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The Baseball Network received a 6.5 rating and a 13 share in Nielsen overnight ratings for its Saturday night debut of "Baseball Night in America." Viewership is down 13.3% from last year's opener (Steve Zipay, NEWSDAY, 7/18). ....One NBC exec, reiterating that the net is not interested in bidding on baseball: "It's not like we're losing something -- it's more like, 'Yippie!' Baseball is a declining sport" (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 7/17 issue)....HBO Sports has announced the hiring of Nicole Watson, a reporter and host for Turner Sports, to join the "Inside the NFL" team as a reporter. Also, HBO's July 30 edition of "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" includes a piece on Lenny Dykstra produced by two-time Oscar winner Barbara Kopple (HBO). The Dykstra piece includes his comments on the strike and his belief that letting Fay Vincent go as commissioner was baseball's "biggest mistake" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/18).
ABC SPORTS: Cap Cities/ABC and Stella Interactive Inc. have announced a partnership to "produce and develop a series of interactive college sports CD-ROM reference titles in conjunction with ABC Sports." The "College Sports Series" features ABC's Keith Jackson hosting an "interactive tour" through the archives of six teams. Stella Interactive has licensing agreements with Michigan, Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Florida State and Penn State. The disks will be available in August and September (Cap Cities/ABC). NBC SPORTS: RealTime Sports, NBC Sports and NBC Digital Publishing have announced the release of "The '95-96 NFL Interactive Yearbook" -- called the "ultimate multimedia guide to the NFL." Hosting will be NBC analyst Phil Simms. The "Yearbook" will feature stats, '94 reviews, '95 previews, info on the expansion teams, merchandise sales, and a "free online service to provide seamless downloading of the latest NFL statistics and previews" (NBC). SI FOR KIDS: SI For Kids has launched a site on the World Wide Web as an "integral part" of Pathfinder's "Kid's Stuff" -- an area on the net dedicated to kids. Located at http://www.pathfinder.com/SIFK, the SI For Kids site includes a home page, features from that month's issue, a sports quiz, contributions from readers, an Olympic countdown, and stories on games and software (SI for Kids). DIGITAL SHAQ: Microsoft Chair Bill Gates and Shaquille O'Neal unveil Shaq World, an online feature on the soon-to-be- launched Microsoft Network, at a Microsoft Multimedia Conference today near L.A. Featured: Stats for the Magic and other NBA teams, the "Shaq Paq" for kids, Shaq's diary, "The Show" -- a look at Shaq's entertainment ventures, and a "Cyber Shop." Shaq World, designed by Magnet Interactive Studios, will carry ads, but no sponsors have been announced (Dottie Enrico, USA TODAY, 7/18).
Westinghouse Electric Corp. is planning to make a bid to buy CBS from Chair Laurence Tisch, according to multiple reports this morning. Yesterday, CBS' stock jumped 4 1/8 after CNBC financial analyst Dan Dorfman reported that Westinghouse was preparing a bid for $83 a share. Tisch, who has publicly maintained that the net is not for sale, has been said to holding out for at least $80 a share. The N.Y. TIMES, which reports that the deal would be for about $5.8B in cash, adds that the deal "has its logic" (Geraldine Fabrikant, N.Y. TIMES, 7/18). The WALL STREET JOURNAL cautions that "talks could continue for a long time," and that the offer could be used by Tisch to "start an auction." Merging CBS and Westinghouse, however, would create the largest TV station group in the U.S., covering 32% of TV homes (Jensen/Narisetti, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/18). USA TODAY lists the positives and negatives, noting that four of Group W's stations are CBS affils. However, Barry Diller, another long- rumored CBS suitor, "is said to be telling friends that a deal with Group W would set CBS back 10 years" (David Lieberman, USA TODAY, 7/18). LABATT BROADCAST ARM FINALLY SOLD: Belgian Brewer Intrebrew S.A. confirmed the sale of Labatt Communications Inc. (LCI) to a consortium led by LCI management for about C$605M, according to this morning's FINANCIAL POST. LCI's assets include TSN -- The Sports Network, 80% of the Discovery Channel, 25% of Viewer's Choice pay-per-view, Dome Productions, the Rep Shoppe, an ad sales agency, 35% in NTN Canada, an interactive TV company, and RDS, the French-language sports channel. Investors in the LCI group include Stephen Bronfman (28.6%), pension fund manager Caisse de depot and placement du Quebec (28.6%), Reitman's Ltd. (21%), and ABC/Cap Cities' ESPN (20%). The path is now clear for finalization of Labatt's sale to Intrebrew, with other non- brewery assets, the Blue Jays, Argonauts and 42% of SkyDome also likely to be sold (Paul Brent, FINANCIAL POST, 7/18). FOX AFFILS NOT SOLD ON BASEBALL: Fox will have a "hard sell" to get affiliates to buy into the concept of Saturday afternoon baseball, according to BROADCASTING & CABLE. Fox affils contacted by B&C said that Saturday games "would fly in the face of Fox's 'less-is-more' philosophy, which touts fewer hours of network programming so that stations can take full advantage of local and syndication programming and sales opportunities." Affiliate execs in twelve markets said they all experienced revenue losses from Fox's Sunday afternoon NHL coverage (Steve McClellan, B&C, 7/17 issue).
"In the 1995-96 NFL marketplace, it is the sellers -- the networks -- who reign," according to Langdon Brockinton in INSIDE MEDIA. Just before July 4, ABC, NBC and Fox have already sold nearly 90% of their "respective inventory" for the upcoming season, and demand is so strong that NFL ad time has "commanded substantial rate hikes -- generally, 12-18 percent on a cost per thousand basis -- over last season's prices." THE COST: Some media buyers report that Fox is now asking advertisers for a "whopping" $600,000 per 30-second on the network's NFC Championship Game. Fox's "goal is to make the value of the NFC Championship more proportionately equivalent to the worth of the Super Bowl." Likewise, NBC has sold close to all of its playoff ad time and 85% of Super Bowl XXX ad time. Despite the AFC's rating resurgence last year, Fox is still charging "a bit more than NBC for commercial time: on average, $130,000-$140,00 per :30, versus $120,000-$130,000." Monday Night Football on ABC will go from $275,000 to $300,000 per 30- second. Overall, Fox reportedly may have surpassed its '94-95 NFL ad revenue total of $275M, and NBC and TNT are not far behind. WHO'S IN THE MIX: Domestic automakers continue to spend heavily, as do computer marketers and credit card companies. IBM has a deal with Fox, and AmEx has renewed deals with both NBC and Fox to be the sole credit card advertiser during playoff coverage. New companies, such as Volkswagen -- who will spend $10M on Fox this season -- have also "flooded the gridiron marketplace." Some auto brands, such as Ford, Chrysler, GM, and Toyota/Lexus -- signed four-year agreements with ABC and NBC before last season after the league signed a new TV deal, "thus the two networks locked in a lot of auto money for the long term." One agency exec: "Advertisers that cut multiyear deals must be feeling pretty happy. And the people who moved early in the market did a little better pricewise -- especially if they bought before the primetime marketplace moved in earnest" (Langdon Brockinton, INSIDE MEDIA, 7/12 issue).