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A "nasty feud" between ABC's Al Michaels and Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Mark Mulvoy "exploded publicly this week," fueled by Michaels' criticism of SI's recent cover story on "Hot/Not" in Miami featuring Don Shula and Pat Riley. According to Steve Zipay of NEWSDAY, another "sore point" between the two is the role of SI's Peter King during halftime on "Monday Night Football." The two have exchanged shots on NYC sports radio stations this week. Mulvoy said he didn't appreciate Michaels' comments on the Miami story and accused him of "mistreating" King by not promoting his reports. Michaels responded that recent King reports have included "a lot that I've seen earlier in the day on CNN Headline News. ... I'm waiting for something that I haven't heard before." Mulvoy defended King and listed the stories King has broken on "MNF." Michaels said that Mulvoy is setting him "up as the heavy" in case ABC's deal with SI is not renewed. Michaels, on the Riley cover story: "Pat was personally angered because he was deceived and double-dealt with. You owe it to someone to tell them where you're going with a piece" (NEWSDAY, 12/15). CONFLICT? ABC "could do more" during halftime, writes Zipay, but with only 12 minutes, "how much more?" Zipay questions why a magazine such as SI lets its writers work for a network, raising the potential for "conflicts on who gets information and when?" (NEWSDAY, 12/15).
Wednesday's Bulls-Magic game on TBS received a 3.9 rating, No. 6 all-time in Turner's 12 years of covering the NBA, with the "second highest audience." Total ratings are up 44%. (USA TODAY, 12/15)....Fox's Jerry Glanville says Jerry Jones "is killing the Cowboys by doing those commercials with Deion (Sanders). How would you like to be Troy Aikman and Nate Newton with Cowboys Super Bowl rings and see Deion doing commercials with the owner?" (USA TODAY, 12/15)....Turner Sports President Harvey Schiller believes NBC's Olympic deals will help all major sports organizations because "other networks will refocus their efforts on quality sports events and the prices for entities such as the NBA and NFL will go higher." Schiller: "It makes the rightsholder position so much stronger" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/15)....Robert Lipsyte of the N.Y. TIMES writes on the protest by NOW and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation against CBS golf analyst Ben Wright (N.Y. TIMES, 12/15)....Bill Webb, the "highly regarded" director currently under contract to MSG and ABC, will reportedly sign a deal with Fox to direct baseball (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 12/15)....Boomer Esiason joins CBS as an studio analysts for college football telecasts (CBS Sports).
NBC and Microsoft Corp. announced their partnership yesterday to launch a 24-hour news and information cable channel and "a companion interactive online service," according to NEWSDAY. The channel will be known as MSNBC Cable, and is expected to be on the air in six months. NBC will transform its America's Talking cable channel, "giving the new service an immediate entree into 20 million homes and eliminating a hurdle most new cable channels face -- getting on the dial." Microsoft will pay NBC $220M over five years for a 50% stake in the venture. The two companies will also invest $200M each during the next five years in other ventures. Martin Yudkovitz, President of NBC Interactive Media, called the deal the "first major example in television of an acknowledgement there's got to be a fundamental change in the way the TV industry approaches the future" (Elizabeth Sanger, NEWSDAY, 12/15). NBC President & CEO Robert Wright: "This is not CNN. This is a unique service. If we just wanted to offer an interactive component we could do this ourselves. ... Hopefully the two of us together will be more ambitious" ("NBR," PBS, 12/14). REAX: In San Francisco, Michelle Quinn calls it a "clear indication" Microsoft Chair Bill Gates "wants to be a media mogul" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 12/14). Despite the "excitement" yesterday, "plenty of questions remained about the channel," according to Bill Carter of the N.Y. TIMES. They include whether the cable industry will "embrace a director competitor to CNN to whether there is enough audience to support two all-news networks." Some cable operators could block distribution by saying changing the format of America's Talking means "terms of their contract with NBC has changed" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/15). John Durie writes it means the end to Ted Turner's news "monopoly profits" and "underscores the importance of content and distribution in the new media age" (N.Y. POST, 12/15). HOT LINKS: The online service will be available through The Microsoft Network, with further possibilities explained yesterday on how broadcast, cable, and PCs will "mingle." One example: NBC News might just touch on the budget battle in Washington. But interested parties could turn to the cable channel for interviews and analysis. Computer users could use their PCs to type in income and other facts to find out how competing budget proposals would affect them personally (Elizabeth Sanger, NEWSDAY, 12/15). NOT FOR SALE: After the announcement, GE Chair Jack Welch "quashed recent speculation" that GE would sell the network, although "he did not rule out" bringing in a partner. Welch said GE would not have approved NBC's purchase this week of Olympic rights if it intended to sell. Welch also "expressed regret" attempts to buy TBS had failed (BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS/ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/15).
Today: The NFL Week 16: GAME LOCAL TIME NETWORK Green Bay at New Orleans (Sat.) 3:00 Fox Atlanta at Carolina 1:00 Fox Cincinnati at Cleveland 1:00 NBC Jacksonville at Detroit 1:00 NBC New York Jets at Houston 1:00 NBC San Diego at Indianapolis 4:00 NBC