CSTV Tips Off With Free Offer

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CSTV: College Sports Television will stage a soft launch on Feb. 23 with coverage of a women's NCAA basketball contest — part of a six-week free preview the service is offering to operators.

CSTV will air the Big East women's basketball game between Notre Dame and Connecticut, which features the last two National Collegiate Athletic Association champions, CSTV president Brian Bedol said.

"Our mission is to become the ultimate home of college sports programming, and this highly-anticipated game will capture the passion and electricity we'll present to viewers on a regular basis," Bedol said.

The game will tip off the network's six-week free preview of CSTV, which operators can offer on their systems. Bedol said that operators can cherry-pick from CSTV programming during the preview, which will include other live college basketball telecasts but mostly library product.

The preview will originate from the network's new 20,000-square-foot facility at the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment complex in New York.

While no operators have signed up as of press time, Bedol expects the network to reach at least 25 million subscribers during the preview.

"The response is very positive [from operators to the network]. The goal is to help operators position the digital tiers as a must have for sports fans," Bedol said. "Successfully marketing the digital tiers is a challenge and up until now, digital has not been aggressively marketed to non-pay subscribers.

"Sampling is an important part of getting these consumers to want new products," he said.

The network also said Wednesday that it has secured $25 million in financing from several investors, including lead investor Constellation Ventures, Chilton Investment Company, Court Square Ventures, Allen & Co. and Wasserman Holdings Inc.

Other investment partners include Athlon Ventures, comprised of athletes Kevin Garnett, Tiki Barber, Antonio McDyess, Brian Urlacher and Michael Johnson; CSI Capital Management; Ackerley Partners LLC; National Football League Hall of Fame member Joe Namath and others, said the network.

"This [financing], combined with what we already have takes us a long way toward break even, but we're continuing to have discussions with a range of strategic partners," Bedol said, although he would not reveal specific figures.

In a published report, Bedol said CSTV would spend as much as $100 million to roll out the channel.

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