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Fox Sports "made its third volley for a major sports property Wednesday with a sizable bid for Wimbledon of about $120 million for four years." In a bid entered by News Corp. executive David Evans at a meeting in London with the All-England Tennis Club and IMG Chair Mark McCormack, Fox offered about $30M a year for what it termed "world rights." Rudy Martzke notes "that's substantially more than the combined" $21M incumbent NBC and cable partner HBO were paying for Wimbledon rights that have expired. Annual losses for NBC and HBO are estimated between $6- 7M. Fox's bid includes: The Fox Network and its FX cable, BSkyB satellite TV in Europe and Star TV satellite TV in Asia. NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol: "If the reports of their offer are true, then Mr. Murdoch has one very large piggy bank." Both NBC & HBO, which have been told that they can retain their rights if their offers are within 10% of other high bids, "figure to remain in the running when they meet with McCormack" tomorrow. A final decision is not expected until mid-November (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 10/20). AFFILIATE WATCH: "NBC lost no time yesterday in attacking a revised application filed by SF Broadcasting to purchase" a Green Bay TV station (WLUK), "contending that the new papers were incomplete and still represented an effort by the Fox network to mask the true extent of its control over ownership of the station." Fox is already facing a challenge at the FCC over whether its parent company, News Corp. of Australia, "really owns the Fox stations, in violation of FCC regulations" on foreign ownership (Bill Carter, N.Y. TIMES, 10/20). CBS ON ICE: In Dallas, Barry Horn comments on CBS' "Ice Wars" figure skating competition: "Would the sequel 'Ice Wars II -- The Never-Ending Search for Ratings' include a masked skater challenging [Nancy] Kerrigan in a winner-take-all match" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/19).
The FCC is expected to release its plans "spelling out just how the phone companies can offer video programs" over their own network. The seven baby bells have been "lobbying hard" to get the right to send video over their phone lines ("Bloomberg Business News," PBS, 10/20)....TCI is expected to announce an alliance today with Acclaim Entertainment. Analysts expect TCI and Acclaim to announce a service where game players will be able to play against each other through a nationwide network ("Bloomberg Business News," 10/20).... American Radio Systems cited the NHL lockout in suspending the pay of longtime Bruins radio announcer Bob Wilson (Kevin Paul Dupont, BOSTON GLOBE, 10/20).
Viacom Chair Sumner Redstone was the featured speaker at the National Press Club yesterday. Redstone said that Viacom expects to sell its cable systems to InterMedia Partners L.P., a group led by TCI. The sale, which could bring in more than $2B for Viacom, would help reduce the $9B debt Viacom took on in its buyout of Paramount Communications. It would also get the company out of the cable industry, which Redstone said is "subject to an onslaught of competition from the telephone industry" (Baltimore SUN, 10/20). After the speech, Redstone was asked about Blockbuster Park, the sports theme park slated to be built in South FL. Redstone said its's "premature" to discuss whether the park will proceed, "but called the original plans for the park 'very extensive and I think very soundly based and very attractive to the community'": "But we have not yet had time to resolve every issue that has come about as a result of the acquisition of Blockbuster. It may take us another couple of days to solve all those problems" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/20).