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The "wars between cable and broadcast sports operations have spread beyond TV to the Web," according to Alan Breznick of CABLE WORLD. NBC Sports and Fox Sports "have made noise recently about joining the sports megasite wars." NBC reportedly has considered a joint sports site with Microsoft, and before CBS invested $100M into SportsLine, Fox reportedly was in "serious talks" with SportsLine USA. One "veteran" Web sports observer said, "The corporate branding imperative and corporate ego will drive NBC and Fox to do something. [The market's] probably going to be big enough for four or five [players], because they're going to force their way in." NBC and Fox "aren't publicly saying much about their Web sports strategies. But each has sought to make a splash with short-term sites built around big sporting events" (Alan Breznick, CABLE WORLD, 12/8 issue). ONE-STOP SHOP: Sportscape.com "aims to be to the sports- equipment market what Amazon.com is to the publishing business." The site offers more than 2,500 products ranging from baseball gloves to hockey sticks at prices 10-30% below retail. Sportscape is affiliated directly with distributors and offers equipment from brand-name companies, including Wilson and Spalding. It plans to add shoes and apparel within the next year. The goal is "100,000 products sold online within the next 18 months" (BUSINESS WEEK, 12/15).
In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote after averaging a 43.1 rating through 14 weeks on KDSW-TV last year, Cowboys ratings have fallen to 37.9 in '97 -- a dropoff of 15%, which means about 96,000 homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. Nationally, the Cowboys are down 14% on Fox, which translates into almost four million homes a game (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/6)....Comcast Corp. acquired Marcus Cable Company's DE and MD cable TV assets for $65.5M in cash to expand its coverage in the two states (N.Y. TIMES, 12/6). PEOPLE: On Saturday, Comedy Central's Craig Kilborn filled in for Kevin Harlan, who handles T-Wolves radio play- by-play, for the Wizards-T-Wolves game. Harlan missed the game due to his Fox NFL duties (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/6)....ABC's Keith Jackson reaffirmed that he will retire following the '98 college football season. Jackson, on why he plans to retire: "It's my time. It's time to go. It's time for us to find out if the next generation is as smart as they keep telling us" ("Up Close," ESPN, 12/5).
The Sporting News (TSN) has launched its initial issue as part of its five-year, $30M redesign. The relaunch will run with the tag, "See A Different Game." TSN's redesign comes after a comprehensive fan study conducted by Simmons/Monitor, which surveyed 1,438 men and found that pro football was their favorite sport, with an 8.77 rating on a scale of 1-10. Rounding out the top five were the Olympics with an 8.01, followed by college football (7.23); MLB (7.06), and men's pro basketball (6.96). The "See A Different Game" marketing campaign will kick-off with new print, TV and radio ads breaking this month. The spots were created by Christy MacDougall Mitchell, NY (TSN). BRING 'EM ON: In N.Y., Mary Huhn examines TSN's relaunch. TSN Publisher Fran Farrell, on competition with other sports magazines: "We'll beat the heck out of ESPN Sports and Sports Illustrated for these guys who want stats, team information and season previews" (N.Y. POST, 12/8). TSN will look to increase circulation, which "has hovered" at about 515,000 for three years (Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY, 12/8)....Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Norman Pearlstine, on competition for SI, including ESPN Magazine and TSN: "I don't think there is anything they are doing with that magazine [ESPN] that we can't and won't do better and I can think of a myriad of things we will do that they won't be able to touch. That said, I take them seriously, but I also take Sporting News' redesign, Sports' redesign and ESPN on television seriously" (Keith Kelly, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/8).