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ESPN will televise ESPN The Magazine, at 7:30pm ET on Wednesday March 11, a half-hour look at its new magazine unit the day before it debuts nationally (ESPN). NEWSWEEK's Richard Turner profiles the magazine's launch, which is a "true frontal assault on SI's turf." ESPN Magazine's "credo is a variation on what has been the rap (partly unfair, partly out-moded) against SI for decades: too old, too white-guy, too country-club. Your father's magazine, with a slightly moralizing tone. On oversized pages, ESPN will be closer to the feel of a Nike ad or MTV. It will 'celebrate' sports and be a fan, not a paunchy, cynical sportswriter." Disney "expects to spend" $75M on the unit, which has a first issue guaranteed circulation of 350,000, which Turner calls "a good start" (NEWSWEEK, 3/16 issue). WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: ESPN Magazine Editor John Papanek said the publication will be forward looking and not "a news magazine." Papanek: "We're going to assume the readers of our magazine know the results, have seen the highlights, seen 'SportsCenter,' heard the analysis" (HARTFORD COURANT, 3/8). In N.Y., Keith Kelly reports that ESPN "is aiming" for an average reader of 29-years-old. It will launch with 108 ad pages, "joining an elite group of magazines," and hopes to hit 500,000 subscribers by September. While the SI "franchise" today clears more than $100M-a-year in profits, insiders say Disney doesn't expect to make a profit on the ESPN unit "until 2003" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/9). Also in N.Y., Paul Tharp puts the magazines ad pages at 107 and worth $2M. Tharp: "Media experts say that the oversized format of ESPN will sit on the stands for two weeks and could grow stale in the fast-changing world of sports" (N.Y. POST, 3/9). In previewing the launch, Lisa Magenheimer cites a recent survey showing that 78% of American adults "recognize the name" ESPN and each week 42% of all "men tune in to the ESPN network" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 3/8). In publishing weeks, ESPN Magazine will reach subscribers on Wednesday and Thursday (L.A. TIMES, 3/8).
Fox Sports Pittsburgh (FSP) will "continue to broadcast Penguins games at least through the end of this season," while the network and team "battle over disputed" TV rights, according to David Brown of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW. On Friday, Judge Judith Friedman "continued a temporary restraining order" that blocks Pittsburgh Hockey Associates, owner of the Penguins, from "immediately" dropping FSP and broadcasting its team's game on its own cable network. Friedman also established a schedule of legal action in the dispute that could lead to a trial "no sooner than June 1." After the ruling, both sides "claimed a degree of success," with FSP attorney Greg Jordan saying the injunction was upheld because the network's case is "very strong." Brown wrote that the ruling does not restrain the newly created Marino Sports Television "from promoting, developing and/or operating as a regional sports network." Yale Gutnick, an attorney for Penguins Owners Roger Marino and Howard Baldwin, said the owners "intend to move forward with their [TV] business aggressively" (TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/7). CRITICAL OF TEAM: In Pittsburgh, Steve Sampsell called the dispute "unsettling." Sampsell: "Here's a hockey team that wants its players to honor its contract and its trying to break its arrangement with the existing regional sports channel." Sampsell, on the decision to name its channel after Marino, who is from Boston: "That'll really help build ties with the region. What's wrong with Pittsburgh Sports Television?" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/8).
RDV Sports, the parent of the Magic and the IHL Solar Bears, has extended both teams TV deals with the Sunshine Network. The Magic's deal will continue through the 2000- 2001 season, and will provide Sunshine with rights to a minimum of 44 regular season games, plus two preseason games and available playoff games. The Solar Bears agreement runs through 2002, and includes a minimum of 20 regular season games, plus available playoff games. RDV Sports' partnership with Sunshine also includes additional programming as well as promotional and advertising tie-ins. RDV Sports, with assistance from Sunshine, is constructing a 5,000 square- foot TV and radio production facility, opening in September '98, at its recently opened RDV Sportsplex (RDV Sports).
Chiefs RB Marcus Allen, who has a year left on his contract, "discussed" a job on CBS's NFL studio show with network officials last week (K.C. STAR, 3/6)....Tim Ryan is leaving CBS shortly to join Fox and NBC Sports. Ryan will call NFL games for Fox, and will work the 2000 Summer Olympics, the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the world skiing championships for NBC (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 3/7). ..In BUSINESS WEEK, SportsLine USA CEO Michael Levy said that he thinks his Web site's Olympic ratings were "undercounted," but he remains "optimistic" about the Web site's future. Levy: "We have momentum, and CBS picking up NFL is another big plus for us" (BUSINESS WEEK, 3/16).....On "The Sports Reporters," Mike Lupica defended Jim Nantz's Olympic performance: "Nantz got blamed for everything except El Nino. I haven't seen such hateful reviews since Howard Cosell was in his prime" ("The Sports Reporters," 3/8).