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WB, Warner Bros.' addition to the broadcast TV market, kicks off tonight. In New York, Verne Gay notes that the network has a lot of similarities to Fox's start-up. Three of the shows slated for tonight compare with early Fox shows. "The reason WB has borrowed so freely from Fox's 'How to Start a Network' playbook is simply that the network's president and part-owner, Jamie Kellner, helped write it." Kellner was Fox's longtime president. Also, the United Paramount Network (UPN) begins January 16. "Observers say WB, as well as UPN, are beginning life at a propitious time. Foremost, the network marketplace for advertising time is booming ... and both networks report that they've sold millions in commercial time already." As for affiliates, WB will broadcast on all Tribune owned stations, as well as some small UHF stations. WGN (Chicago) will account for 20% of WB viewers (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 1/11).
CNN has moved its sports talk show "Calling All Sports" up 90 minutes to 11:30, just after their "Sports Tonight" (Baltimore SUN, 1/11)....SportsChannel Chicago Senior VP/GM Jim Corno on the NHL work stoppage and the effect of no Blackhawks telecasts: "You've got revenue you're losing and expenses you're saving. On the other side, a lot of savings are going into new programming, so in that regard, it costs us not to have the Hawks. ... But the big thing is you lose the product that bring people to the channel. It's a matter of viewership" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/10).
A proposed deal from Viacom to sell its cable systems for $2.3B to a minority partnership is under scrutiny by the FCC. The sale would save Viacom nearly $400M in capital gains taxes under a program to promote minority ownership in the TV industry. Senior officials at the agency say the deal will be closely examined, as the FCC is concerned it "will be a costly drain on federal tax revenue and will focus criticism on the FCC's programs to expand minority ownership in the TV and radio industry. Critics have attacked the deal as a tax "windfall" for Viacom and the minority ownership program as "a racially biased set-aside." Viacom is selling its cable systems to help pay off some of the debt it took on when they acquired Paramount Communications and merged with Blockbuster last year" (Paul Farhi, WASHINGTON POST, 1/11).
For the last 12 years, every Viking home game in Minneapolis has been on broadcast on local TV due to a unique fund from General Mills. The fund, which guaranteed home games would be televised locally if 90% of the tickets were sold 72 hours before the game, "ran dry last fall." Now the Vikings and local broadcast channels must face the same rules of every other NFL team. At the end of this season, WFTC-TV and KARE-TV teamed with the Vikings to run promotions and ads to get fans to buy tickets, and next fall that strategy will continue. Local TV stations will have to "expend more effort to air home games, and blackouts might be costly to their images and incomes." WTFC GM Rip Riordan said his station is now budgeting money to guarantee local broadcasts of some games next year, as Viking football greatly increased the visibility of the Fox affiliate. Vikings Marketing Dir Kernal Buhler said the team will help the stations identify which home games will be difficult to sell out, and are working on ways to increase sales (Rachel Blount, Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE, 1/10).