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The ABL "is close to a time-buy deal with UPN" that would bring the league "some needed national exposure," according to Terry Lefton of BRANDWEEK. UPN would put the games on Saturday afternoons. ABL CEO Gary Cavalli "would neither confirm, nor comment on the negotiations." In addition, the ABL "is seeking additional exposure for its upcoming season through an ad hoc network of PBS stations that would air ABL games for little or no charge." The ABL was on BET and Fox Sports Net last year (BRANDWEEK, 6/29). Cavalli is quoted in the HARTFORD COURANT as saying, "We're very close to a TV deal. We'll hope to announce something in two to four weeks." The league had "tried to induce Fox to buy a broadcast-partial ownership package, which the network turned down." Fox Sports Senior VP/Media Relations Vince Wladika: "They've come to us three times with a prospectus and we've told them no" (HARTFORD COURANT, 6/30).
ESPN's decision to let reporter Bonnie Bernstein get out of her contract to sign with CBS has enabled the network to "obtain more access for its reporters on NFL games covered by CBS," according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST. Sources say that CBS has "agreed to allow ESPN to broadcast live from NFL stadiums for an additional 30 minutes on game days" as part of the deal to land Bernstein. Under NFL rules, no live broadcasts are allowed an hour before kickoff expect on the net that owns the rights to that game. ESPN and CBS spokespeople "declined comment on Bernstein's contract" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/30).
RATINGS: Not including last weekend's coverage, CBS's first-year ratings for its PBA telecasts were averaging a 1.6, compared to the 1.9 earned last year by ABC. CBS Sports President Sean McManus called the debut season a "tremendous success." The net has extended its deal through 2000 (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/30)....Friday night's Yankees- Mets game on WWOR-TV earned an 11.9/19 -- the highest-rated Mets game on the station since '89 (N.Y. POST, 6/30). OTHER NOTES: HBO extended its deal with Lennox Lewis for six fights, but Michael Katz of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS reports the deal would provide "no window" for Lewis to fight Evander Holyfield on Showtime (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30)....The Bonham Group President & CEO Dean Bonham began writing a biweekly sports business column in the Rocky Mountain News (THE DAILY)....Young Broadcasting, which bought L.A.'s KCAL-TV in '96, "may turn around and sell it along with its stable of 11 other stations." KCAL holds broadcast rights to the Lakers (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/30).