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Turner Sports President Harvey Schiller has been in discussions about how to make the Goodwill Games financially viable. Although the games have been a "perennially money- losing" event, organizers are committed to holding the games and are exploring a "winter edition" of the multi-sport contest. Schiller is expected to make an announcement on Friday regarding format changes, and "among the suggestions are cutting back the number of sports, trimming the 16-day schedule or including off days in that time period" (Joe Drape, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/8).
U.S. District Court Judge Hubert Will ruled on Friday that the NBA's efforts to force the Bulls off Chicago superstation WGN restrained trade in violation of antitrust laws. The ruling will allow telecasts of at least 30 games on WGN. The league had been trying to stop the Bulls from negotiating with WGN because the superstation reached 37% of the nation's households outside Chicago. WGN had wanted to show up to 41 games, but the NBA said WGN's "saturation" hurt the league and other "teams by reducing revenues from national, regional, and local telecasts." But Judge Will said the "NBA and the teams have never been more successful." The decision means millions for both the Bulls and the Tribune-owned WGN and will "likely protect superstations from similar attacks by other sports leagues, especially baseball." Judge Will did order the Bulls and WGN to pay the league a "reasonable" negotiated fee to show each game (Matt O'Connor, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/7). NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league would appeal the ruling, and put a "positive spin" on the decision by adding: "We wanted a fee. They didn't. ... What is important is these superstation telecasts are a league right, or the court wouldn't have upheld our right to a fee." Judge Will said evidence "revealed that superstation coverage of the Bulls and Hawks may actually have helped to promote" public interest in the league (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).
This week's BARRON'S includes an extensive piece on "The Race for Smart TV: Video-on-Demand Appears Fast Approaching and Software Companies Are Scrambling to Cash In" (Maggie Mahar, BARRON'S, 1/9 issue)....N.Y. POST's Phil Mushnick writes on John Madden's failure to criticize Emmitt Smith for taking off his helmet for the TV cameras. "Either Madden is operating off a double standard for stars or he came to the realization that the video game carrying his name features computerized players who rip off their helmets after a good play." Mushnick also took Fox to task on their "McDonald's Game Breaks," adding they "are nothing more than annoying, in-game commercials" (N.Y. POST, 1/9)....The Lifetime Channel made its "biggest venture into sports" last night with a one hour documentary on the all-female America3 America's Cup team. The channel has spent more than $1M in sponsorship money for America3 and production costs for two specials on women in sports (PHILA. INQUIRER, 1/7)....Seals Communication has signed a new agreement with ESPN to continue production of motorcycle sports for the cable channel. The new agreement will allow Seals to handle the advertising for ESPN's motorcycling program, "which is highly unusual" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/8)....SI airs a Valentine's Day swimsuit preview show on NBC (EXTRA, 1/6).