No. 49

Fox Buys Family Channel

Rupert Murdoch once planned to go to war with cable television with his satellite TV network. But this year, he increased his cable empire in a big way.

In June, Fox Kids Worldwide Inc., a 50-50 joint venture of Murdoch's News Corp. and Saban Entertainment Inc., acquired Virginia-based International Family Entertainment for $1.7 billion.

Founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, IFE was the parent company of the Family Channel, which according to company data reaches 69 million homes.

The Fox Kid's deal was strategic on two levels. First, it gives the station's programming greater leverage against Viacom's Nickelodeon and Time Warner's Cartoon Network, which have eroded network ratings.

More importantly, the Family Channel establishes an increased cable presence for News Corp., which Murdoch intends to use as a cornerstone in his growing ventures.

The marriage of cartoons and religious programming has caused several raised eyebrows in the industry. The terms of the deal stipulate that IFE founder Robertson give Fox full control over the company. In exchange, Fox agreed to air the "700 Club," a religious show hosted by Robertson, twice a day for the next five years.

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