SBD/20/Sports Media

MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO CAPITALIZE ON U.S. SOCCER'S SUCCESS

     The U.S. national soccer team plays Brazil tonight in the
semifinals of the Copa America in Uruguay, but U.S. TV viewers
will only be able to see the game on pay-per-view, via satellite
or at a bar.  In San Jose, Ann Killion calls the situation
"extremely irritating":  "This is not some offbeat competition,
not any bogus Extreme Games."  The U.S. TV rights to Copa America
are held by Prime Deportiva, the Spanish-language cable sports
channel which has most of its 1.4 million subscribers situated in
L.A.  The South American soccer confederation sold the rights in
January '94, before the World Cup, and before it was known that
the U.S. would play in the tournament.  Because of Prime
Deportiva's limited audience, the channel has "farmed" coverage
out to pay-per-view.  Officials at the U.S. Soccer Federation
"shrug their shoulders and claim the situation is beyond their
control."  But, as Killion notes, "a standard part of signing a
tournament agreement is figuring out television rights, and the
U.S. undoubtedly could have added a proviso that it get the
rights to its games in its own country. ... What it boils down to
is shortsightedness and bad planning   -- all the things that
plague soccer in this country" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/20).
Prime's Denise Seomins notes that 22 million homes have access to
the games through Request TV and Viewer's Choice (USA TODAY,
7/20).
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