commitment yet that they will be opting for them. There are services to which a cable system could subscribe to bring in a local Fox signal. Sometimes the cost is something they're not comfortable with right now," Mr. Hookstratten said. "We've been trying to connect up the proper cable system with the local Fox stations in their area. What they do from there is up to the cable system."

For those cable subscribers who are switched to Fox affiliates, one of the bonuses will be that they will see regionally pertinent football and baseball games rather than the national games Fox Net has supplied.

The WB has had a service similar to Fox Net, The WB 100+, which will become The CW 100+ on Sept. 18, when UPN and The WB become The CW.