CNN/SI to Shut Down


With a proposed National Basketball Association channel ready to take its
place, AOL Time Warner Inc.'s CNN/SI sports-news service will shut down
operations later this year.

Even if plans for a co-owned AOL Time Warner/NBA channel aren't realized,
sources said, AOL Time Warner still plans to jettison the five-year-old service,
which was unable to compete successfully against competitor ESPNews as cable's
dominant sports-news service.

Sources said nearly 200 CNN/SI staffers were informed of the network's
impending demise.

The decision was made prior to an agreement the NBA has evidently reached
with AOL Time Warner to convert CNN/SI into a jointly owned network in which the
two entities would share any revenue generated from ad sales or subscription
fees, sources said. That deal could be announced as early as the week of Jan.

CNN/SI executives would not comment on the matter, but sources said AOL Time
Warner had made the decision early in order to meet a Jan. 10 accounting-rules
deadline. By meeting that deadline, sources said, CNN/SI employees would be
eligible for severance packages the company will offer.

Sources also indicated that some staffers will migrate to Cable News Network
to cover sports, find other positions within the company, or interview for the
new network.

Launched in 1996, CNN/SI was expected to combine CNN's sports coverage with
the Time Warner Inc.-owned Sports Illustrated magazine brand to create a
true competitor to ESPNews.

But the service struggled to distinguish itself in the crowded sports-news
arena. CNN/SI's 19 million subscribers trail ESPNews' 26.6 million, while ESPN's
SportsCenter and Fox Sports News' regional and national sports reports
garner solid ratings.

CNN/SI suffered several internal and on-air losses in 2000, laying off
several staffers during the summer in an overall restructuring and
cost-reduction effort.

This past September, the network lost its 11 p.m. slot on sister service CNN,
further reducing the brand's exposure to viewers.

The network had attempted to reposition itself by adding more live-event
programming. It teamed up with Turner Network Television to share rights to the
Wimbledon Championships tennis tournament, the Women's United Soccer Association
and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. CNN/SI had telecast
practice runs and poll-qualifying races.

But the network recently lost its WUSA rights to Pax TV, which signed a
two-year deal with the cable-centric league.