Outdoor Channel agrees to merge with The Sportsman Channel

The parent companies of Outdoor Channel and The Sportsman Channel signed a $208 million cash and stock merger agreement on Friday.

Rather than combine the rival networks that run primarily hunting and fishing shows, Outdoor Channel CEO Tom Hornish said the merged company will continue to operate separate networks. In a conference call with investors Friday morning, Hornish hinted that the networks will offer cable affiliates cash in exchange for broader distribution. "As we go down the road, we will be able to offer the distributors some type of incentives to be able to help grow both of the channels and get broader distribution," Hornish said.

Outdoor Channel, which debuted in 1993, counts 38.1 million subscribers. The Sportsman Channel, which was launched by outdoor magazine publisher InterMedia in 2007, has 30.1 million subscribers.

Under terms of the deal, Outdoor Channel parent Outdoor Channel Holdings and InterMedia are combining assets, forming a company called InterMedia Outdoor Holdings. Hornish will become CEO of the company, while Outdoor CFO and COO Tom Allen will hold the same title at InterMedia Outdoor Holdings. Sportsman Channel President Gavin Harvey will become president of television networks, and InterMedia Outdoors CEO Jeff Paro will become president of integrated media and branded content, the companies said Friday.

For years, Outdoor Channel competed against Outdoor Life Network. After Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) acquired Outdoor Life Network in 2001, it shifted the focus of the channel to action sports such as skateboarding and BMX and reduced the number of hunting and fishing shows on OLN. In 2006, Comcast changed the name of OLN to Versus and began focusing on programs such as National Hockey League games and the Tour de France. In January, it changed the name of Versus to NBC Sports Network.

The Outdoor Channel - Sportsman merger could help the networks develop new programs for both channels. The merged companies will also gain efficiencies by combining affiliate and advertising sales teams. Outdoor Channel Holdings and InterMedia said they expect the merger to close during the first quarter of 2013.

For more:
- see the release
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