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Blockbuster Entertainment shareholders approved the company's merger with Viacom, but not without reservations. About 60% of the 255M eligible shares were cast in favor of the merger (Dupont & Finefrock, MIAMI HERALD, 9/30). In New York, Martin Peers noted that Viacom's Sumner Redstone "is now the world's No. 2 media mogul." 95% of Viacom shareholders approved the deal. The merger makes Viacom the 2nd biggest U.S.-based media company in the world, after Time Warner. In just seven months, Redstone has taken Viacom from a $8.8B company to a $26B giant, following takeovers of Paramount and Blockbuster (N.Y. POST, 9/30). CNN interviewed Redstone and Viacom CEO Frank Biondi. Redstone: "We relentlessly refused to let the Blockbuster merger die." Redstone denied "reports and rumors" that Viacom is looking to buy CNN. Biondi pointed out the importance of having a net, but that the price of buying one would not be a "rational" purchase ("Moneyline," CNN, 9/29). WHAT'S NEXT FOR HUIZENGA? Friends have speculated that Huizenga would initially focus on his sports teams. But Huizenga notes: "You can't build a sports team." He ideally would like to acquire a company with sales between $300M and $500M and double its size. Huizenga: "At that size, you can double and double and double again." Some associates expect Huizenga to buy or start a cable network or broadcast TV station to showcase his sports teams. Others close to him expect him to acquire from Viacom the planned 2,500-acre entertainment complex -- Wayne's World -- that Blockbuster wants to develop (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/30).
Last week THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY reported on the OREGONIAN's decision to hire a full-time sports business writer. Well, there is one person who has been writing regular columns about the industry since 1989, and that is Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spent some time with Michael yesterday getting his take on the industry. Excerpts from our conversation follow. His column runs every Tuesday and Thursday. Frequently, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY will interview other people that cover sports as a business. Look for those in the months ahead. THE DAILY: How do you define the business of sports? HIESTAND: The definition is fairly broad -- pretty much everything that happened outside of a game or event. I do not write about why somebody went for a fourth down, or why someone is juggling their lineup in baseball. The business angle looks at how you see the games, what products are available for you to buy, what research says about consumer behavior, generally what's new and different. THE DAILY: When you write about the sports industry you try to provide a national perspective. What exactly do you look for in a story? HIESTAND: We try to focus on news that is interesting not only to people in the sports business, but also to the average fan. I think fans are becoming much more aware of the business side of sports, and that fans are hungry for information as they try to understand salary caps, television deals, and stadium construction. We try to make the business issues accessible to anyone who reads our sports coverage. THE DAILY: So, your audience is really the fan? HIESTAND: Ideally, I am writing for both and ideally there is news that is important for the industry and interesting to the fan, but -- bottom line -- I really do try to take a writing style that makes the issues accessible. For example, when the baseball network was created, there were a lot of stories about why this was done in terms of television networks and how the advertising would work. And that's all important, but when I wrote about it I broke it down a little bit for the viewer and said, "Okay, here's what you'll see and why you'll see it." THE DAILY: If someone from the industry is coming to you with news, what should they know beforehand? HIESTAND: To be honest, I'm pretty interested in hearing just about anything. But, what I always ask is "What's new about your story, what's interesting about it, and why should people care." I also look for news that has potential -- sometimes you can give a little twist to what seems like a real insider's story, and make it interesting to just about anybody. And, if I don't use a specific item, I'll often forward it to somebody else in our sports department. THE DAILY: This is a unique time for sports -- one sport is off the field, another is on its way. What do you think are some of the big picture implications? HIESTAND: The big question for me is consumer behavior in the future -- will consumers change their behavior because they have become jaded about lockouts or strikes? Will work stoppages have an affect on licensing and merchandising or the response to expansion teams. THE DAILY: What is the impact on the demand for sports industry news? HIESTAND: There are some people who might just throw up their hands and say this is all getting to be just like any other section of the paper: money and conflict. But there are some people who are interested in this and they're saying, "What on earth is going on?" -- these people would like to find out more about issues like the salary cap. THE DAILY: What are some of the industry trends you will be following? HIESTAND: Many of the trends that are interesting to me concern global marketing -- whether it is overseas expansion, merchandising, or television. Also, pay-per-view television, the blurring of traditional sports and entertainment lines, and, in ticket sales and merchandising, is there a limit on how high the ticket prices can go and how much sports merchandise people will buy?
Walt Disney World and ESPN will team up to develop studios at a new sports-themed resort where Disney guests can watch sports shows being broadcast, the two companies announced yesterday. ESPN's sports club will highlight Disney's BoardWalk, a new 45-acre sports-themed resort to be located between EPCOT and Disney-MGM studios near Orlando. The BoardWalk is scheduled to open in July 1996. BoardWalk broadens Disney's emphasis on sports-related themes. ESPN will periodically broadcast its regular shows, like SportsCenter, from the new studios. In addition, ESPN plans to use the studios to do nightly reports during spring training. ESPN spokesperson Rob Tobias: "We're expanding ESPN's brand name" (Lisa Backman, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 9/30). BATTLE OF SPORTS BARS: The N.Y. POST reports this morning that Ken Griffey Jr., Andre Agassi, Joe Montana, Shaquille O'Neal and Wayne Gretzky are all partners with Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl in the upcoming opening of the sports bar: Official All Star Cafe in New York. The five athletes also plan to open their cafe in Orlando in March, 1995, more than a year before ESPN opens its studios in Disney (Paul Tharp, N.Y. POST, 9/30).
In her review of Ken Burns' "Baseball," Paula Span notes that ratings were high enough "to propel a mighty marketing effort for related products" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/30)....CBS stock fell for the second day in a row after the network fell to third place in viewership ratings. It fell $16, to $320, NYSE trading (WASHINGTON POST, 9/30). ....HBO Sports President Seth Abraham says "neither NBC nor we will renew our Wimbledon deals in the exclusive" re-negotiating period which expires today. Rudy Martzke notes both CBS and Fox/fX (Fox's cable channel) will likely be bidders (USA TODAY, 9/30). Other possible bidders: Turner, USA Network, ABC and ESPN (N.Y. TIMES, 9/30).