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The future of Fox's fX cable channel in the wake of the Fox- Liberty sports alliance is examined by VARIETY's Joe Flint. The partnership plans to use fX as a "major part" of its sports plans, turning it into a "nationally distributed, general entertainment and sports network." Flint notes that fX "already has the entertainment; how it will incorporate the sports -- and how much it will have to incorporate -- is the key question." fX will start carrying MLB telecasts in '97 and could start carrying other sports, including the NHL and some regional programming as part of the Liberty venture. Flint reports cable operators are watching "closely," as those that don't carry fX "would be more interested if it had a heavy load of sports, while those that do carry the network are nervous about an overhaul." One cable operator warned: "If the model is USA Network or TNT, then it would probably be consistent with what they sold us. However, if it is anything close to a regional sports channel or a network with a strong load of secondary sports, then it is totally out of bounds. If TCI and Fox think that is what they will create, then they'll have a revolution on their hands" (VARIETY, 12/17 issue). GIVE HIM LIBERTY: Liberty Media President Peter Barton discusses their partnership with Fox in the current issue of INSIDE MEDIA. On securing MLB TV rights, Barton said what made the Fox-Liberty partnership attractive to baseball were their national-local "interrelationships." Barton: "We have the rights here to cross-promote between the regionals, which show on the order of 1,200 baseball games a year -- more than anybody else ... Nobody else really has that kind of cross-promotional and branding capability" (Brockinton & Reynolds, INSIDE MEDIA, 12/13 issue).
The contract of Jim Nelford, The Golf Channel's lead analyst for live men's tournament coverage, was not renewed for '96. TGC VP/Production Mike Whelan said the two sides could not come to terms on a new deal. Also, Don McGuire, a former Senior VP at Turner Broadcasting, has been retained as consultant for TGC (GOLF WEEK, 12/16 issue)....At "Spotlight on Interactive Advertising '95" in New York, Scott Kurnitt, President & CEO of the new MCI/News Corp. online venture, predicted '96 could pose a challenge to the interactive community. Kurnitt said although "there will be some new companies" emerging, there's "no question the business will have a shakeout" after a year of "enthusiasm and discovery." Kurnitt: "Some will be better than others, rising to the top and capturing people's imagination. Some will be dormant. And some will go out of business" (Stuart Elliot, N.Y. TIMES, 12/20)....ESPN will not bring back Roy Smalley Jr. as an analyst on "Baseball Tonight" telecasts (USA TODAY, 12/20)....Harbin Enterprises will present a new call-in radio show, "Roto Talk," hosted by DC sports talk show host Bruce Murray. The show will provide commentary and discussion on all fantasy sports and can be initially heard in the Washington on all-sports WTEM-AM. An announcement regarding other affiliates will be released after January 1 (Harbin Enterprises).....Despite earlier reports that Red Sox TV rights would move to WABU-TV, the VHF channel was notified by Sox TV rightsholder Kevin Dunn "that it had lost out." WLVI-TV now becomes the "heir apparent" (Jack Craig, BOSTON GLOBE, 12/19).
The Lions have denied reports they will move radio rights from WWJ-AM to WXYT-AM despite a report by Bill Rose of the DETROIT FREE PRESS that the team has struck a three-year, $10.2M deal with Infinity Broadcasting, parent company of WXYT. The games would reportedly be simulcast on WKYT's sister station, WOMC-FM. But Lions VP/Administration Bill Keenist said reports of any deal are "premature." Infinity owns radio rights to the Falcons, Cowboys, Patriots, Eagles, Bucs, Redskins and Jets, and is "on the fast track to become the radio voice of the NFL." The Lions' current $1.55M per year radio deal expires at the end of this season. It is believed the team is looking to "at least double" that amount in the new deal (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/19). COWBOY NATION: Cowboys radio analyst Dale Hansen told the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM he believes he will be fired at the end of the year. Hansen has had "a rocky relationship" with Owner Jerry Jones and Coach Barry Switzer since the start of last season, and sources say Hansen has "angered" Jones with his outspokenness. He recently "ripped" Switzer's 4th-down decision against the Eagles and said Sunday the Giants "were robbed" when a late touchdown was called back. Hansen is working under a one- year deal after 12 years as an analyst. Jones said yesterday any impending change is "news to me" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/20).
Fox's Saturday evening telecast of Tyson-Mathis gained a 16.1 national rating and a 28 share, making it Fox's highest rated night of programming ever. Fox estimates more than 43 million viewers tuned in, making it the most watched prime-time program in Fox history (Fox Sports). Fox averaged a 9.1 rating for the week ended December 17, a 1.7-point gain from a year ago (AD AGE ONLINE, 12/20).