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TV NETWORKS SCRAMBLE TO PREPARE HOCKEY SCHEDULE
Published January 12, 1995
With yesterday's settlement, local broadcasting and TV networks began rushing to put together hockey coverage for the abbreviated season. ESPN and Fox both were waiting on a season schedule from the league to finalize plans. ESPN will have 14 telecasts, with a 39-game schedule for ESPN2 (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 1/12). Fox, who just signed a five-year $155M deal with the league, was scheduled to make its debut January 21 with the All-Star Game. Fox Sports spokesperson Vince Wladika told THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY yesterday that the original marketing plan will continue. Wladika: "We have a marketing plan. The plan itself was a nine month plan, now it just has to be scrunched and be done in 90 days, or however it is when we first come on the air." Wladika said it was doubtful that Fox could begin promotions this weekend, during the Cowboys/49ers NFC Championship game, saying "at this late date it doesn't look optimistic that we would be able to get something on time to put on the air. ... The whole basic premise on selling the game, whether its marketing, advertising, promotion, etc. doesn't change. That all remains exactly the same as we envisioned it back in early October and late September. All that marketing doesn't change. It is still the same sport, it is still the same players" (THE DAILY). OTHER NETWORK NEWS: In Canada, when the NHL confirms a schedule, CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" will get first pick of coverage, TSN second, and then local deals (Vancouver PROVINCE, 1/12). Ron Harrison, VP of Molstar Communications, the production wing for Canadiens rights-holder Molson Breweries, said sheduling is a "nightmare": "Normally, you'd have the better part of September to work these things out. Now, you've got to deal with all the same problems within a 48-hour time frame" (Allan Ryan, TORONTO STAR, 1/12). The No. 1 announcing team for Fox's hockey telecasts is reportedly Mike Emrick and John Davidson. A second team of Sean McDonough, and ex-Islander Denis Potvin is also a possiblity. James Brown is "the top candidate" for studio host (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 1/12). A WORD FROM THEIR SPONSORS: Tony Ponturo, VP of Corporate and Media Sports Marketing for Anheuser-Busch, one of the NHL's marketing partners, released the following to THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY: The settlement "is obviously good news for Anheuser-Busch and our Bud Ice brand family. With Bud Ice, we plan...on following through with the original and complete marketing and advertising program designed specially for the NHL and, most importantly, its fans (THE DAILY). John Helyar notes that A-B was prepared to build the identity of its new Ice Draft around being the "official beer of the NHL," but that they were left to "swallow a lot of NHL pocket schedules and forgo other promotions" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/12). CBC Spokesperson Tom Curzon said major advertisers, such as Molson and Ford Motors of Canada, have confirmed their ad commitments for the season, but other sponsors have found "alternative homes" for their dollars. McKim Media of Canada will try to negotiate discounts for some of its clients that advertise on NHL games if audience "levels dip from historic levels" (Marina Strauss, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 1/12).