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SITV will feature figure skater Christopher Bowman, a two- time Olympian. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writer E.M. Swift chronicles the rise and fall of Bowman who has been struggling to "overcome years of substance abuse." Bowman, who says he is now clean and sober, is currently a skating instructor in MA. The program airs on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" this Saturday, 4:30pm EST (SITV)....ESPN's Dick Vitale said that NCAA basketball players should get $150-200 a month: "The bottom line is these kids deserve it. They're selling merchandise on campuses with their jerseys, etc ... When you think of $1.7 billion paid for the rights for the tournament and the money that's on the college campuses with the merchandise we just talked about, they really deserve it" ("SportsCenter," 3/16).
The success Major Market Network (MMN) in starting up a basketball unwired network is examined by INSIDE MEDIA's Wayne Friedman & Langdon Brockington. MMN, a division of Cox Enterprises, is an unwired network that pools together ad slots/spots from TV stations and/or regional cable networks and packages them into a national advertising buy. The company is better known for its network for baseball. According to MMN VP/GM Jerry Puccio, the basketball network has "enjoyed modest success. Deals have been made with six advertisers," but Puccio declined to identify the sponsors. For the past few years organizations such as Group W sports Marketing and Rainbow Sports Sales "have been selling a variety of unwired basketball networks, consisting primarily of regional cable networks." But the problem for some advertisers is that those unwired networks are "largely dependent on cable time slots, on average they garner" only 50% of U.S. TV households. MMN promises 83-87% reach, "thanks to healthy coverage via broadcast stations." A major component of the lineup is WGN-Chicago, which reaches 37% of the country. Every NBA team has signed up with MMN except the Blazers and Jazz. Both of those clubs' broadcast games are completely sold out. MMN promises a 5.5 Nielsen national rating, selling each spot for $75,000. "Media buyers say that if MMN can deliver that rating," the cost-per-minute for its ads would be comparable to those on NBC's NBA telecasts. MMN has had a hard time selling baseball this year. So far Puccio has six incumbent advertisers that bought packages at the normal rate, which is $80,000 a spot for an 11 rating. Last year, MMN signed up 25 advertisers, pulling in $12M (COWLES BUSINESS MEDIA, 3/16).
CBS Sports President David Kenin said the network has told the NFL of its "high interest" in a variety of NFL options. Those options include going after NBC's AFC package in the next negotiation, but as USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke notes, CBS has more "viable options." It could go after a new Thursday night package of 17 games, the Sunday night TNT/ESPN cable package or, "less likely," ABC's Monday Night package. Kenin: "That's legitimate. We have asked the NFL what it wants to do in its Monday and Sunday night packages." As for baseball, Kenin said CBS has made sure that MLB knows of their interest (USA TODAY, 3/17). COLLEGE HOOPS ON TV: According to Raycom, the Raycom/ABC package of regional college basketball games won the annual regular-season ratings sweepstakes over CBS' college basketball: 2.5 to 2.4. Raycom notes that next year, the number of telecasts on ABC will increase from 11 to 17. The Raycom agreement with ABC, which began in '91-92, was recently extended through 1999 (Raycom). In New York, Richard Sandomir notes there is "relief" at CBS that the regular college basketball season is over. The 2.4 rating was the worst ever for the network. The decline was caused "largely by the increasing proliferation of college basketball." Len DeLuca, CBS Sports VP/Programming, said the network will experiment with more quick "look-ins" at the progress of other games, among them games produced by Raycom and Jefferson-Pilot as well as producing three regional games. And as Sandomir notes, CBS must hope "that Indiana and Michigan recapture their allure in the Big 10 conference" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17). Reviews of CBS' production of the first day of the NCAA Tournament were positive in the N.Y. TIMES, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER and USA TODAY (3/17). HOW BOUT THE REST OF THE EYE? Former QVC Chair Barry Diller told CNBC that he has not teamed up with Disney to buy CBS from Laurence Tisch. Diller said the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER story that had Diller in a partnership with Disney was "completely untrue" (BLOOMBERG/N.Y. POST, 3/17).