Turner South No Longer Turner


The month of May officially rang in new ownership for Turner South.

Fox Cable Networks Group, finalizing a deal that was announced in February, took control of the sports and entertainment from Turner Broadcasting System Inc. midnight May 1.

The deal for the 8 million-subscriber network -- which bolsters Fox's network of regional sports services, particularly its FSN South vehicle -- was estimated at some $375 million.

It was unclear at press time who would head the networks for Fox. Sources familiar with the negotiations said the service would retain its name for an extended period, as a new moniker will not be announced until late fall to coincide with the starts of the 2006-07 National Basketball Association and National Hockey League seasons and the end of the 2006 Major League Baseball campaign.

Turner South offers Atlanta Braves MLB games, Atlanta Hawks NBA matchups and Atlanta Thrashers NHL contests, as well as entertainment-based programming with a Southern sensibility.

The fate of Turner South’s entertainment programs with a southern sensibility -- such as Home Makers, Southern Living Presents, 3 Day Weekend and Liars & Legends -- was unclear at press time.

Neither Fox nor Turner South officials would comment about programming plans. However, sources familiar with the deal said the rights to the entertainment fare revert to TBS in six months, and the shows could be delivered via a broadband platform or existing TV services TNT or TBS.

FSN South airs some 25 Braves games that it can show in some markets, and it also has television rights to games from the NBA’s Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, MLB’s Baltimore Orioles and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators.

TBS parent Time Warner Inc., which owns one-half of Court TV, is negotiating a deal to swap the Braves to Liberty Media Corp. for its half of the investigation channel. According to published reports, Liberty would transfer its 50% interest in Court TV, valued at $650 million-$750 million, to Time Warner in exchange for Time Warner’s interest in the Braves, valued at $400 million, and cash.

In an April 28 letter addressed to TBS colleagues, obtained by Multichannel News, TBS chairman and CEO Phil Kent wrote: "In February, we announced that our company had reached an agreement with Fox Cable Networks in which Fox would acquire Turner South. I told you then that we were working with Fox to transition Turner South assets to their new owner. That process will be completed this weekend. Effective Monday, May 1, Turner South is officially part of Fox Cable Networks and no longer a Turner Broadcasting network.”

He continued, "I want to thank our Turner South colleagues for their professionalism. They’ve continued to invest the same focus and commitment in their jobs and their network that helped to make it such an attractive asset to Fox Cable Networks. Some of them will continue to support the network for Fox through a limited period. Others are taking on new roles within our company. And others are moving to opportunities outside Turner."