News Corp. Shuffles Cable Deck

News Corp. on Wednesday announced it is restructuring operations at Fox Networks Group, in a move that places the reins of the entertainment channels in the hands of Peter Rice and gives David Hill oversight of the company’s sports properties.

In his new role, entertainment chairman Rice will oversee FX and Fox Movie Channel, while Hill will manage Fuel TV, Speed, Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports en Español, as well as the group’s 19 regional sports networks. Both executives will report to Fox Networks Group chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra.

Rice will continue to run the Fox broadcasting network. His ascension comes less than a year after he moved to the television unit from Fox Searchlight, unseating Peter Ligouri as chairman of the Fox network. Ligouri has since signed on as chief operating officer of Discovery Communications.

Hill, who created Fox’ sports division back in 1993, retains the title of chairman and CEO, Fox Sports. He rejoined the company in March 2007, following a two-year stint as DirecTV’s entertainment president.

As a byproduct of the reshuffling, Fox National Cable Networks president Rich Battista is effectively out of a job, although News Corp. indicated that the 15-year Fox veteran is in talks about a potential new role within the company.

“Rich Battista is a valued member of this company and we hope to find a new opportunity for him in the near term,” said News Corp. deputy chairman, president and chief operating officer Chase Carey, by way of announcing the shifts. “This reorganization is not targeted at short-term change, but at maintaining our momentum while better aligning us in key content areas for longterm growth.”

Under the new structure, FX president and general manager John Landgraf will report to Rice, while the heads of the various sports properties will report to Hill. The latter group includes: Randy Freer, president of Fox Sports Networks; David Nathanson, executive vp and general manager of Fox Soccer Channel; Hunter Nickell, president of SPEED; Dermot McQuarrie and Raul De Quesada, senior vp and co-assistant general managers, Fox Sports en Español; and CJ Olivares, senior vp and general manager.

The remaining piece of the entertainment puzzle is National Geographic Channel, which previously had been managed by Battista and David Haslingden, CEO, National Geographic Channels Worldwide. Oversight of Nat Geo now lies solely with Haslingden, who reports to Vinciquerra.