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In this week's VARIETY, John Dempsey reports that some affiliate reaction to the Fox-NHL deal was "decidedly mixed" (9/19-26 issue)....Time Warner is "scrambling to keep disgruntled advertisers from abandoning its much-maligned interactive" TV test in Orlando (AD AGE, 9/26 issue)....NBC spokesperson Ed Markey has suggested that Boston has "abruptly transformed from the weakest" AFC outpost to one of its strongest. Only Cleveland had a higher Nielsen number last Sunday (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/27)....Beginning November 20 and continuing for eight Sunday afternoons, The Nashville Network will air live coverage of "NASCAR Winter Heat" from the Tucson, AZ Raceway Park (NASCAR NEWS, 9/94 issue)....The Royals have agreed to a 3-year contract with Stauffer Communications for the club's radio rights (AP, 9/27)....Rudy Martzke reports that both ABC and CBS are vying for the Citrus Bowl with a price tag topping ABC's current $1.6M annually (USA TODAY, 9/28).... Prime will air live coverage, November 4-6, of the first-ever Gene Sarazen World Open Championship from Braselton, GA (THE DAILY).
In an interview on the "Nightly Business Report," GE Chair Jack Welch said he is talking to "every single player" interested in NBC, but in the end he may end up keeping the network. Asked if he is satisfied with NBC's performance, Welch said its "cumulative cash flow" has been "somewhere in the neighborhood of $3B." Welch then clarified that he is looking for a "changing relationship" for NBC. Welch: "It has to be an option to sell. Do I regard it to be a highly probable option? No. We're more likely to get bigger and broader in this industry" (PBS, 9/27). WHAT ABOUT THE FIFTH NET? In New York, Johnnie Roberts reports that Time Warner's bid for NBC "is sparking vigorous internal opposition from some of Time Warner's top executives." The NBC talks have been headed by Time Warner Chair Gerald Levin and outside adviser, Oded Aboodi. But some close to the company say Warner Bros. Co-CEO Robert Daly and Michael Fuchs, chair of Time Warner's HBO unit, "believe that buying a piece of NBC is foolhardy and potentially harmful to Time Warner's other interest," including efforts to launch a 5th network in conjunction with Tribune Co. Tribune execs "also are said to be puzzled by the NBC talks and are concerned about Time Warner's commitment to their venture" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/28). RATINGS WATCH: The first week of the new TV season produced "encouraging results" for three nets, "but dismal news for CBS." CBS was "soundly beaten" by ABC and NBC and even lost to Fox among the younger viewers "who are most valued by advertisers." It was the first time any network had been beaten by Fox in the "premiere week among viewers" aged 18-49. The disappointing ratings "only added to the pressure on the network's executives, who are already unsettled about persistent rumors that CBS might be sold" (Bill Carter, N.Y. TIMES, 9/28). CABLE WATCH: TCI could wrap up the $2.4B purchase of Viacom's cable-TV systems as early as next week. Talks are set to resume after tomorrow's vote by Viacom shareholders on a merger with Blockbuster Entertainment. TCI is not "technically the buyer, however. A partnership connected with TCI, Intermedia Partners, will buy the systems both to help TCI avoid going over the FCC's cable ownership limits and reportedly for tax reasons" (N.Y. POST, 9/28).
TBS President Ted Turner used an address before the National Press Club as an opportunity to lash out at Time Warner, claiming that they are using their position as a TBS stockholder to block Turner from purchasing a network. Time Warner owns about 20% of TBS stock. ON TIME WARNER: "I had a basic deal worked out to acquire NBC, a little over a year ago, for about $5B. ... And I went to Time Warner with that, and they said no. ... When they told me not to buy the Home Shopping Network, I said O.K. When they wouldn't let me buy FNN years ago, before NBC ended up buying it, I said O.K. ... They said the network business is a lousy business. You don't want to be in the network business. But now, they're trying to get a network." Later, Turner said: "I haven't made any charges; I haven't filed any lawsuits; I haven't filed any complaints with the FCC or the Justice Department ... yet. And I hope I don't have to" (THE DAILY). GE RESPONDS: In an interview with "Nightly Business Report," GE Chair Jack Welch denied Turner's claim that he had a deal to buy NBC: "I can't believe Ted Turner said that. Ted Turner never had a deal to buy NBC" (PBS, 9/27). ON TV RIGHTS: Turner used the World Cup TV rights as an example of why he needs a network: "We carried the World Cup four years ago [and] paid them a fair price. This time, when the World Cup came up, we were the incumbents, but ABC and ESPN came in, and ESPN said we'll put a number of the games on our network that reaches everybody. And the soccer people said, 'look Ted, it's not even a question of dollars; we need that exposure'" (THE DAILY). ON THE '96 GAMES: Turner: "I helped get the Olympics in 1996 because CNN is from there [Atlanta]. I couldn't even bid for the Olympics, not allowed to be a bidder. NBC, ABC, CBS, yes. ... And the local people in Atlanta want to know why I'm not enthusiastic about the Olympics. I don't even have a smidgen. I'm able to buy tickets in the 50th row back. I'm tired of it" (THE DAILY). ON BASEBALL: Turner on baseball's anti-trust exemption: "It doesn't make any difference to me. We have more trouble than any other sport, and we've got the exemption. ... I never thought it meant diddly-squat." Turner added that the strike "could" break the MLBPA: "It seriously can weaken it, let's say, but I mean, the players union gambled that the owners would cave in rather than lose the World Series, and they've used up most of their leverage" (THE DAILY).
CNBC's "Market Wrap" featured an interview with Women's Sports Network President and Co-CEO Terri Kassel about the net's Fall '95 launch. Kassel said the net's target audience is primarily young men and women. Kassel, who noted that "more men watch women's sports than women," said programming will include collegiate sports, pro soccer and fast-pitch softball. According to Kassel, the advertising response has thus far been "overwhelmingly positive." Kassel: "Advertisers see it as a way to reach men in a very advertiser-friendly environment." Kassel said she doesn't have "unrealistic ratings aspirations": "This is not a ratings-driven project and probably won't be for several years." Kassel plans to "build an audience by educating the audience and letting the viewer get to know the athletes better." She said the net would "like to launch with 15 million homes," and that "lots of millions" of dollars are involved in the project ("Market Wrap," CNBC, 9/27).