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DirecTV Inc., a unit of GM Hughes Electronics, announced a deal yesterday to carry more than 400 regular-season NBA games on its direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service. DirecTV customers will be able to subscribe to the "NBA League Pass" starting on December 1. The package will include games not shown on local broadcast and cable channels and will cost $149 to residential users. DirecTV plans to carry more than 700 NBA games in '95-96. DirecTV President Eddy Hartenstein: "With exciting action from the NBA, combined with our other professional and collegiate sports packages, sports fans of any team will be able to watch the games they want through the convenience of an 18-inch satellite dish." NBA Commissioner David Stern: "We continue to explore innovative ways to provide our fans with additional NBA programming. DirecTV is an exciting complement to our national broadcast partners, NBC and Turner Sports." DirecTV already carries expanded NFL coverage through "NFL Sunday Ticket" (DirecTV). "The exclusive programming only adds to concerns that DirecTV will steal market share from cable TV system operators. Some money managers are predicting that DirecTV will snare as much as 10 percent of cable's 56 million subscribers by the end of the decade" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/30). The NBA is expected to announce another deal today with DBS service PrimeStar Partners (W.S. JOURNAL, 11/30).
NBC will file a petition with the FCC today "asserting that the stations that form the heart of Fox are illegally foreign- owned." In today's N.Y. TIMES, Bill Carter calls NBC's action a "direct challenge to the very existence of the Fox television network" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/30). NBC has sought FCC examination into Fox's role in the purchases of several local affiliates by SF Broadcasting, a joint venture between Fox Television Stations and Savoy Pictures Entertainment (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/30). DID ABC/CAP CITIES OPEN "PANDORA'S BOX"? Some Hollywood execs claimed that the deal between ABC/Cap Cities and the "Dream Team" of Spielberg/Geffen/Katzenberg "has opened a Pandora's Box ... by agreeing for the first time to share a portion of advertising revenue, predicting that other suppliers will demand the same terms." One studio exec: "Once a network starts doing something nobody has done before, it is going to make people want it in their deals." Other studio execs and producers complained that more network-developed entertainment programming will limit the time slots available for shows developed externally (Hall & Braxton, L.A. TIMES, 11/30). If the networks do begin sharing ad revenues, one possible response to any "bottom line" reductions would be to sell more 30-second spots (Kevin Goldman, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/30). WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE BUYOUT TALK? The talk of a reshuffling of the network landscape "has faded away faster than a low-rated television series," writes Alan Citron of the L.A. TIMES. Discussions about CBS and NBC, which were heated just weeks ago, have "fizzled" according to one would-be dealmaker. "Industry sources blame the rancid deal environment on everything from inflated network values to nettlesome government regulations and complex cross-ownerships." Ted Turner "remains in the game," although he is "frustrated" by complications involving his partners, Time Warner and TCI. Disney could make another network bid "if and when prices become more reasonable. And Viacom could always enter the fray" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/30). SWEEPS WINNERS: CBS leads the other three networks with only two nights remaining in the November sweeps, gaining an average rating/share of 13.1/21. For the season, CBS only trails ABC by one-tenth of a ratings point. But there is good news for others. ABC leads among adults 18-49. NBC leads Thursday night, the No. 1 evening for 18-49s. Fox has posted sweeps gains of 10% in 18-49s, 18-34s, 25-54s and a 7% gain in household ratings (Michelle Greppi, N.Y. POST, 11/30). Ad buyer Paul Schulman, who notes CBS won on the strength of specials, not its regular schedule: "If you ask me who really won the sweeps, I'd say Fox. They're up in every major category for regularly scheduled programming, and the other networks are down" (USA TODAY, 11/30). NFL'S FOURTH-QUARTER: As for NFL broadcasts, NBC retook the lead over Fox with an average of 12.0/28, topping Fox's 11.8/28. "This is NBC's first lead this late into the season since 1980, and its highest 12-week average since 1985" (Milton Kent, Baltimore SUN, 11/30). ABC's Monday Night 49ers-Saints game got a 16.3. "MNF's" 17.4 average is up 4% from '93 (Dave Dye, USA TODAY, 11/30).
Viacom-owned Paramount Television Group is expected to announce today that it will buy Boston independent station WSBK- TV from New World Communications in a deal reportedly worth more than $100M, according to a report in this morning's BOSTON HERALD. WSBK is the broadcast home to the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. Viacom sources say the deal also includes the 20% of the regional sports cable-channel New England Sports Network (NESN) owned by New World/WSBK. The other 80% of NESN is owned by the Red Sox (48%) and the Bruins (32%). Paramount hopes to use WSBK as Boston's home for its fifth network, planned to launch on Monday and Tuesday nights only in January '95. The impact on sports programming should be "relatively minimal" at first, at least until Paramount extends its programming beyond Mondays and Tuesdays. In the event of "sports and entertainment collisions," there is the possibility that more Red Sox or Bruins games would be moved to NESN -- "thereby increasing the value of the pay cable operation" -- and more Celtics games moved to SportsChannel. For now, Paramount "is embracing sports." But should WSBK's sports load become too heavy for the network, Tribune-owned WLVI could enter the picture. The Red Sox have one year left on their WSBK contract; Celtics and Bruins have longer- term deals. The deal is subject to FCC approval, which could be at least 90 days (Jim Baker, BOSTON HERALD, 11/30).