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In a development "certain to send shock waves" through men's golf, Fox Broadcasting said that it plans to co-sponsor a new golf tour in 1995. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem responded quickly, saying he would attempt to bar PGA pros from joining. According to leaked reports, Fox would co-sponsor the tour with Executive Sports, an event management firm in Delray Beach, FL, and would televise about eight tournaments. There would be 30 to 40 players competing for total prize money in excess of $25M. The '94 PGA Tour encompassed 50 events with prize money of $82M. Fox Sports spokesperson Vince Wladika told AP that Executive Sports approached Fox with the golf proposal. Greg Norman, "who has sought a world tour for golf's top players for a long time," has met with Executive Sports officials about the idea. Norman, who will host his Franklin Funds Shark Shootout beginning this Friday, reportedly will call a players meeting today about the new tour. Yesterday, Finchem released a statement about the new Fox tour, "even though there has been no official announcement about the tour's creation" (Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES, 11/16). FINCHEM REAX: In his statement, Finchem said the PGA Tour supports more int'l competition, but only if such projects meet certain rules: "They must benefit golf, have the support of all golf organizations and be structured to help existing tours." Finchem went on to state that the proposed Fox/Executive Sports Tour, "fails to meet any of these three criteria." More from Finchem's statement: "This proposal would have a negative impact on existing events. It would result in fewer playing opportunities for the great majority of our members and an inevitable reduction in the $24.7 million raised for charity in the communities where our tournaments were played this year" (PGA Tour). Finchem also warned that if the events are staged, the PGA Tour will fulfill its long-term agreements with TV nets, title sponsors and tournaments by "enforcing our television release and conflicting event regulations." The PGA Tour does not allow its members to play in events that occur simultaneously at the same time as Tour events (Thomas Bonk, L.A. TIMES, 11/16). PLAYER REAX: Golfer Peter Jacobsen "said there isn't much excitement for the tour because it could wreck the current structure of the PGA Tour": "It could make more money for the players. But we need to learn from other sports. Greed has ruined baseball and hockey, and its well on its way to ruining basketball" (USA TODAY, 11/16).
Liberty Sports, the sports programming arm of TCI's Liberty Media, is changing the names of its owned and operated regional sports network to Prime Sports. The name change is part of Liberty Sports' bid to unify its regional networks. Liberty owns and operates nine regionals: Home Sports Entertainment (TX), KBL (Pittsburgh), Prime Sports Network-Intermountain West, Prime Sports Network-Midwest, Prime Sports Network-Rocky Mountain, Prime Sports Network-Upper Midwest, Prime Sports Northwest, Prime Ticket and Sunshine Network (FL). Liberty also owns interest in other regional sports networks: Home Team Sports (Mid-Atlantic), SportsChannel Pacific, SportsChannel Philadelphia, SportsChannel Chicago and SportSouth. Liberty Sports President Ed Frazier: "We feel a move toward more consistent programming throughout the regions will provide today's mobile society the ability to find their favorite show at the same time every day, no matter the time zone" (Liberty Sports). WHAT IT MEANS: In an interview yesterday with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, Home Sports Entertainment GM John Heitke talked about the changes: "We're trying to become more viewer friendly, and one of steps in doing that is to develop some continuity across the nation with a common branding identity and I think Prime Sports allows us to take a real good first step in that direction." Asked if the change is a sign that Liberty Sports wants to compete with ESPN on a national level: "I don't think it's a direct competition to what ESPN does. They are a national network and do the things that they do very well. We have built our strengths over the years on being able to bring in the regional and home town team audiences. What this signifies is the first step in trying to create a more simplistic approach to our networks, not only to our viewers across the country but to advertisers as well" (THE DAILY). NATIONAL AD SALES: Liberty also has decided to create its own national sales service in-house, replacing Group W Sports Marketing which had previously sold the national spot time for the regional networks. National ad sales offices will be located in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco (Liberty). Heitke explained the benefits of this change: "If I'm a media buyer in New York City, ... and I'm buying baseball, I'm getting the Marlins in Florida, the Rangers in Texas, the Angels in California, the Pirates in Pittsburgh." Previously, a media buyer would have to deal with each regional network separately (THE DAILY). PROGRAMMING: Programming will be restructured to create uniformity throughout the regionals, while maintaining their regional identities. Prime Sports programs will be aired so as to be seen during the same time slots across the four continental U.S. time zones. Liberty plans more emphasis on women's and children's sports programming. Another significant change will be the national roll-out of a sports news show, "Press Box." The show will include national sports news, with a portion of each telecast dedicated to highlighting regional sports and teams. Production of "Press Box" will occur eight times a day, so that the show will be seen live at 6:30pm and 10:30pm in each time zone (Liberty).
Tribune Co. and two black entertainment-industry businessmen, Quincy Jones and former NFL great Willie Davis, "are expected today to announce a partnership to acquire" U.S. TV stations. Tribune is expected to invest several hundred million dollars in stations around the country, while being the minority shareholder in the venture. The group is expected to take advantage of federal regulations, "which grant tax advantages to minority-controlled partnerships that buy stations" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/16). The creation of the Jones-Tribune group "is the latest in a string of repercussions from Fox Television's unexpected move earlier this year to snatch away eight station affiliates from rival CBS." Other partners in the venture are said to include Geraldo Rivera and "Soul Train" producer Don Cornelius. One of the first stations the group is said to be purchasing is WATL in Atlanta, currently a Fox O&O. WATL would likely become an affiliate of Time Warner's planned WB Network (Lippman & Hall, L.A. TIMES, 11/16).