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NBC'S JON MILLER, ON NBC SPORTS AND THE TV LANDSCAPE
Published October 27, 1994
Since August 1994, Jon Miller has served as Senior VP of Programming at NBC Sports. In his present position and his previous capacity as NBC Sports VP of Program Planning and Development, he has been responsible for the development of all NBC Sports properties, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, Notre Dame football, the PGA Tour and AVP. He spoke yesterday with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY on the state of network sports coverage in general, and NBC in particular. THE DAILY: What does the baseball strike mean for NBC? MILLER: Obviously, it's very disappointing because we were very excited about The Baseball Network and our relationship. These guys had done a remarkable job in the face of some pretty daunting conditions, and they put together an organization in a very short amount of time. Then they went out and did what nobody thought they could --they restored value to the game. THE DAILY: Will The Baseball Network be able to survive when baseball comes back? MILLER: I don't know. It is not up to us, obviously. We certainly think they are better equipped than anybody out there to do a good job for baseball. When you strip away the rhetoric and the posturing, the fact of the matter is nobody is better able to market and sell your product than you are. Witness how well the NBA has done things. THE DAILY: Is there pressure on the other networks to follow Fox up the ladder on rights fees? MILLER: We are in the sports business because we think it is a good business to be in, in the sense that it does well for our affiliates, it makes money, it helps promote other programming. ... Different sports obviously have different strategic goals, but for the most part I would say [the execs at Fox] obviously have a business plan and some objectives and they know what they're doing. THE DAILY: Do you think the Olympics are a good buy at the ever-increasing prices? MILLER: The Olympics are the single biggest event in not only sport, but in entertainment -- as evidenced by the continuing popularity from countries that want to host it, advertisers that want to be associated with it, and networks that want to televise it. An advertiser who really understands his marketplace and understands what he is trying to do, will recognize that the Olympics is the best environment for him to be in. Nothing else in sports shows you the emotion and the ability to strive and to achieve. The Olympics aren't just about winning, they are about participating, about the long road getting there. For most companies, that tends to be a big part of their message. THE DAILY: What's the next AVP? Are there any other hot, new sports properties? MILLER: We were very fortunate with the AVP. It came at a time when we needed the programming when we lost baseball in 1989. The AVP guys were very cooperative and eager to work with us. We had good sponsorship support. It is probably -- in addition to the NBA -- the single most integrated sports property you can have. ... As far as what the next AVP is, I don't know. I don't think that when we got the AVP we knew that the AVP was the next AVP. THE DAILY: With viewers hungry for sports, is there any chance we will see any NBA games before Christmas? MILLER: The NBA knows their product better than anybody else. They know what works and they know the timing of it. These guys are the best there is. ... I don't think that we're looking to move up anytime soon, I think that we're going to have a very exciting first and second quarter of NBA programming. That's what we're sticking with. THE DAILY: The AFC is topping the NFC in the ratings for the first time in 15 years. Is that attributable to the NFC's shift to Fox? MILLER: No, I don't think it is attributable to that. There are a lot of reasons. We have done a good job promoting. I think that people really like our pre-game element, they see "NFL Live" as a very strong, information-filled pre-game show. ... There are also a lot of real strong football stories in the AFC right now, and a lot of very, very exciting players and quality of football that is being played. ... [But] I'm not going to kid you, the fact that they are the only game in town right now doesn't hurt. THE DAILY: What would a change in ownership at NBC -- a Ted Turner or Disney -- mean for sports programming? MILLER: That's really tough for me to comment on. These guys are all very smart businessmen and they have had great success wherever they have been. And I would think that whoever would come in would say that if this makes sense and if this is doing well, then we continue. And if it's not, why not? It's not just sports. It would be the same for stations, business, news, entertainment, video, cable, international, ancillary marketing, promotion, you name it. That's the way successful business strategists like that look at programming.