SBD/11/Sports Media

HOW THE WEST WAS WON: ESPN MOVES IN ON FSN'S TERRITORY

          ESPN will launch ESPN West, an RSN servicing Southern
     CA, NV and HI, beginning October '98 in conjunction with the
     start of the NHL season.  The 24-hour service will include
     regional coverage of the Disney-owned Mighty Ducks, starting 
     with the '98-99 season, and the Angels, beginning with the
     '99 season.  A full schedule is in development (ESPN).
          RSN WAR HEATS UP: In L.A., Larry Stewart writes that
     ESPN West will be the first of what ESPN hopes is a number
     of RSNs to "combat" Fox Sports Net.  ESPN Exec VP/Sales &
     Marketing George Bodenheimer said ESPN West will carry 40
     Mighty Ducks games next season along with 37 Angels games in
     '99 and 50 in 2000.  Stewart notes since Fox has the Lakers
     and Kings "locked up until 2010," and the Clippers for four
     more years, that "doesn't leave much local inventory for
     ESPN West."  High school and local college sports are
     possibilities.  While Bodenheimer said no price for the RSN
     has been set, he said it would be "fair."  The ESPN West
     announcement was made at a cable convention in Anaheim, and
     a number of cable execs attending "questioned" its creation,
     "wondering if there is room for yet another sports channel
     and also how ESPN could make it economically feasible."  One
     source said the Angels and Ducks, combined, are giving up
     about $8.5M a year in local TV rights fees "by leaving the
     Fox family."  Stewart: "Add to that about $3.5 million in
     production costs, and ESPN West would need to bring in $11
     million a year to break even" (L.A. TIMES, 12/11).  In
     Anaheim, Scott Hettrick reports that ESPN West will reach
     about 4.4 million homes.  He adds that the new RSN "presents
     a difficult situation for area cable operators, most of
     which agreed recently to add" Fox Sports West 2 and its
     coverage of the Dodgers and Ducks.  The combined cost to
     operators for FSW and FSW2 is more than $1.50 per subscriber
     per month.  In '99, Angels coverage will be shared between
     Fox Sports West and ESPN West before shifting exclusively to
     ESPN West in 2000.  ESPN "plans to fill a large portion" of
     the ESPN West schedule with feeds from ESPNEWS (HOLLYWOOD
     REPORTER, 12/11).  In N.Y., Bruce Orwall writes ESPN "is
     late getting into the regional sports business that Fox has
     dominated."  Orwall adds that forming more ESPN RSNs "will
     in many cases mean trying to pry teams away from Fox," but
     ESPN "is confident that it can put together programming
     packages that are more attractive than its competitors"
     (Bruce Orwall, WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/11).   

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