Fox Set to Rename Cable Sports Service

Nov 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Fox Cable Networks Group is planning a name change for Fox Sports Digital Networks, its three-network cable service offering out-of-market ballgames and sports news.
Fox also plans to begin selling advertising on the service next year. It has yet to announce the new name.
The service is due for a name change because the word “digital” is overused and misunderstood, said David Nathanson, general manager of Fox Sports Digital Nets and VP of broadband strategy and channel development at Fox Cable Networks Group.
Market research showed that while some consumers associated “digital” with a better picture-high definition, in some cases-and better sound, others thought it meant something on the Internet, a Web page or something more expensive, Mr. Nathanson said.
While keeping potential new names close to his vest, Mr. Nathanson said, “We want the message to be as clear as possible.”
At the same time, the digital package is getting reach to sell ad space to national advertisers. While it’s still in relatively few homes-Mr. Nathanson declined to reveal subscriber numbers, but the entire digital universe remains below the 20 million mark-the sporting events carried by the channels are a powerful draw for advertisers.
Currently, when events run on the three-network service, they carry the ads that appear on the regional sports network on which the telecast originated.
Mr. Nathanson said Fox Sports Digital has carriage agreements with nine of the top 10 distributors. Cablevision Systems isn’t signed up, which is unusual because Cablevision is a partner with Fox in several of the regional networks.
Fox Cable created Fox Sports Digital Networks to give cable operators a product to compete against satellite operators, which were offering customers an out-of-market package of all 22 Fox Sports regional cable networks. Cable operators don’t have the capacity to offer 22 channels, but by cherry-picking the best events and putting them on three channels-East, West and Central-cable operators can see that subscribers get a good selection of games and sports news programming from around the country.
The service was a winner, Mr. Nathanson said, because while most sports fans want to see local teams, a significant number have moved and still root for their old team, whether college or pro. He called those viewers “displaced sports fans.”
The channels are adjusting their mix but will continue to emphasize live events, Mr. Nathanson said.