Marcus Cable Co. L.P. and the majority owner of two
Texas-based professional sports teams may launch a new regional sports network in the near
future once the teams' cable television rights are up.
Marcus would team with billionaire Tom Hicks to create a
regional sports network around Texas Rangers baseball and Dallas Stars hockey games. Hicks
owns the Stars, and last week announced his intention to purchase a majority interest in
the Rangers -- with Marcus and several other local companies holding an
as-yet-to-be-determined minority interest -- for about $250 million.
Jeffrey Marcus, chairman and CEO for the MSO, said there is
'clearly a possibility' that the MSO could participate in the development of a regional
sports network, especially since both teams' current deals with incumbent service Fox
Sports Southwest will expire in the 'short term.'
Operators have repeatedly voiced their concerns about the
rising cost of regional sports networks, some of which carry licensing fees as high as
$1.50 per subscriber. By owning the rights to the teams, however, cable operators can
recoup their costs.
Marcus in fact pointed to Comcast Corp.'s regional sports
network venture in Philadelphia, where the MSO controls the cost of the service through
ownership of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey and the Philadelphia 76ers basketball teams.
'Clearly it is a good investment,' Marcus said. 'With Tom
Hicks as a partner and what he can bring to the table, we have an opportunity to create a
regional sports network.'
Representatives from Fox could not be reached for comment
at press time.
Marcus wouldn't be the first cable company to challenge
Fox's position in the marketplace; last Fall ESPN battled Fox for cable rights to Houston
Rockets basketball games. The team, however, made an 11th hour decision to remain with Fox
before the first cable telecast of the season.
'I think Fox is doing a great job, but that doesn't mean
that other owners couldn't do a great job,' Marcus said. 'He who has the rights controls
Kent Gibbons contributed to this story.