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New Web sites: The French Open's online site can be found at http://www.frenchopen.org (English) or http://www. rolandgarros.org (French) (USA TODAY, 5/28); NCAA info is now available at http://www.ncaa.org (NCAA)....Fox and TCI are reportedly discussing a partnership by which the cable operator would carry Fox's new all-news channel, while TCI's Liberty Media would get as much as a 20% stake in the new venture (N.Y. TIMES, 5/29)....Carolyn Wall, former CEO of Cowles Business Media, has been named president of WBIS+, New York's new business/entertainment/sports TV channel owned by ITT Corp. and Dow Jones (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/28). ....Hockey reporter Bob McKenzie will leave the Toronto Star to rejoin The Hockey News as a columnist/reporter (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/29)....In a piece examining the prospects for a comeback at CBS under new Westinghouse leadership, BUSINESS WEEK's Elizabeth Lesly writes that CBS Sports "is a basket case." CBS execs believe winning back the NFL is a "priority" (BUSINESS WEEK, 6/3 issue)....Baltimore's Sinclair Broadcasting has bought the rights to the October 13th Ravens-Colts game for Channel 54. The game will be shown nationally on TNT (Baltimore SUN, 5/28)....In New York, Richard Sandomir previews MLB coverage on Fox, noting that "dawn is breaking" in terms of league execs allowing technological advances (miking of managers, bases, etc.) denied to previous network partners (N.Y. TIMES, 5/29).
CBC and its major unions reached a "12th hour" agreement in ongoing labor negotiations to avoid a strike that would have affected NHL playoff coverage and the network's Olympic preparations (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/25). CUP CRAZE HITS FLORIDA: The Panthers hit a new ratings high on Miami's Fox affiliate, with a 10.6 rating and a 23 share for Sunday's Game 4 against the Penguins. The Panthers averaged just a 1.8 for the regular season. The NHL game topped both the Indy 500 (6.1) and the NBA's Jazz-Sonics (3.5) in Miami (Barry Jackson, MIAMI HERALD, 5/29). NO DEAL: TSN, Canada's cable sports network, failed to acquire a package of NBA games for the '96-97 season. The reason, according to William Houston of the GLOBE & MAIL: "TSN thought the NBA's rights fees were too steep and objected to sharing commercial time with the league." That leaves the possibility that a new channel, S3 (whose license is pending before Canada's Radio-TV and Telecom Commission), could get NBA rights. Currently, CTV has the rights to 18 Raptors and Grizzlies games (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/25).
Boston's WSBK-TV has filed suit against the Red Sox and Bruins, its partners in NESN, claiming the teams are "threatening to run NESN into the ground by grabbing for more of its revenue than the teams are owed," according to David Halbfinger of the BOSTON GLOBE. As owners of NESN, the Red Sox (47%) and Bruins (31%) supply content, while WSBK (19%) supplies production equipment and services. An additional 3% is split among the three. The dispute involves the rights fees the teams receive from games -- originally $.11-.16 per subscriber/per game. But Michael Gass, attorney for WSBK, notes that deal was negotiated when NESN was purely a premium cable service. However, more cable systems recently have begun moving NESN from premium to basic cable, cutting the channel's monthly per subscriber share from $4-5 to around $.50. Gass noted that since '85, "to account for the disparity," the teams accepted lower rights fees. But in January, according to the suit, the Red Sox and Bruins labeled those lower fees an "experiment" and threatened to terminate if the fees didn't rise. Gass, on the demands: "This would put NESN into the red this year, and further and further into the red every year after. And Channel 38 would lose money on the deal. It's inconsistent with keeping the venture alive." The GLOBE's Halbfinger notes the "bad blood" between the Red Sox and WSBK-TV, the team's broadcast partner for 21 years until a switch this year. Also, the $2.1M the Sox are demanding would help balance $5M in local broadcasting losses under their new deal with WABU- TV and $4M in national TV losses (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/25). Red Sox attorney Daniel Goldberg accused WSBK's owner, Viacom, of being "far off on their facts." Goldberg: "Rather than come back with a proposal, they came back with a lawsuit" (Jeffrey Krasner, BOSTON HERALD, 5/25). BEHIND THE BRIEFS: The GLOBE's Joan Vennochi writes the suit "is about revenge, money" -- and the Red Sox's new TV rights deal, negotiated by team Exec VP John Buckley. Vennochi writes that Buckley's deal with WABU for roughly $9M per year "may have put the team is such a bad bargaining position, management is anxious to make up the difference elsewhere --like NESN" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/29).
ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 drew a 6.8 overnight rating, a 21% drop from last year and the lowest Indy overnight ever, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. Yesterday, ESPN projected a 3.0 cable rating for its coverage of the rival U.S. 500 (USA TODAY, 5/29). RATINGS BREAKDOWN: The following analysis, from Nielsen Sports Marketing Service, compares this year's Indy 500 rating/shares to the '95 race (THE DAILY). NOTE: As these numbers are preliminary, they may differ slightly from later readings cited by networks and other news outlets. MARKET '95 '96 MARKET '95 '96 New York 4.5/14 3.4/10 Denver 9.3/31 9.0/25 L.A. 10.9/33 7.8/24 Pittsb. 8.4/23 7.1/19 Chicago 9.4/28 7.5/22 St Louis 11.3/35 6.9/21 Phila. 8.1/23 6.2/18 Sac'mento 9.4/29 7.5/28 S.F.-Oak-S.J. 6.9/24 6.6/23 Orlando 8.6/25 8.5/23 Boston 3.9/17 4.0/15 Baltimore 7.8/22 5.0/13 Washington 7.1/21 6.4/18 Portland 9.5/32 8.7/30 Dallas-FW 9.9/26 7.8/21 Indian. 17.7/33 15.8/27 Detroit 9.8/25 6.9/20 Hartford 6.1/24 5.5/19 Atlanta 9.0/23 5.7/15 San Diego 8.5/27 7.7/24 Houston 8.2/21 7.2/19 Charlotte 10.3/28 7.8/21 Seattle 9.9/35 7.1/24 Cincy 12.9/35 9.9/28 Cleveland 11.9/30 5.6/15 Milwaukee 12.6/39 10.9/35 Minn-St Paul 8.6/27 5.6/20 K.C. 9.0/27 8.5/24 Tampa-St Pete 9.6/26 6.7/20 San Ant. 6.7/18 7.2/18 Miami-Ft Laud 5.7/17 6.1/17 W Palm Bch 9.7/26 6.6/18 Phoenix 11.7/34 10.1/29 AVERAGE 8.6/25 6.6/18