For the past two years, Jantonio Turner -- a self-styled,
Los Angeles-based television producer, concert promoter and now cable-TV-network
entrepreneur -- has been working toward launching a 24-hour football channel, dubbed The
Now, his fledging company has earned a listing on the
National Association of Securities Dealers' over-the-counter bulletin board.
Although by no means a step into the big time --
over-the-counter bulletin-board stocks are usually thinly traded, and they can only be
purchased by contacting a market-maker directly -- it could mean easier access to capital
TFN traded 13,600 shares Oct. 20 -- its first day of
trading -- raising about $30,000. The company, which has more than 12 million shares
outstanding, registered just 450,000 shares, priced at $2 each, for the offering.
The company plans to offer classic National Football League
games; peewee and high-school games; Australian rules and Canadian football; cheerleader
tryouts; news; training-camp video; and instructional football programs.
TFN aired a one-time-only, two-hour preview on a C-band
satellite Sept. 5, but it does not yet have a transponder. It expects to launch its
24-hour service in 1999.
The company estimated its needs at about $10 million to
launch its network, and Marc Mitchell, TFN's director of investor relations, said it
has raised at least some of that amount privately. A secondary stock offering is planned
for the future, from which TFN hopes to raise between $4 million and $8 million, Mitchell
"We're not going for crazy amounts of
money," Turner said. "Financing is all a secure thing. The most important thing
to us is the households."
Turner believes that he needs about 5 million subscribers
to launch his network, and he plans to offer TFN to cable and satellite operators at
But getting to that mark will be a rough road. Although the
company has secured a letter of intent with one major cable consortium -- the National
Cable Television Cooperative, a group of 5,300 small and midsized systems representing 8.5
million subscribers -- it still has no formal agreement.
Frank Hughes, senior vice president of programming for the
NCTC, said the letter of intent is just a preliminary step toward signing a master
agreement. But even if TFN wins a master agreement, it won't guarantee that NCTC
members will carry the network.
Hughes added that it is unlikely that a master agreement
will be negotiated before TFN is carried on several full-fledged satellites.
Sheldon Altfeld -- founder of The Silent Network and a
member of TFN's board of directors -- realizes that the odds are stacked against TFN.
However, he added that Turner's work ethic and the popularity of football could help
to make the network a winner.
"When you are starting a network, it's in the
hands of the gods," Altfeld said. "But of all the networks out there, this one
has a better-than-even shot of being successful.