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MLB can now open negotiations with Fox and CBS after ABC and NBC let Monday's deadline pass without exercising their exclusive negotiating rights on a new TV rights deal, according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Giants Exec VP Larry Baer, a member of MLB's TV committee: "This will be an active week." Baer said that the owners' goal is a new deal by month's end (N.Y. TIMES, 10/10). ESPN is still in its exclusive negotiating period for cable channels (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 10/10). In Sunday's N.Y. TIMES, Phillies President Bill Giles outlines the likely post-season package under the new deal: National prime-time coverage of the divisional series Tuesday-Monday, with no Thursday off and staggered starts; 13 other games in the afternoon or late night on cable or the nets; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday starts at 1pm, 4 pm, 7pm, and 9 or 10pm. The LCS would also have full coverage, but Giles was not sure whether there would be some cable involved. Giles, on afternoon games: "We're willing to take less to market the game. Exposing more quality players is of equal importance to money" (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 10/9). In Boston, Jack Craig reports, "It was anticipation of the furor over dividing LCS coverage that prompted baseball to announce last Wednesday that all post-season games will be on television for everyone next season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/8). M'S-YANKEES BOOSTS RATINGS: Sunday's Mariners-Yankees Game 5 did a 13.4 for ABC in Nielsen overnights, after a 10.4 on Saturday and a 12.4 on Friday. Jack Craig notes, "It may signify nothing, but the largest audience of the five nights of baseball's divisional coverage was on Sunday, when Yankees- Mariners became a national game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/10). Sunday's game drew a local 23.2 rating and 36 share in New York, with more than half of NYC TV sets tuned into the final 15 minutes (Josef Adallan, N.Y. POST, 10/10).
Broadcast of The John Wooden Classic college basketball tournament will be split between NBC and ABC. Liberty Sports, which has an exclusive production and ad sales agreement with Atherton Communications, will produce UCLA-Maryland for NBC and assist Raycom in production of Purdue-Villanova for ABC. Through the NBC Super Channel and other international deals, organizers expect the Wooden Classic to be seen in 80 countries. Gillette, Toyota, Dean Witter and NAPA are among the sponsors with multi- year deals. The event also has a site on the Internet. Address: http:// www.woodenclassic.com (Wooden Classic)....ESPN is set to roll out its new "SportsCenter" promos on October 16. The ads combine sports personalities with SportsCenter on-air and behind- the-scenes personnel. The campaign was produced by ESPN ad agency Wieden & Kennedy. ESPN Senior VP/Consumer Marketing Judy Fearing calls it one of their "most ambitious efforts" (ESPN)....BUSINESS WEEK profiles Delphi, the commercial online service currently being revamped by News Corp. and MCI. The new strategy, which includes use of Fox TV programming and News Corp. media outlets, is to become "one with the Internet" (BUSINESS WEEK, 10/16 issue)....News Corp. Chair Rupert Murdoch holds his annual meeting today with possible announcements including an expansion of Fox TV through the purchase of more U.S. TV stations (REUTERS/VARIETY, 10/9)....SI For Kids has received two "Gold" Parent's Choice awards, one for the magazine and the other for its "Encyclopedia" CD-ROM (SI For Kids)....In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton is critical of the broadcast networks for their lack of coverage of Grambling coach Eddie Robinson's 400th victory (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/10).... The FTC is expected to take up consideration of the Time Warner-Turner merger, with the role of TCI's Liberty Media and its 5% stake in question (N.Y. TIMES, 10/10).
NBC News will conduct a live interview with O.J. Simpson on Wednesday night during a three-hour "Dateline" special. The interview, which will be conducted by Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric and air without commercial interruption, will have "no ground rules" and was agreed upon without payment of any kind, according to NBC News President Andrew Lack (NBC). In L.A., Sallie Hofmeister and Jane Hall note Simpson's "personal and professional ties" to NBC. Before his arrest, Simpson was an analyst on NBC's NFL broadcasts and NBC West Coast President Don Ohlmeyer is a longtime friend. But NBC VP/Corporate Communications Judy Smith said, "There is no quid pro quo for this interview. We have no contact with O.J. and no plans to hire him." Network sources say it was NBC President Robert Wright's decision not to sell ads during the interview. The show has already drawn complaints by groups such as NOW with opposition to the idea of Simpson profiting from the trial already leading cable channels and pay-per-view outlets to rejecting the idea of a PPV Simpson interview. Talent agency ICM also confirmed Monday that they no longer represent Simpson (L.A. TIMES, 10/10). THE O.J. INDUSTRY: Media critic Ben Bagdikian: "It sounds as though the trial that was a soap opera is now going to be an industry" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/10). The price tag on an "O.J. exclusive" was said to be in the range of $11-12M, even though potential ad revenue is seen as "nil" (J. Max Robins, VARIETY, 10/9). AD AGE estimates a pay-per-view event could have generated numbers seen only by heavyweight bouts -- $50 per order with buy rates between 500,000 and 1 million. In addition, analysts believe Simpson-related marketing could generate as much as $1B in gross media and merchandising sales. Mark Weiner, Dir of Research for Medialink Public Relations, on the other big media events of '95 -- Windows '95 and Disney/Cap Cities: "Those were huge stories, but they lasted for about a week. The O.J. Simpson story sustained that level for 11 months. This has just dwarfed anything we've seen since the Vietnam War" (Mandese & Jensen, ADVERTISING AGE, 10/9 issue). FUTURE HOME? "Entertainment Tonight" reported on O.J.'s future, with Black Entertainment Television possibly interested. BET President Robert Johnson: "In the black community, there is a concept of redemption. So I think O.J. has an avenue where he can comeback to the mainstream of commercial success" ("ET," 10/6).