New York -- One of former Turner Sports president Harvey
Schiller's last assignments before he left the company in October was to help form
the business plan for new regional sports and entertainment network Turner South.
Schiller -- who was recently named chairman and CEO of
YankeeNets, the company formed by the recent merger of Major League Baseball's New
York Yankees and the National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets -- is starting
his new job where he left off at Turner.
YankeeNets is considering forming a regional sports network
along the lines of the Turner South model for the New York market. The network may combine
entertainment programming with Yankees, Nets and hockey games from a team YankeeNets hopes
to acquire, Schiller said.
"I think that's a very useful model,"
Schiller said of Turner South, which contains a mix of regional entertainment programming
and sports programming from the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the Atlanta Thrashers
National Hockey League club.
Schiller said YankeeNets is "looking at acquiring a
hockey team." He declined to name which NHL team, but several published reports said
YankeeNets is closing in on a deal to acquire the New Jersey Devils franchise for $175
It's not clear how Schiller's plans will affect
Cablevision Systems Corp. and the MSO's Madison Square Garden Network. MSGN controls
both the cable and over-the-air rights to the Yankees in the New York market, but the
company's rights deal expires at the end of the 2000 season.
Cablevision and MSGN officials declined to comment.
Schiller said he has been carrying out discussions with
Cablevision, but he added, "There are others based on content and distribution that
have shown interest."
While it's still not clear how the negotiations will
shake out, it's clear that the New York sports-rights market will be different when
Schiller is through. "Our goal is to not just do a strategic-rights deal: It is to
build an asset together with a strategic partner wherever possible," Schiller said.
Another source familiar with YankeeNets' plans said
the company is talking with major content providers, including Turner Broadcasting System
Inc., about supplying programming for the network.
"Harvey is well-respected here, and if he had some
ideas, we certainly would be open to hearing them," Turner spokesman Jim Weiss said,
adding that the company wouldn't confirm or deny that it is talking with YankeeNets.
Schiller said there are several possibilities, including a
joint venture with Cablevision and MSGN, or going it alone without Cablevision's
"Distribution is not driven by cable operations --
it's driven by fan interest," he said when asked if he was concerned about
gaining carriage for a new network without support from Cablevision or other MSOs.