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WNBA ANNOUNCES NETWORK TV DEAL WITH NBC, CABLE UNCLEAR
Published June 28, 1996
In a teleconference yesterday, NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBA VP/Business Affairs Val Ackerman and NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol announced a five-year TV rights agreement between the new Women's NBA with NBC presenting weekly coverage beginning June '97. Stern cited NBC's track record and the NBA's "comfort" level with the network as key reasons. Ebersol indicated the deal is based on revenue and profit sharing and that NBC expects WNBA coverage to produce at least a 3.0 rating by the third year. Stern said a cable deal, airing two prime time games a week, would be announced within three weeks, with Lifetime and Turner among those considered. Any local TV deals will be negotiated by the teams (THE DAILY). Ebersol: "In the last three years, the two sports that have shown the most growth are NASCAR and women's basketball. Knowing what the NBA can bring to this, it can really develop into something" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/28). CABLE: INSIDE MEDIA's Mike Reynolds reports Lifetime and ESPN are the front-runners for the cable package (INSIDE MEDIA, 6/28). ESPN's Dan Quinn: "We're very interested and discussions are taking place" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/28). DETAILS: Stern said the eight teams would play in NBA cities, in NBA arenas, and would be operated by NBA team front offices. He added the WNBA's access to those resources -- including "the best marketers in all of sports" -- coupled with the NBC deal, are two differences between the WNBA and past failed women's leagues. The NBA's Val Ackerman said the best players will get "top salaries," but they would likely be lower than the ABL's considering the ABL has a longer season. Stern does not see the ABL as "a competitive issue" since the ABL will play in the fall and the WNBA in the summer. The WNBA has a Labor Day timetable to announce cities and player signings (THE DAILY). REAX: Stern: "If we can't do it, it can't be done" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/28). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes, "One can't help but think that NBC has taken a big step toward protecting the second most valuable television sports property, after the NFL" (Baltimore SUN, 6/28). In St. Pete, Brian Landman writes, "No women's league -- amateur or professional -- has commanded such coverage, which bestows a credibility to the fledgling league" (ST. PETE TIMES, 6/28).