News Briefs: Comcast Looks to Spread Cost of NHL Rights

Aug 22, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Comcast expects its subscribers and other cable operators to help it pay for its new investment in hockey programming. Comcast secured the rights to broadcast hockey on its OLN channel after ESPN declined last week to match Comcast’s offer. Some of OLN’s affiliate deals are expiring at the end of the year, Comcast Chief Operating Officer Stephen Burke said. The Comcast package calls for the league to receive $135 million over two seasons for rights to televise games on OLN. OLN and Comcast have an option for a third year at $72.5 million. The league will get another $15 million if OLN’s distribution exceeds 80 million subscribers. OLN has 64 million subscribers. Comcast also guaranteed distribution of an NHL network, which will be carried on a digital sports tier. Comcast also obtained rights to use NHL programming via broadband, online and on video-on-demand. Some game broadcasts will be streamed, the league said. Comcast executives downplayed speculation that they plan to build OLN into a sports network competitor to ESPN. Next on Comcast’s sports wish list might be a package of late-season NFL games that may come on the market later this year.

Fox Stations Seek Transfer of O&O Licenses

Fox Television Stations asked the Federal Communications Commission last Friday to approve the transfer of licenses of its 35 owned-and-operated stations from News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch to the corporation itself, through a subsidiary. Because of restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcast stations, the station’s licenses could not previously be held by News Corp., which was an Australian company until it reincorporated as an American company in November 2004. Mr. Murdoch, as a naturalized American, was allowed to hold the licenses. News Corp. said the proposed transfer makes for a less complex corporate structure and will not affect the equity ownership of the Fox-owned stations or their day-to-day operations.

Lifetime Negotiating With Former WB Exec

Susanne Daniels, the former entertainment president at The WB Network, is in negotiations to fill the top programming post at Lifetime, sources said. The job has been vacant since May 2004. Lifetime CEO Betty Cohen almost filled the post with Lifetime General Manager Rick Haskins, who had been running the programming department on an interim basis, but a deal could not be finalized and he departed in June. A Lifetime spokesperson declined to comment.

Nielsen Pact Advances VOD Measurement

Nielsen Media Research has taken another step toward measurement of video-on-demand viewing with a nonexclusive agreement that allows software provider Anystream to deploy its automated VOD content production solution with Nielsen VOD encoding technology already built in. Nielsen plans to incorporate VOD usage into its ratings service from its national and metered-market samples in phases, starting in the second quarter of 2006.

Reynolds to Stay With Company, Join CBS Corp.

In an apparent about-face, CBS said last week that veteran executive Fredric Reynolds has decided to stay at the network and will become executive VP and chief financial officer of CBS Corp. following the company’s split from Viacom early next year. Mr. Reynolds announced last month that he was leaving the network to join private-equity firm Evercore Partners as its president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. In the months leading up to the breakup, Mr. Reynolds will continue to serve as president of the Viacom Television Stations Group.

ESPN Programming Exec Shapiro Leaving Network

ESPN executive Mark Shapiro is leaving the company to work for Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins and an investor in the Six Flags amusement parks. Mr. Shapiro, who as executive VP of programming and production, will become CEO of Red Zone LLC, a private investment company founded by Mr. Snyder, effective Oct. 1.