Comcast, Fox Sports Settle


Avoiding a court battle, Comcast Corp. and Fox Cable Networks settled a legal dispute over regional-sports-network ownership rights last Thursday.

Comcast will trade Minnesota-based regional sports network Midwest Sports Channel to Fox for Fox's one-third interest in Bethesda, Md.-based Home Team Sports, sources close to the situation said.

Representatives from Comcast and Fox could not be reached at press time.

In July, Fox sued to block Comcast's planned purchase of MSC and HTS from Viacom Inc. The lawsuit, in Delaware Chancery Court, claimed that Viacom violated Fox's rights as one-third owners of HTS by not allowing Fox to sell its share for the "same consideration" as Viacom.

Because Comcast mainly gave Viacom higher licensing fees and carriage of Viacom-owned services, Fox said it was unable to accurately gauge the value of its HTS share.

Observers had predicted that such a settlement would occur. MSC is important to Fox because Fox Sports Net planned to launch a competing Minnesota regional sports service to distribute expansion Minnesota Wild National Hockey League games. Now Fox has a vehicle that reaches about 2.5 million homes.

With the Comcast-Viacom deal still pending, though, it is unclear what Fox will do with Wild games at first after the season begins in three weeks.

Comcast gains full control of HTS, the country's fifth-largest regional sports network (4.7 million subscribers).

HTS is another piece of Comcast's strategic plans for the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area. Comcast has a heavy cable presence there, and it owns Comcast SportsNet and co-owns Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast with Charter Communications Inc.