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JILTED NETWORKS MAY HAVE BIG PLANS: NBC, TBS TALK FOOTBALL
Published January 30, 1998
NBC and TBS, "shut out" of the NFL's recent TV deals, "might decide to combine their considerable resources and start their own pro football league," according to Rogers & Pasquarelli of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. In a statement released yesterday, TBS said it was "speaking to" NBC "about the possibility" of starting a new league. The early "working title" is the "Fan Appreciation League." NFL VP/Communications Greg Aiello said the NFL had "no comment and no reaction." However, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, both members of the NFL's broadcast committee, reacted to the news, with Kraft saying "[W]hen CBS got shut out [on the NFL contract], it talked about the same thing and nothing ever happened." Bowlen: "You never say never, but there are a lot of bones out there of leagues that attempted to compete with the NFL" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/30). The two are considering a league that would play Sunday afternoons in the fall, "competing directly with the NFL," according to Pope & Shapiro of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Pope & Shapiro write that an NBC/Turner "alliance would have an edge in its programming and vast distribution network" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/30). SOUR GRAPES OR REAL ALTERNATIVE? USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke reports that the league would consist of 10-12 teams and begin play in '99. Players "would come from" the CFL, a "few NFL stars, taxi-squaders and late training-camp cuts." TV "possibilities" include NBC with a Sunday doubleheader and TNT "having one, or possibly two" prime-time games a week, while cities "could include" N.Y., Chicago, L.A., Atlanta, Boston and "possibly" teams in other markets with NBC O&Os, such as DC and Miami (USA TODAY, 1/30). FEASIBILITY STUDIES: The Marquee Group's Mike Trager projects that NBC could achieve a 2-3 rating for the league, which "likely would take a ratings point away" from NFL broadcasts, equating to a 10% drop. That drop would affect CBS' "ability to make a profit" because it would base its ad rates on a 10 rating. Trager: "The issue is, can they sell the ad inventory in the (year's) fourth quarter, when there's already so much pro football inventory?" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 1/30). In S.F., Glenn Dickey said that for a new league, the old AFL "must be the model." Dickey said he would be "surprised if a new league doesn't start within the next couple of years" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/30).