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The Rockets are looking to offer tomorrow night's playoff game against the Spurs for a reduced pay-per-view price at UH's Hofheinz Pavilion. Cable customers have to pay $19.95 for the game, while those who go to UH would only have to pay $6 (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/24)....John McEnroe expects to sign with CBS to do the U.S. Open....CBS' Jim Nantz denied that he is being sought by TNT for NBA and NFL broadcasts...TNT is averaging a 6.4 for the NBA conference finals, 57% better than last year and 5% better than '93 (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/24)....According to Time Warner Senior VP Lou DiBella, Evander Holyfield's fight with Ray Mercer on TVKO last Saturday was bought by 250,000 homes, a buy rate of 1%. DiBella: How many guys can draw 250,000 for a non- title, 10-round fight?" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/24)....Baltimore's WNUV (Channel 54) will carry six to seven Baltimore CFL games, a deal which WNUV Dir of Sales and Marketing Robert Epstein believes will be the "linchpin" for the station's growing sports coverage. The station, which also carries the Orioles, will pick up feeds from the CBC or the Sunshine Network (Baltimore SUN, 5/24)....Imax Corp., the 3-D movie theater company which was purchased by venture capitalists Brad Wechlser and Richard Gelfond in March, is undergoing an expansion of 40 theaters worldwide. An Imax screen in New York grossed $100,442 in its first three-day weekend (FORTUNE, 6/12 issue)....The Rams have chosen St. Louis' Fox affiliate, KTVI-Channel 2 to carry their exhibition games (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/25).
With attendance and local cable and TV ratings all down, MLB owners hope The Baseball Network "not only will draw viewers back but also pump millions into the 28 teams," according to USA TODAY's Hal Bodley. The current estimate: $5-7M a team this year. Paul Schulman, president of Paul Schulman Co., whose agency represents clients such as Ralston-Purina and ITT Sheraton: "All we've read about ESPN and local [ratings] doesn't mean a thing to The Baseball Network. TBN begins on July 11 with the All-Star Game. It's going to be the highest rating of the summer. Last year's game was a huge success, and this year will be even bigger." Phillies President Bill Giles, chair of the owners' TV commitee, says TBN's spots are selling for twice as much as CBS got in the final year of their contract. TBN has sold $135M in ads at $330,000 per :30 -- $20,000 more than last year's rate. Still, since TBN is unlikely to reach its two-year $330M sales goal, owners will vote on August on whether to continue with TBN. Giles: "We've scheduled three or four meetings over the next three weeks to discuss what direction we should go" (USA TODAY, 5/25).