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Phil Simms' announcement yesterday that he will become an analyst for NBC Sports "jolted" ESPN, according to today's N.Y. TIMES. ESPN spokesperson Chris LaPlaca: "We're shocked and disappointed in Phil. We believed we had a two-year deal. David Fishof [Simms' agent] said signing it was a technicality and that Phil would work for us or play for Cleveland." Fishof claims the contract had not been signed "because of unresolved issues, including tying his client up for several years." NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol on Simms' work with ESPN: "He was clear and concise and learned the rhythms and cadences of TV very quickly." The new deal with NBC is for three years "for a sum probably around $400,000 a year" and will include work at the '96 Summer Olympics (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES 3/20). According to LaPlaca, ESPN is now "weighing its options" as to what it will now do "in the wake of Simms' departure" (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 3/20). Simms made an appearance with NBC's Hannah Storm after the Bulls-Pacers game. He will work on both football and non-football events for NBC, including the '96 Olympics. The network announced the deal during the Chicago-Indiana game (NBC, 3/19).
Viacom's Blockbuster unit will use its database of 50 million video rental card holders to solidify prospects for a Blockbuster credit card. Visa is expected to co-issue the card with Blockbuster (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/20)....The Florida Panthers report they will hire an analyst so that radio play-by- play announcer Chris Moore will not work alone after this season. The Heat is also considering adding an analyst for next season (MIAMI HERALD, 3/19)....In a "major step" toward entry into the TV business, regional phone companies Pacific Telesis and Bell Atlantic won a court order that should enable them to carry TV programming (Mult., 3/18)....ITT is profiled in the current issue of NEWSWEEK. Johnnie Roberts writes, "Just as ITT once muscled its way through the corridors of power, it is today carving out a new empire in leisure and entertainment" (NEWSWEEK, 3/27 issue)....Hughes Network Systems has received permission from DirecTV Inc. to manufacture 18-inch dishes for DSS. Previously, only RCA and Sony had those rights (Baltimore SUN, 3/19). CNN's "Moneyline" examined the popularity of DBS systems. CNN's Steve Young: "It's coming out of the starting gate twice as fast as the VCR did 20 years ago" ("Moneyline," CNN, 3/17)....BET Holdings Inc. reported that net income rose 28% in its 2ndQ, from $4.3M last year to $5.5M (WASHINGTON POST, 3/18).
WABC-AM filed a $10M lawsuit against the Yankees for the advertising dollars "they expect to lose because of the strike." The station charged that the use of replacement players is "the object of general scorn, derision and dissatisfaction among baseball fans." It also noted the Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner has admitted replacement baseball is "not the same product" as major league players. WABC pays the Yankees about $5.5M a year (Zipay & Bowles, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 3/19). The MSG Network is also "frustrated with the Yankees position," and canceled its telecasts of exhibitions over the weekend. The team has offered 50% reduction in ticket prices to replacement games, but has not reduced the estimated $44M MSG will pay in '95. MSG has reported that 95% of its advertisers will boycott replacement games. Marty Brooks, acting head at MSG: "This is not what we bought." Brooks said "if the situation doesn't change with meaningful discussions," exhibition games will not be telecast. Brooks would not speculate whether regular season games would be canceled "to force the Yankees to renegotiate what is baseball's largest media rights fee" (Richard Sandomir, NEW YORK TIMES, 3/18). The lawsuit by WABC could be a way for ther station to get out of its contract with the Yankees, which expires after the '96 season, according to Bob Raissman. Raissman: "No secret the station is losing money airing Yankee baseball." If WABC opts out, Raissman writes that WFAN in New York may go after the Yankee deal (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/19).