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The NTRA reached an agreement in principle with ABC Sports for an expanded package of Triple Crown prep races for '99 and 2000. NTRA Commissioner Tim Smith said the deal offers four new shows and an expanded fifth show leading up to the Visa Triple Crown Challenge. The deal marks an increase of two and a half hours from ABC's '98 coverage. The deal was handled by The Marquee Group's SMTI (NTRA).
Following CBS's cancelation of "Public Eye With Bryant Gumbel," the N.Y. POST's Michael Starr speculates on Gumbel's future with the net and writes, "it isn't lost on CBS and its sports division that Gumbel has a strong sports background." Gumbel signed a five-year deal worth about $7M per year with CBS last year, and with CBS set to begin its new NFL deal, Gumbel's knowledge "could come in handy as either a Sunday studio analyst or play-by-play man with his brother, Greg Gumbel." But one "insider" told Starr, "He's adamant about not going back to sports full-time." Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson said that Gumbel "is unlikely to assume a high-profile sports role at CBS." Pilson: "CBS is well-served with Jim Nantz in the anchor role on 'NFL Today,' and although that's a role Bryant played years ago at NBC I don't envision him having an important sports role at CBS" (N.Y. POST, 8/13).
In CA, Greg Hardesty reported that after Petersen Companies' acquisition of Surfer Publications, about 15 Surfer employees in the accounting and circulation departments -- about 25% of the company -- "lost their jobs" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/12)...."Fox Sports News Primetime" drew its best rating ever on Fox Sports SW Tuesday following the Astros-Brewers game, earning a 5.4. With cable penetration in Houston at 56%, that translates into a 9.6 cable rating, and was the second-highest rated show on basic cable (FSSW)....In L.A., Scott Moe reviewed "Six Times As Sweet," a new book on the Bulls by NBA Exec Editor Publishing Ventures Jan Hubbard. Moe called it "nice to look at with plenty of quality photos ... [But] an insightful book full of information that the mainstream doesn't know? No way" (L.A. TIMES, 8/12)....PA-based Comcast cable exercised an option to purchase control of CO- based Jones Intercable, the largest cable operator in the DC area, for $700M (WASHINGTON POST, 8/13). PERSONALITIES: Blues VP/Dir of Ticket Sales Bruce Affleck was named the team's new analyst on Fox Sports Midwest (FSM). Affleck, on his two positions being a conflict of interest: "In order to have any credibility you have to be honest. ... If anything, I'll get flak from my (Blues) bosses for being too critical" (ST. LOUIS POST- DISPATCH, 8/13)....The Lightning will not offer a new contract to radio voice Larry Hirsch, who had called the team's games since its inception in '92 (Lightning). ONLINE: In Ft. Worth, Tommy Cummings profiled Athlete Direct (AD), which provides athlete sites on AOL. AD President Ross Schaufelberger: "We view ourselves as the primary company for athlete-oriented content. ... It's a medium where the athletes can stay in touch with the fans" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/10)....ATPTour.com received 120,000 page impressions, which translates into about 40,000 users, on Tuesday (CINCINNATI POST, 8/12).
THE ECONOMIST profiles Fox Sports Net and its "clever" regional approach to sports TV and writes that it "is beginning to inflict some nasty wounds on Disney's ESPN, which has dominated American sports programming for nearly 20 years." But it notes that ESPN "is not about to drift into financial difficulty. As cable TV goes digital, there will be more space for more sports networks, and there is probably still demand for more sports. ESPN has a stunningly successful brand, and Disney's master-marketers are thinking up ways to use it. ... Still, [News Corp.'s Rupert] Murdoch and [Liberty Media's John] Malone look like [they will make] a lot of money out of Fox Sports Net -- money that would, if ESPN had seized its opportunity, have been Disney's" (THE ECONOMIST, 8/8 issue). WILL FOX PASS? In Dallas, Barry Horn writes that if Disney's NHL TV rights bid "is such a bad deal, how come Fox and its own cable brethren are thinking about making their own inflated bid? One thing is certain: whoever gets the NHL won't lose as much money on that deal as the networks will on the" $17.6B NFL TV deal (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/13).