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Although ESPN was the "most-watched" cable network during primetime in November, its audience "was down 10% from the same period a year ago," according to Richard Huff of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Overall, an average of 1.725 million homes tuned in to ESPN during primetime, down from 1.912 million last November. ESPN was followed by TNT (1.572 million average); USA (1.502 million); Nickelodeon (1.330 million) and TBS (1.119 million). ESPN did present the top six most-watched programs of the month -- led by the Lions-Packers NFL Sunday Night game on November 2 which averaged 7.179M homes (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/28). CBS SWEEPS UP: Preliminary estimates for the November sweeps "show CBS poised to upset NBC in overall prime-time ratings nationwide, while the Fox network has cut into NBC's lead in the key demographic groups," according to Brian Lowry of the L.A. TIMES. With Wednesday night's results still to be calculated, Nielsen Media Research shows CBS with an average of 15.2 million viewers per night, followed by NBC at 14.7 million, 13.9 million for ABC and 12.4 million for Fox. Lowry: "Fox ... made headway among teens and young adults ... [and] ranked first in November ... with viewers between the ages of 12 and 34" (L.A. TIMES, 11/27).
Fox Sports has secured the exclusive broadcast rights for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the network's first horse racing event, set for Saturday April 4 (Fox). In Las Vegas, Jay Richards reported that Fox signed a three-year deal to broadcast the Derby, with renewal options after the first year. ABC had covered the race for the past 16 years (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 11/26). The DAILY RACING FORM's Matt Hegarty: "For racetrack operators, no degree of hyperbole can overstate the significance of Fox Sports ... entrance to thoroughbred racing" (DAILY RACING FORM, 11/23).
Jantonio Turner, an L.A. producer, is raising $10M "in start-up costs" to launch The Football Network in 10-12 million homes by September '98 (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 11/28)....As reported Wednesday, the Blue Jays announced a three-year deal with Shaw Communications' Headline Sports Network for the team's radio rights, leaving Telemedia after 21 years (Blue Jays). Headline Sports will produce the broadcasts for CHUM radio, and in exchange, will receive a share of commercial time for its own sale. In Toronto, Ken McKee reported that Headline Sports "won the bidding with an offer that will net the Jays between" C$3-4M, a "drop" from the C$5M a year of its previous deal (TORONTO STAR, 11/27). NFL TV DEAL: The pending NFL TV negotiations were examined by David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE and KNIGHT-RIDDER's Bob Keisser. In Houston, Barron examined the deal in a three-part series and looked at the impact of the deal on Fox's local affils. Sources told him that NFL ad time on Houston's Fox affil "runs from $4,000 to $10,000 per 30-second spot, depending on whether" the Cowboys are playing and who their opponent might be (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/29). Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson, on the upcoming TV negotiations: "If [the NFL] had a preference, it would be that CBS or ABC took Monday night and one or the other chased NBC for Sunday afternoon." Pilson, on the cable package: "ESPN would love to have the whole package, but I think it's worked having the split as far as the NFL is concerned. ... Of course, Fox [Sports Net] could come and blow out ESPN and Turner. It's possible. It's a very volatile situation" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/29). In Chicago, Westinghouse CEO Michael Jordan said that CBS "will not bid on the NBA or NHL TV packages in the future" because "it conflicts with our golf schedule." He did say that CBS "will bid on NFL coverage" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/1).
The Sporting News (TSN) unveils a "radical" facelift with its December 8 issue which goes on sale on Wednesday, according to Repps Hudson of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. TSN President Jim Nuckols says it has the support from its CA-based parent Times Mirror in making the weekly "dominant" among national sports publications. TSN Editor John Rawlings said the changes in content and reporting are based on market surveys and focus groups, and are designed to give "deeply dedicated fans ... the inside-the-locker-room gossip and insights that no others can provide." Rawlings: "Our research shows that 70 percent of the readers want information on their favorite team, which is outside the readers' area and isn't covered in the local newspaper." Rawlings also added that survey respondents wanted more coverage of the NFL, followed by Olympics coverage, college football, MLB, the NBA, college basketball and hockey. Soccer coverage was near the bottom (POST-DISPATCH, 11/30).