$325M Deal Means Bigger College/Cable Presence

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NEW YORK ( -- CBS is buying college sports channel CSTV Networks for $325 million, a first move for the Viacom-owned broadcast network into the competitive ad-supported cable arena.

CSTV Networks comprises a digital cable sports channel distributed to almost 15 million subscribers, an online network of college sports Web sites and a central Web site,

CBS spinoff
The purchase is expected to close in January, after CBS is spun off from Viacom as a publicly traded entity. The acquisition is aimed at bolstering CBS’s sizable presence in sports both on- and offline.

CSTV competes directly with other sports networks, such as News Corp.’s Fox Sports Network; Walt Disney Co.' ESPNU, which serves universities; and Comcast, known for its regional sports offering. CSTV CEO Brian Bedol told Advertising Age that his service differs in that it offers a more direct connection to the universities than the other channels.

Among the CSTV advertisers are insurance company All State, Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette, Xbox, Coca-Cola Co. and Pontiac.

Bringing sponsors to fans
“What has made us unique is our approach of not trying to build CSTV as a brand but about bringing sponsors to fans connected by universities. We are able to put them on the front lawn,” Mr. Bedol said.

Mr. Bedol has been in serious negotiations to sell to CBS for the past two months, though he had been working with CBS Sports and its online unit Sportsline since his company has been in business.

“I think [after the purchase] we’ll continue to enhance the programming. We’ll see a distinct acceleration. On the Web site we offer an all-access platform to 7,000 live games and events this year.”

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