SBD/9/Sports Media


     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).
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