Cox Turns Local Channel Over to Big Game


Football fans streaming into San Diego, beginning thisweek, will be able to see 'everything but the game,' programming on the localCox Cable franchise devoted to the Super Bowl .

Cox is following the example of other Cox franchises informer Super Bowl host towns of Phoenix and New Orleans by turning its local sportschannel, 4 SAN DIEGO, into a 10-day blitz of information on the mega-event and thefestivities surrounding it.

'It's an investment in building the brand,'said Bill Geppert, vice president and general manager, Cox Cable San Diego.

The operator will spend about $250,000 on programming thechannel from Jan. 16 through Super Bowl Sunday, Jan. 25. Normally, the channel programsanything from San Diego Padres baseball games and University of California-San Diegosports events to four hours of live traffic reports at rush hour. The system also did apublic affairs multi-day block for the 1996 Republican convention.

During the Super Bowl programming, however, the channelwill be live nightly for four hours with segments from NFL Experience, the temporary themepark at Qualcomm Stadium, site of the 1998 Super Bowl;. replays of every previous SuperBowl; and coverage of specially planned events -- like a flag football game between greatsof the National Football League. Joe Namath will participate in Cox's play-by-play onthat one.

Geppert said the NFL has been very cooperative, since Coxis publicizing the sport's licensed activities ancillary to the game. The channelalso provides fan-friendly info like how to get into and out of the stadium and thelocation and hours of planned street festivals.

Geppert said it is too early to tell, but he remainsconfident the venture will be profitable. The channel has already sold its three primarysponsorships to the local telecommunications giant Qualcomm Inc., Sprint PCS and the localBudweiser distributor.

One million cable homes will see the channel, including theCox system in San Diego and the MSO's cluster in neighboring Orange County;Southwestern Cable (the San Diego Time Warner Cable system) and Daniels Cablevision.

The system is running an acquisition campaign linked tothis local programming, but executives already see signs the Super Bowl marathon hasexpanded Cox' desirability in the community. Marriott Hotels, the NFL's officialaccommodation, has expanded the number of its facilities with cable drops.

After the game, the system will continue to expandprogramming on the station, with a focus on long-form shows, Geppert said.

Local programming is 'a unique and underserved elementof the programming mix,' he said.