After facing a difficult start-up period because of a legal
challenge this summer, Turner South launched last Friday with charter distribution deals
totaling nearly 1 million subscribers, according to officials.
The regional entertainment service, part of Turner
Broadcasting System Inc., landed its biggest initial carriage agreement with MediaOne
Group Inc. in Atlanta. That system is carrying Turner South on expanded basic to more than
In addition to MediaOne, Turner South has inked charter
distribution deals with Prestige Cable TV Inc. in Cartersville, Cumming and Canton, Ga.;
Galaxy Cablevision in Greenville, S.C., and Montgomery and Greensboro, Ala.; Foster
Communications in Jackson and Tupelo, Miss.; Winslow Communications in Jackson, Tupelo and
Greenwood, Miss.; Cable TV of Belzoni in Jackson; and Knology Holdings Inc. in Atlanta and
Augusta, Ga., Columbia and Charleston, S.C., and Montgomery.
Ironically, Turner South hasn't reached any
affiliation deals with Time Warner Cable systems yet, despite the fact that the network
and the MSO share the same corporate owner, Time Warner Inc.
Time Warner Cable owns several systems in the South in
markets such as Birmingham, Ala., and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., which would appear to be
likely prospects for Turner South.
"We're still in talks with them, but we
don't have a deal yet," Turner Network Sales executive vice president and chief
operating officer Andrew Heller said.
Turner South isn't the only TBS/Time Warner-owned
network that has had trouble getting carriage on Time Warner Cable systems: CNNfn also
lacks widespread distribution on Time Warner systems. The MSO is very decentralized,
allowing its systems to make their own decisions about what networks to carry.
"We are continuing talking with Turner South,"
said Mike Hugunin, division president for Time Warner in Birmingham. "But at this
point in time, we haven't made a decision on the service." Officials at the
Raleigh-Durham system couldn't be reached for comment.
In addition to Time Warner, Turner South is talking with
Cox Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. about distribution.
Heller said his efforts to get distribution for Turner
South this summer were hampered because of a lawsuit by Fox Sports Net South that was
pending against the start-up network, which targets the Southeast.
That's why he said he's pleased to have 1 million
subscribers lined up, or about 17 percent of the potential 6 million homes Turner South is
targeting in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina and parts of North
Fox Sports Net South had sued, trying to bar Turner South
from airing Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball, Atlanta Hawks National Basketball
Association and Atlanta Thrashers National Hockey League games, along with its
Last month, a judge ruled against Fox Sports Net South. Fox
recently said it would appeal that decision.
In addition to having the lawsuit looming, Heller said it
was hard for operators to open up channel space for Turner South in the middle of the
One advantage Heller will have now is that with the channel
launched, it will be an easier sell, since both cable operators and consumers can now
actually see its content.
MediaOne is particularly excited about the sports
programming Turner South will be televising, such as the Thrashers.
"Turner South is bringing a new regional approach to
news, sports and entertainment programming designed especially for the South, and hockey
fans will love the chance to cheer on the Thrashers," said Ellen Filipiak, senior
vice president for MediaOne's Atlanta region, in a prepared statement.
Turner South debuted last Friday at 2 p.m. with a
five-minute segment celebrating what makes the South unique, including messages from such
well-known Southerners as Time Warner vice chairman Ted Turner, author Anne Rice and
country singer Marty Stuart.