Flyers' owner cross-checks Fox with plan for rival right-wing cable net

Flyers' hockey owner Ed Snider has just picked up another right-winger. This one won't help Philadelphia finally win another Stanley Cup, though.

The sports mogul and long-time backer of conservative causes says he's a major investor in a new cable TV network that may have an even more difficult task than bringing hockey's crown back to Philly, and that is toppling the right-wing ratings champ, the Fox News Channel.

The Snider-funded RightNetwork -- with a looser approach to conservative topics, including a so-called comedy show and a jocular frontman in sit-com star Kelsey Grammer -- is hoping to come to your cable box as early as this summer.Snider -- whose investment in RightNetwork is personal and not linked to his role as chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, which already owns the locally popular Comcast Sportsnet on cable as well as the Flyers, 76ers and the Wachovia Center --had earlier posted a statement.

“We're creating a welcome place for millions and millions of Americans who've been looking for an entertainment network and media channel that reflects their point-of-view. RightNetwork will be the perfect platform to entertain, inform and Connect with the American majority about what's right in the world.”

Snider, 77, a longtime backer of programs related to the queen of self-centeredness, libertarian philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand, has been more public in his support of conservative causes in recent years. He was a major donor to a now-defunct group called Freedom's Watch that supported the disastrous terrorism and Middle East policies of then-President George W. Bush, and his decision to invite then-GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin to drop the puck at the Flyers' 2008 drew a mix of cheers and boos.

Now, in entering the crowded and competitive world of politics on cable TV, Snider and his partners in the RightNetwork may have taken on a tougher mission, economically, than getting the 76ers back to the playoffs.

Ed Arke, who chairs the communications department as Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., said it will be difficult to convince conservatives to change the channel away from Fox News and its star line-up of Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity. “Fox in particular, is a very personality driven network,” Arke said. “They recruited star-power when they initially went on the air and had the benefit of having a stable of recognizable talent as they were building audience. 24/7 cable news can't survive on the promise something big is going to happen.”

Like any cable start-up, the prospect of success for a venture like RightNetwork depends to some extent on the quality of shows but also its ability to get the nation's cable and satillite providers to carry it in a good spot on the dial. As for programming, the proposed line-up on RightNetwork -- as posted for a preview on its website, -- is slanted more toward what could be called “conservative entertainment” and away from the newsier approach of Fox.

There is, for example, a right-leaning comedy show, “Evan Sayet's Right 2 Laugh,” with standup comics making predictable jokes about President Barack Obama's teleprompter and buying an Obama coin “because any collector will tell you a coin is worth a lot more when there's an obvious mistake on it.”

There's also a reality show called “Running” about six novice conservative candidates, and “Politics and Poker” with bombastic new-media star Andrew Breitbart, who hasn't had much luck with videotaped ventures as of late.

The previews are introduced by “Cheers” and “Frasier” star Grammer, one of Hollywood's best-known conservatives, who hails the network as “all that's right in the world.”

There was considerable discussion yesterday -- fueled by some confusion in initial news reports -- over whether Snider and the network would receive backing from another Philadelphia institution -- Comcast Corp., which is currently seeking approval for its majority stake in NBC-Universal. Comcast Corp. issued a statement late yesterday that it is not an investor in RightNetwork and that it is evaluating the content of the new channel for possible addition to its channel lineup, as it would with any other start-up cable network.