New York -- After much speculation, Fox /Liberty Sportslast week announced that it will acquire a one-third interest in beleaguered networksSpeedvision and Outdoor Life Network.
The deal will provide the two networks with a significantinflux of cash, more programming and wider distribution on systems owned by Liberty'sparent, Tele-Communications Inc., executives said.
While terms of the deal were not revealed, sources saidFox/Liberty paid between $80 million and $100 million for its stake in Outdoor Life andSpeedvision, which have 13.5 million and 14.5 million subscribers, respectively.
The deal allows Cox Communications Inc. to retain itsone-third ownership stake in the two networks, while the other original shareholders --Comcast Corp., MediaOne, Roger Werner and Daniels Programming -- will hold the remainingone-third share, said company executives.
The network's leadership, headed by president and CEOWerner, will remain intact. Sources close to the situation, however, saidFox/Liberty's purchase gives it an option for operating control over time.
For Outdoor Life and Speedvision, the deal ends a six-monthsearch for a new investor. The networks retained investment banker Morgan Stanley inSeptember to ascertain potential investment opportunities and to provide a"strategic" lift to the company, from either the distribution, programming orpromotion side.
Sources said the deal provides Outdoor Life and Speedvisionwith cross-promotional opportunities through Fox/Liberty's owned-and-affiliatedregional-sports networks.
Also, it provides an opportunity for the networks to drawprogramming from the Fox/Liberty sports library. "We have long felt that Fox/Libertyrepresents the best possible strategic fit for Speedvision and Outdoor Life," Wernersaid.
For Fox/Liberty, the deal puts another feather in itsburgeoning sports cap. Outdoor Life and Speedvision join Fox Sports Net, FiT TV, FoxSports World and sports/entertainment service FX under Fox/Liberty's ownershipumbrella.