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In '95, ESPN2 will televise the Baseball Across America Tour, a series of 20 games from all levels of the minors. The series will be featured primarily on Thursday evenings. The telecasts "will center around the special elements of minor league baseball -- its fascinating ballparks, current and rising stars and unique fan promotions." Mike Moore, President of NABPL, which announced the deal jointly with ESPN2 at the minor league winter meetings in Dallas: "Our fans have long enjoyed the entertainment derived from a night at the ballpark. The 'Baseball Across America Tour' will bring this entertainment to millions more" (ESPN2).
The USGA and NBC Sports will launch "USGA GolfFest: Inside the Ropes" -- an "interactive traveling golf festival that will debut at selected USGA championships in 1996," according to an announcement by USGA Exec Dir David Fay and NBC Sports Senior VP Jon Miller. In '96, GolfFest will be held in conjunction with the U.S. Open (Oakland Hills CC, Birmingham, MI), the U.S. Senior Open (Cantebury Golf Club, Cleveland, OH), the U.S. Women's Open (Pine Needles Resort, Southern Pines, NC), and the U.S. Amateur (Pumpkin Ridge CC, Cornelius, OR). The USGA and NBC hope to extend GolfFest to other championships in later years. Miller: "The NBA has Jam Session, the NFL has NFL Experience, MLB has FanFest and now golf will have its own interactive golf festival in USGA GolfFest." Interactive technology, instruction and analysis, course design, merchandise, travel tips and resort information will all be components of GolfFest. NBC and USGA will use an independent event marketer to help "design and implement" GolfFest (NBC).
The NCAA announced a new TV contract granting CBS the exclusive rights to the Division I Men's Basketball Championship from 1995 through 2002. The new deal replaces an existing contract, which ran from 1991 through 1997, and extends it for five years. CBS will pay the NCAA $1.725B for the rights to the men's basketball championship, two games of the College Baseball World Series, the Women's Gymnastics Championship, the Div. I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the Div. II Men's Basketball Championship. Annual payments under the new deal will average $215.6M; they had been $143M/year (NCAA). THE WORD FROM BLACK ROCK: CBS Sports President David Kenin: "We wanted to aggressively plan our future further out than we have in the past. The NCAA basketball tournament has become a huge, huge event, and we see it continuing to be powerful programming" (Prentis Rogers, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/7). CBS Sports VP Len DeLuca: "We've built a strategy since early this year to make college sports our foundation. This deal is a recognition of the qualitative value of the CBS-NCAA relationship. And this is a deal that has been profitable and will continue to be" (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 12/7). Grey Advertising Senior VP Jon Mandel, on CBS: "They essentially had to do everything they could to protect their franchise. It's one of the best in the business" (John Helyar, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/7). Michael Hiestand: "Whether CBS overpaid, it still has one ace on network rivals who've signed the pros: The collegians can't go on strike" (USA TODAY, 12/7). CBS "has done well since losing the NFL" -- gaining 2/3 of next year's bowl alliance, regular season Big East and SEC basketball/football and the '98 Winter Games, and extending its Big Ten deal (Milton Kent, Baltimore SUN, 12/7). WINDFALL: Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany: "It's more than I expected. I think the Fox factor came into play. I think CBS' desire to maintain this product came into play. It was the right time to come into the market" (Steve Weiberg, USA TODAY, 12/7). NCAA Exec Dir Cedric Dempsey: "The partnership between the NCAA and CBS has been positive and beneficial for both organizations. ... The CBS agreement will provide needed resources for NCAA members that are struggling to finance comprehensive sports programs" (NCAA). RIGHTS FEES: "TV rights fees still look like they have the growth potential of Jack's famous beanstalk" (Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY, 12/7). The price for the new deal is the largest amount ever guaranteed for any TV sports package (Bill Knight, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 12/7). WOMEN'S HOOPS: The deal did not include the Women's Div. I Basketball Championship, which CBS has carried since 1982. ESPN announced this morning they will begin carrying the Women's Final Four and 18 other NCAA championships in '95-96. ESPN's deal runs through 2001-2 (ESPN).