News Corp., Time Warner Sign Carriage Deal for Business Channel

Gives Long-Awaited Fox Service Access to 23 Million Homes

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NEW YORK ( -- News Corp. executives spent New Year's weekend concluding a carriage agreement with Time Warner Cable for its long-awaited Fox News business channel. Time Warner Cable serves 23 million homes and has been long sought after by News Corp. as a cable partner for the launch. With this deal in hand, many expect News Corp. can now move forward with the channel after years of delays.
Fox News Channel's managing editor of business news, Neil Cavuto, above, is expected to be a major part of the new service.
Fox News Channel's managing editor of business news, Neil Cavuto, above, is expected to be a major part of the new service. Credit: AP

Time Warner Cable and Fox News distribution executives had been hashing out terms in advance of the holiday week. A senior executive inside Time Warner confirmed that the cable system had finally given the Fox News' business sibling the distribution it needs. Terms were not disclosed.

Major cable players
Time Warner Cable is one of two major cable players in the New York market, which is considered critical for News Corp. to secure before launching its business-news channel. The deal will give the channel access to the crucial Wall Street audience and to the Madison Avenue-based advertising community.

Roger Ailes, Fox News chairman-CEO, has said he would not launch the business service -- the idea for which was first raised in 2004 -- until he had enough distribution partners lined up.

In November, Comcast said it would distribute the business service to its 12 million subscribers should the channel go ahead. Speaking in December at the UBS media conference, News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin said the company was still working on the channel and would commit to a launch once it had sufficient carriage deals in place. The company has said around 30 million homes would suffice.

Launch date
While a date for the launch still hasn't been revealed, News Corp. Chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch has said the business channel will launch in 2007.

It is still unclear, however, whether Cablevision, which also has a sizable chunk of New York-based customers, has made an agreement to carry the service. DirecTV -- in which News Corp. owned a significant stake until its sale last month to Liberty Media -- is likely to give the service satellite liftoff but has said nothing on the matter. DirecTV, which is present in 15 million homes, did not respond to a request for comment.

A Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. Fox News Channel's managing editor of business news, Neil Cavuto, is expected to be a major part of the new service. News Corp. hired Alexis Glick away from CNBC in September as Mr. Cavuto's second in command.

At the end of 2004, Time Warner closed its own financial news service, CNNfn, leaving the TV business news field to NBC Universal's CNBC and Bloomberg. That's the same year Mr. Murdoch first started touting the idea for the business news service.

Changing environment
The environment has changed considerably since then. Broadband video has taken off as a distribution method, and CNBC has had time to return to its original business-news mantra after a brief foray into prime-time entertainment. CNBC is distributed to 90 million homes and in December revamped its own website to offer video from around its international bureaus. The channel also launched new shows such as "Fast Money," which features a roundtable of investment professionals debating features such as the trade of the day. In some ways, such shows ape Fox News in their fast-paced discussions and analysis of news stories.

Annual advertising revenue at CNBC is estimated at $300 million. Time Warner has also boosted its financial presence online, plugging its Fortune magazine staff to its CNN Money offering. Major online giants such as Google and Yahoo are also looking to own the daytime business viewer with their own stock market information.

The move could be a way for Fox News sales to reach out to fresh advertisers. After the company's 10-year ascent to lead the cable news ratings, Fox News may have already soaked up all double-digit spending increases it can muster.

Gaining traction
Business news has gained traction within News Corp. just in the past month. On Dec. 4, Fox News launched an online-programming partnership with Yahoo Finance that rolls video branded "Fox Business Now." The segments air weekdays and comprise two-minute market reports.

Yahoo helps promote the service, and Fox News has given it on-air support. The segment currently online is "Terror Free Investing," hosted by Stuart Varney, dated Dec. 28.
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