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Despite "mid-summer" speculation on the future TV home of the Masters, CBS and USA Network are "close to wrapping up contracts to return as domestic carriers of the '97 Masters, according to Dave Shedloski of GOLFWEEK. Sources at both networks said an agreement with Augusta National was "imminent." With NBC "making overtures" towards the club and ESPN presenting what sources called "an impressive case" for the U.S. cable rights, there "did appear to be a window of opportunity -- albeit small -- for the outsiders." The later date for finishing the deals "suggests that Masters officials gave extra consideration to the [TV] question and a source close to the club confirmed many new issues were carefully weighed." Shedloski reports the pending rights deal "will probably include a stipulation by the club that CBS produce a host feed more user-friendly" to international partners. In the past, CBS has produced coverage for U.S. viewers, which was also used as the world feed. CBS would now have to produce "a truer world feed, then sub-produce a program for domestic use." U.S. viewers "aren't likely" to notice any coverage change (GOLFWEEK, 10/5).
New York City cable operator Liberty Cable began carrying the Fox News Channel yesterday afternoon. Liberty also plans to add ESPNEWS to its lineup (INSIDE MEDIA ONLINE, 10/7). Liberty will pick up the Classic Sports Network full-time starting October 15 (N.Y. POST, 10/8). ..Beginning October 20, SportsChannel will air a weekly, one hour program called SportsFair Television, in which viewers can purchase authentic and licensed apparel and merchandise (SportsChannel)....NBA Commissioner David Stern will be the Keynote Speaker at the Worldwide Television Summit Conference, to be held November 25 in NY (NATAS)... Asked by Diane Mermigas of ELECTRONIC MEDIA on his investment in Fox Sports Net domestically, "even with TCI as a partner," News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch said: "About $300 million, but with all the areas of sports we're getting into, it's more like $400 million" (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 10/7 issue)....Disney's "D3: The Mighty Ducks" debuted in fourth place in box office sales with $6,170,358 ("Showbiz," CNN, 10/7).
NBC Sports covers the ALCS tonight in New York with the Orioles-Yankees beginning at 8:00pm ET. Bob Costas handles the play-by-play and is joined in the booth by Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker. Jim Gray will report on the scene and the telecast will be produced by David Neal and directed by Andy Rosenberg (NBC). MLB Int'l will produce a worldwide TV feed live of the LCS and World Series to 200 countries (MLB). IT'S RAINING HERE: If tonight's opener is rained out, the teams "probably will play" 4pm ET games Wednesday and Thursday. NBC would still televise both games. A Thursday game would not be played at night due to the Cardinals-Braves on Fox that night and NBC "prefers not to pre-empt its prime-time schedule" (Lennon & Zipay, NEWSDAY, 10/8). WOUNDED PEACOCK: NBC Sports is still upset they were unable to switch the Yankees-Rangers Game Four to their network for Saturday night coverage. MLB kept the game on ESPN and NBC received Cardinals-Padres. Cards-Padres rating of a 6.9 was at least 30% less what NBC estimated for the Yankees-Rangers. NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol: "We were shocked and saddened and extremely disappointed by the actions that were taken. Obviously, the (Cardinals-Padres) game unperformed by about 35 percent in the ratings. More importantly, the fans were denied the game of greater interest." MLB Exec Dir/PR Rich Levin: "They've got the Yankees this week, so they should be happy with that" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 10/8). In New York, Steve Zipay writes, "If NBC wanted the game so badly, why didn't they secure it when the schedule was announced?" Zipay: "In recent years, ESPN has been more loyal to baseball" (NEWSDAY, 10/8). NEWS & NOTES: Ratings after the first four days on NBC and Fox are down 28% from last year's regional coverage of The Baseball Network (USA TODAY, 10/8). In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton calls TV coverage of the MLB playoffs a "good week for viewers," adding "Regionalization is dead, thank goodness!" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/8)....In New York, Richard Sandomir gives his MLB post-season TV awards for the divisional series. Best announcing team went to NBC's Costas, Morgan and Uecker. Best production: ESPN (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8)....NBC's Costas, on what kind of reaction Roberto Alomar can expect in Yankee Stadium: "My guess is they will be very tough. Maybe the word is brutal" (Bill Fleischman, PHILA. DAILY NEWS, 10/8). David Letterman previewing the ALCS: "Yankee fans are tough. A pick-off play at first base usually involves a high powered rifle. ... There better not be any trouble with Roberto Alomar because New Yorkers spit back" ("Late Show," CBS, 10/7).
The new Gridiron Record label signed a five-year license with the NFL to produce recordings combining NFL players and music stars and "uses the NFL marks in its marketing," according to BRANDWEEK. Two records will hit stores in November: NFL Jams is a "rap/hip hop/R&B session including duets with Ricky Watters and Method Man, Robert Brooks and Donell Jones and Rocket Ismail and Pharside." NFL Country has Troy Aikman with Toby Keith, and Brett Favre and Herschel Walker joining country stars (BRANDWEEK, 10/7).