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Leo Kirch, who holds the German rights to broadcast the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and "has stakes in" German pay TV nets DF1 and Premiere, "will be required" to broadcast the World Cup matches on free TV, according to Miriam Hils of DAILY VARIETY. The leaders of Germany's 16 states have approved a list of "protected" sporting events which must be shown "live on free TV," which include the international soccer championships. Kirch paid $1.87M for rights to the World Cup (Miriam Hils, DAILY VARIETY, 3/19). SPORTEL IN MIAMI: In only its second year, TV market Sportel America "can already lay claim to being an essential port of call on the itinerary of global sports rights traders," according to Andrew Paxman of DAILY VARIETY. The three-day Miami event, a "baby sister" to Sportel Monaco, saw attendance rise 40% over last year's debut, drawing 700 participants and 57 exhibitors. Last year, Sportel America had 34 exhibitors. Co-organizer William Vitale said "[w]ithin two or three years" the event would be "as big as the one in Monaco." Paxman writes that with this summer's World Cup approaching, "business was brisk for programmers hawking formats to complement" World Cup games, with Prisma striking "big" with its "Champions of the World" docu-series on soccer-playing nations. Soccer also gave the event its "one major announcement: the Torneo Copa Merconorte." That event, which features top clubs from the Americas, including two U.S. squads, and consists of 54 games between September and December of this year, is a coproduction between the South American Soccer Confederation and Teledeportes, a branch of Argentina's media group Clarin (VARIETY, 3/19).
ESPN MAGAZINE REVIEWS: In L.A., Larry Stewart reviewed ESPN Magazine, writing that the photography and writing "are good," but that the magazine "is too big" and "too thick," with "far too many ads," some of which "are hard to tell from the articles." Stewart adds, "Sometimes you wonder who is publishing this magazine, ESPN or Nike. The cover definitely has that Nike look, which isn't good." More Stewart: "Maybe it's too early to be critical, but we're not canceling our [SI] subscription just yet" (L.A. TIMES, 3/18). But in Philadelphia, Stan Hochman gives the magazine a "7 on a harsh scale of ten." Hochman: "Good stories spark questions, discussion, debate. There are enough good stories in the first issue ... to make you think it will prosper" (Stan Hochman, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 3/19). TV/VIDEO: Although Red Sox GM Dan Duquette's agent John Flynn said his client was "very upset" over the team's decision to cancel his proposed TV show, Duquette said he understands the reasons behind the move. The show was to air on WBZ-TV, which does not hold the team's broadcast rights. Duquette: "The over-the-air rights are critical for our long-term success, and there may be other opportunities [for me] in the future" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/19)....In DC, CBS affil WUSA-TV "relied on a viewers' poll" to pick Game One of tonight's NCAA doubleheader, and 76% of respondents voted to watch the North Carolina-Michigan St. game over the West Virginia-Utah game. The second game will be Maryland- Arizona (WASHINGTON POST, 3/19)....Ozzie Smith will return for his second year as host of "This Week In Baseball" this season (TWIB). Smith will also work 30 Cardinals home game broadcasts on KPLR-TV (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/19)....The Bengals reached a deal with CBS affil WKRC-TV to broadcast the team's four preseason games (Bengals)....ESPN Video has released "We Got Next: The Story Of The WNBA's Inaugural Season." The video, with narration by Robin Roberts, retails for $14.99 (ESPN Video). HOLLYWOOD: Wayne Gretzky will be the first athlete to guest star on the new ABC drama, "The Game," which stars Luke Perry as a sports agent. While the show is "certain to get sports star visits," Perry says it "will not be Love Boat with professional athletes" (DAILY VARIETY, 3/19). ....Ving Rhames, who recently portrayed Don King in HBO's "Only In America," will play former heavyweight boxer Sonny Liston in a Paramount-produced biopic to be directed by William Friedkin (Michael Fleming, DAILY VARIETY, 3/19). ONLINE: Web simulcasts of sports events are examined by Matt Richtel of the N.Y. TIMES. CBS SportsLine President Ross Levinsohn said that Webcasts, which are now updated through audio and/or text only, will "eventually" incorporate video streaming and still shots "to make for a much richer experience." Levinsohn: "We've just built the Edsel. This is the forebear to the Rolls-Royce, which is still three to six years away" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19).