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For the first broadcasts of NHL games, Fox is offering a more regionalized broadcast schedule, high production values, "hot graphics" and a "power play of national and local promotion," according to ELECTRONIC MEDIA. Fox has six teams of marketing and promotion staffers visiting affiliates to offer help in promoting the NHL. Fox Exec VP for Network Distribution Ken Solomon: "The most important thing is to sit down with local sales forces and help them market the game. We didn't just send them scripts." Fox is urging stations to hold out for "premium pricing for their hockey ad inventory." As for national spots, Fox said time is 99% sold (Jon Lafayette, ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 3/20 issue).
The new online venture between Paul Allen's Starwave service and ESPN (see THE DAILY, 3/10), which unveils a new sports service next month, is looking for sponsors. According to Charles Waltner of AD AGE, ESPN is asking for up to $1M each for the six to eight sponsorships for the service. ESPN will guarantee advertisers a presence on all of ESPN's Online services -- including its current Prodigy site, a version slated to run on the developing Microsoft Network, a World Wide Web site and on AT&T's Ziff-Davis Interchange. Tom Hagopian, VP of ESPN Enterprises: "It seems more efficient than carving up advertising into a hundred different ways." Ticketmaster, owned by Allen, will also have a presence on Starwave, something ESPN "is anxiously awaiting." Ticketmaster's site "eventually will offer transaction capabilities" (AD AGE, 3/20 issue). TECHNO-TRAILBLAZER: With the announcement over the weekend that he invested $500M for a 20% stake in DreamWorks, Allen, the owner of the NBA Blazers, is profiled in this morning's L.A. TIMES and USA TODAY. In L.A., Amy Harmon notes one theory on why Allen invested in DreamWorks: He was "star-struck and the Dream Team" of Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen needed money. But friends and business associates "dismiss as typical Hollywood conceit and jealous griping the suggestion that Allen is star-struck." They say that Allen thinks the people who will drive technology are going to be the people that "make the content" (L.A. TIMES, 3/21). Allen is also the cover story in this morning's USA TODAY Money section. Kevin Maney notes that since '91, Allen has spent about $1B assembling a "promising empire of 27 small companies aimed at the information highway." Worth $4B, Allen says he is using his wealth to nurture new technologies and, perhaps, find the next Microsoft (USA TODAY, 3/21).
The Golf Channel has signed a multi-year charter sponsorship agreement with General Motors. The deal, announced by Golf Channel CEO and President Joseph Gibbs, will include all facets of the company's automobile divisions, including Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile, as well as the GM credit card program. There will be several cross-promotion and grass roots programs to be featured on The Golf Channel. Golf Channel COO Gary Stevenson also announced that they have reached multi-year agreements with Anheuser-Busch, PaineWebber, Callaway Golf, Rolex, Data General, True Temper, Golfsmith and Ram Golf. The network has now inked 12 national companies to sponsorship deals. Stevenson called the agreements "significant" because A-B, GM, Paine Webber, and Data General become "our first charter sponsors outside the golf business" (Golf Channel).
NBC's coverage of Sunday's Bulls-Pacers game drew a 13.4 rating and a 34 share, making it the highest rated regular-season NBC game since a Knicks-Celtics game in '73. And, when national ratings come in this week, the network predicts that the game will be the "third or fourth-highest-rated NBA game ever" (Richard Huff, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/21). The highest rated NBA regular-season game remains the Bucks-Lakers in '72, which got a 14.7 on ABC (John Carmody, WASHINGTON POST, 3/21). In New York, Richard Sandomir writes that Michael Jordan could have returned on TNT last Friday, but TNT has many fewer viewers than NBC. Yeah, he needed two more days to hone his 7-28 shooting" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/21). In Baltimore, Milton Kent notes, "Those are actual cheers and huzzahs you hear coming from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, as NBC officials dance a jig over the return of Michael Jordan to the NBA" (Baltimore SUN, 3/21). Rudy Martzke notes the effect Jordan's return had on CBS' NCAA hoops ratings. Already down 7% for the first round (6.5) and down 11% for Saturday's triple-header (5.9), Sunday's games fell 27% to a 5.6 (USA TODAY, 3/21).