Is Fox doing the business?

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First the London Times is coming to New York, and now Watercooler hears Fox News Business Channel is getting closer to launch. One Fox insider says carriage deals are more or less in place with the main cable operators and with News Corp. sibling DirecTV, and that negotiations are very close with Time Warner Cable.

Getting a deal done with Time Warner is arguably the most important piece of the affiliate jigsaw puzzle, given the importance of the Manhattan market. A Time Warner Cable spokesman said negotiations were continuing, while a DirecTV spokesman would only say, "We're in discussions." If a DirecTV deal is in place that would automatically put the channel in 15 million households.

Other tipsters say Fox News producers told folks they're expecting the launch soon, while analysts say recent meetings with News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and President Peter Chernin left them with the distinct impression that the Wall Street-focused sibling is close to birth. A Fox spokeswoman refused to comment.

The channel, under the aegis of Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, is likely to draw heavily on Fox News' existing on-air talent; cable-industry recruiters say there's been precious little activity on the hiring front and programming is likely to have the same provocative opinion format that characterizes many of Fox News Channel's current business shows. However, News Corp. might draw on some of the print staff of the London Times. Fox News Channel's managing editor of business news, Neil Cavuto, is likely to spearhead much of the news coverage.

Of course, Fox News Business has been anticipated for a long time. It's been two years since Mr. Murdoch first floated the idea . A report in The Wall Street Journal last June suggested a deal was close with Time Warner and the channel was slated for launch in the first half of 2006. Since then, executives at Fox News have consistently refused to acknowledge that the channel would draw even a breath of airtime until distribution was in hand.
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