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TURNER & NBC: In New York, John Durie reports on what TBS Chair Ted Turner needs before he can go ahead with his bid for NBC. First, Turner must sell "a sizable asset like his cartoon network in exchange" for Time Warner's equity stake in his company. Then, he needs TCI Chair John Malone to sell down his 24% stake in TBS to 5% to get around restrictions on broadcast TV nets owning cable operating systems. GE CEO Jack Welch would like to sell NBC for more than $5.5B "to help the market forget his Kidder Peabody debacle. If you want to sell an asset, it's a good idea to create some noise to establish a bidding race, and Turner is a convenient vehicle to meet this end" (N.Y. POST, 10/27). CBS AD WATCH: Despite being the No. 1 net in ratings the past three years, CBS is "being forced to give back to advertisers free commercial time to compensate for a severe ratings shortfall in specific age groups." Ad execs estimate that CBS will have to give back $25-40M in ad time to satisfy sponsors. Privately, CBS sources say the figure is closer to $25M. Last year, CBS had to give sponsors about $10M in free ad time (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/27). FOX FIGHTING ON: Fox Sports, which has an offer pending for Wimbledon, might add boxing, possibly on Saturdays. Fox Sports President David Hill: "We're the new kid on the block. We're looking at opportunities in all sports" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 10/27).
CBS announced its 6-year deal with the Mobil Cotton Bowl yesterday, with the arrangement set to begin in '96. The Cotton will join the FedEx Orange and the Dial Fiesta Bowls on CBS in '96. NBC will finish a 3-year deal with the Cotton with this New Year's game. On Tuesday, the Cotton "solidified a plan to keep its ties" with SWC teams once the league fractures and four teams join the Big Eight to form the Big 12, while three teams join the WAC. The '96 Cotton Bowl will feature the SWC or Big Eight runner-up against the WAC champion or Pac-10 runner-up. For the next five years, the Big 12 runner-up will be the host team against either the WAC champion or Pac-10 runner-up. The plan was made possible by a deal with the Thrifty Car Rental Holiday Bowl, which will take the two teams not picked by the Cotton for a late-December game in San Diego. If the WAC champ or Pac-10 runner-up is in one of the Tier I bowl games, the Cotton or Holiday may invite Notre Dame if it is not invited to the Tier I games (Jim Baker, BOSTON HERALD, 10/27). Liberty Sports will conduct ad sales for the game and will assure CBS "a sizeable profit by buying time for an average of almost $800,000 a year" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 10/27). OTHER BOWL NEWS: The Hall of Fame Bowl is expected to announce the details of a 6-year deal with the Big Ten and SEC. Beginning in '96, the Fame Bowl will match the 3rd place teams from the SEC and Big 10, with a payout of $1.5M to each school. The game also renewed its contract with ESPN for the 11:00am (ET) time slot on New Year's Day (Liz Robbins, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/27). One ESPN official promised to make the Hall of Fame Bowl "the crown jewel of our Bowl Week presentation" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/27).
ACTV, Inc. and Prime Ticket Network, a subsidiary of TCI's Liberty Sports, have reached agreement with Ventura County, CA, Cablevision to participate in the "LA Project," which will focus on interactive sports, educational and entertainment programming as well as advertising. The three partners hope to begin the "LA Project" in mid-1995 with interactive enhancement of Prime Ticket programming, which will include the Lakers and Kings among other offerings. ACTV, Prime Ticket and Ventura will also work with the William Morris Agency, ASI Market Research and Next Century Media in the project's development (Prime Ticket)....The Penguins and KBL Sports Network are negotiating a long-term deal expected to "among other things, give the network some merchandising rights" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/27).