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NHL SHOOTS AND SCORES WITH FOX BROADCAST DEAL
Published September 12, 1994
The NHL Board of Governors is expected to ratify today a $155M, five-year TV deal with Fox, marking the first time the league will have regular season, playoff, and Stanley Cup finals games broadcast on a regular basis since the '74-'75 season. A joint NHL/Fox news conference in New York is scheduled for tomorrow (mult., 9/10-12). Smith Barney media analyst Bill Meyers told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY this morning: "The NHL hasn't had a significant presence on broadcast television. So, this is as important for the league as it is for Fox" (DAILY sources, 9/12). HERE'S HOW IT WORKS: Final details have not been made public, but Fox, which reaches 90M homes, will reportedly kick- off its hockey schedule with the January 21 All-Star Game; air at least 12 games of the week on Sunday afternoons through April 9; cover a playoff game weekly; and air a number of Stanley Cup Finals games in prime time. Coverage may be regionalized (mult., 9/10-12). "Fox will also...be guaranteed exclusive national rights to a Stanley Cup Game 7, should one be played" (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 9/12). REVENUE SHARING: The deal "reportedly assures $31M annually to the NHL under a unique financing plan in which the league will sell and keep advertising revenue until it reaches its guarantee. If it falls short, Fox would make up the difference. If it exceeds the total, the league and Fox will share that revenue" (Jack Craig, BOSTON GLOBE, 9/10). THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS: 18-34 year olds are the name of the game and "Fox also has pledged an extensive promotional campaign for a sport whose demographic of younger viewers also fits nicely with the network's audience" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 9/10). SUDS AND DUDS: Anheuser-Busch and Nike are major backers, according to Stars President Jim Lites: "They were already in and said if you do network television, we will make this level of commitment. [Commissioner Gary Bettman] was then able to go into the networks with those commitments and make it happen" (Barry Horn, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). FOX HUNT: The NHL deal "is further evidence that Murdoch is determined to be a player in the bidding war for every major sports franchise" (Jim Benson, VARIETY, 9/9). "As it did in December when it won the rights to broadcast NFL games for four seasons, Fox again outbid CBS," which made a final offer of $150M. NBC and ABC did not bid at all, and Fox Chair Rupert Murdoch "personally negotiated the NHL deal" (Barry Horn, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). Smith Barney's Bill Meyers, in an interview this morning: "It adds the 'S' to Fox Sports" (DAILY sources, 9/12). ESPN REAX: The NHL has reportedly extended its deal with ESPN for two years and will allow the cable network to "televise late-round playoff games in home markets" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 9/12). In a statement released Friday, ESPN -- which has completed two years of its five-year, $80M cable deal with the NHL -- expressed approval of the Fox contract: "We have been saying all along we have been working closely with the NHL in its continuous efforts to obtain a broadcast network agreement in return for certain contract modifications, including greater exclusivity. We agree that greater broadcast network exposure will benefit all involved" (Barry Horn, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). LIGHTNING GOVERNOR DAVID LEFEVRE: "If the product goes well and picks up more viewers than expected, the package could increase even further" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/10). CAPITALS PRESIDENT DICK PATRICK: "This adds to our exposure and gives the perception in this country that hockey is becoming a national sport as opposed to a regional one as it has been in the past. If we're hard to find on TV, we're not major league, and that's more important than the finances of the deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/10). TIMING IS EVERYTHING: The Fox deal comes amid reports of a threatened work stoppage, so "the question now becomes whether revenue from the Fox deal would be enough to help avert a player walkout" (Jim Benson, VARIETY, 9/9). HELSINKI ACCORD: According to a source of THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, an agreement reached in Finland over the weekend between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation provides a framework for NHL players to go to the Olympics, as well as a possible joint NHL/IIHF Pan-European "Super-League" (DAILY sources, 9/12).