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NETWORK NEWS: NO DEAL W/FOX AND AFFILS; ESPN STILL TOP GUN
Published June 8, 1998
Fox's spring affiliates meeting "adjourned Friday with no deal in place for the affiliates to help shoulder the cost" of Fox's new $4.4B NFL package, according to Jenny Hontz of DAILY VARIETY. The "main stumbling block is Fox's unwillingness to link discussions about network programming exclusivity to talks over financing the NFL package." Affils "want assurances they'll get NFL and other programming exclusively for both analog and digital TV broadcasts." Another "sticking point" is that Fox wants a one-year deal, while the affils "want a longer, more iron- clad agreement covering the entire length of the NFL contract." Meanwhile, Fox TV Chair & CEO Chase Carey told affils that total sports rights fees will approach $1B in annual expense, an increase of more than 50% over the current year. Despite the cost, Hontz writes that Carey "picked on NBC for letting football go away because they said the economics didn't justify it." Carey: "When all is said and done, that will go down as one of the defining moments of recent network history" (DAILY VARIETY, 6/8). STILL A JUGGERNAUT: CNBC's Don Dahler reported on ESPN's ratings dip, and possible lowered earnings expectations on Wall Street for Disney. Jeffrey Logsdon of Cruttenden Roth: "If you're lowering your numbers on Disney, and you're using ESPN as kind of a flag to raise, you're probably throwing the baby out with the bathwater." Dahler: "ESPN is like Michael Jordan -- still a long way ahead of the pack, even though they may have lost a step or two." ESPN is still the 7th highest rated cable network, and 5th highest in the 18-49 demographic ("The Edge," CNBC, 6/5).