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USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke reports that with the Bulls- Pacers series heading for at least a Game Six, NBC has added "close to" $10M in ad sales (USA TODAY, 5/27). In Chicago, Fred Mitchell wrote that NBC execs are "nervous" at the possibility of a Pacers-Jazz NBA Finals. But NBA Senior VP/Communications Brian McIntyre said, "A lot of people want to see the Bulls because of their international popularity. But I think the NBA Finals are at the stage now that the event dictates it more than the participants" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/25)....In DC, Washington Sports & Entertainment VP/Communications Matt Williams "formally registered a complaint" with WUSA-TV for airing comments from Capitals coach Ron Wilson while he was miked by the station during practice. On the tape, Wilson made some derogatory remarks about the Sabres, calling them a "chicken----" team (WASHINGTON POST, 5/27)....Comcast will pay $500M for a "major stake" in Jones Intercable, making Comcast the nation's No. 3 cable TV operator, behind only Time Warner and TCI (USA TODAY, 5/26)....The WTA Tour "is expected to announce" a deal today with Eurosport to broadcast 80 women's pro tennis tournaments on European TV in '99 (USA TODAY, 5/27)....ESPN Classic Sports introduces two new shows in June: "Big Fights Boxing Hour" on Tuesdays at 8:00pm ET and "Schaap One-on-One," an interview show with Dick Schaap, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm ET (N.Y. POST, 5/27).
The NFL "is expected to announce an agreement" today with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN Internet Group to produce the NFL.com, according to Stefan Fatsis of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Sources "familiar" with the deal said that ESPN will pay "close to" $10M over three years, extending a two- year-old relationship with the league. Fatsis writes that while the deal "is a fraction" of the NFL's TV deal, it is "revenue from a medium that one day could yield big money" and "far exceeds" the approximately $1M the NFL received over the last two years for its Web site deal (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/27). Jay Sherman of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER writes that the deal "could mark a pivotal point in the maturation of the Internet" as it "involved a bidding war between at least two Web shops and carried with it a fairly high price tag." Sherman puts the deal at $10-12M, and writes that SportsLine USA and Fox's News America "bowed out" of talks, "believing contract terms made it difficult to make money on the deal" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/27).
The Big Four TV networks closed their season "on a sour note" as none had ratings gains "for the first time in more than a decade," according to USA TODAY's Gary Levin, who wrote that fledgling nets WB and UPN "have nibbled" away at the major nets' audience, while cable's growth has also "drained viewers." NBC led the Nielsens this year with a 10.2/17 average (-3%); CBS averaged a 9.6/16 (-4%); ABC a 8.4/14 (-4%); and Fox a 7.1/12 (-8%) (USA TODAY, 5/26). RATINGS: For a full listing of weekend ratings, see (#30)....In Boston, WABU-TV drew the highest rating in its five-year history Friday night for the Yankees-Red Sox series opener, earning a 13.1/23. Sox games on WABU this year have averaged in the high 7s and low 8s (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/27)....In the January-March ratings survey, N.Y.'s WFAN-AM averaged 2.2% of the total audience, down from 2.8% in the October-December period. One-On-One Sports affil, WJWR-AM, which didn't "show up" in the survey, says it has "planted a foot on the turf of WFAN" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/27).