By Les East
July 15, 2012
The New Orleans Hornets television rights are moving to Fox Sports from Cox Sports Television in an agreement announced Monday.
The team’s games will be shown on Fox Sports Southwest, which will be renamed Fox Sports New Orleans in October, beginning next season. The games had been on CST since the network was launched in time for the team’s arrival from Charlotte, N.C., in 2002.
The exact length of the “long-term agreement” and the financial terms were not released. Fox Sports New Orleans will televise approximately 75 Hornets games per season, including any games not selected for exclusive broadcast by the NBA’s national networks.
“We are in talks with all the video providers in the area with the intent of reaching as many viewers as possible,” Fox spokesman Ramon Alvarez said. “Cox (Communications) is already on board.”
Alvarez said the other providers with which Fox is negotiating are Charter Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T U-verse.
The Hornets were recently purchased by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who also owns the Fox affiliate in New Orleans (WVUE-TV).
“This is great news for our market, for our fans and for our region,” Benson said in a statement. “This will be tremendous for the New Orleans Hornets and our continued growth. It’s important that we continue to brand our great city, and we see no better way than our partnership with Fox Sports and the creation of Fox Sports New Orleans. We will be able to further integrate our assets including with our local affiliate WVUE-TV Fox 8.”
Interest in the Hornets has spiked recently with Benson’s purchase of the team from the NBA and the Hornets winning the draft lottery. New Orleans is expected to select highly touted University of Kentucky forward Anthony Davis with the first pick and also owns the No. 10 and No. 46 picks in Thursday’s draft.
“This is an exciting time for the Hornets and their fans,” Jeff Krolik, Executive Vice President of Fox Sports Networks, said in the release. “The team has generated tremendous buzz with the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. We are delighted to be partners with them and look forward to a long and successful relationship.”
Fox said the coverage of the Hornets game will include Hornets Live pregame and postgame shows as well as other team-related programs.
Fox said its re-branded network will continue to offer a variety of other local sports programming, including Southeastern Conference football, baseball and men’s and women’s basketball, Olympic sports and coaches’ shows. Other regional programming on Fox Sports New Orleans will feature Big 12 and Conference USA collegiate events, Texas Rangers baseball, and Dallas Stars hockey. The network said Fox Sports New Orleans will be available to more than 1.6 million cable and satellite TV homes “throughout the Hornets territory.”
“We wish the Hornets and their new programming partner well in their new agreement,” said Rod Mickler, the head of CST and Vice President of Regional Sports for Cox Louisiana. “We do not discuss the details of contract negotiations, but can say generally that the value of the product was higher than we were willing to pay.”
Mickler said CST remains “committed to our current teams, conferences and Louisiana sports,” which includes LSU, the SEC, Southern and Louisiana-Lafayette as well as Saints preseason games.