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  • MOUSE EARS: DISNEY OFFER EXAMINED AS FOX PONDERS NEXT MOVE

              Fox "is looking at matching" Disney's offer to more
         than double TV rights fees for the NHL, according to sources
         of Stephen Battaglio of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.  Fox has
         until August 14 to retain the broadcast rights, and
         Battaglio writes that if Fox "does decide to go after the
         cable component," it could put national games on FX or FSN
         and "shut ESPN and ESPN2 out of a major source of product in
         the first half of the year" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/7).  The
         N.Y. TIMES' Richard Sandomir put the broadcast portion of
         Disney's total offer at "about" $250M -- the number Fox has
         to match by August 14 (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6).  In Toronto, Rob
         Longley writes, "Don't expect Fox to abandon the NHL
         immediately," because even though its RSNs have regional TV
         rights to 19 NHL teams, "it would like to maintain a
         national presence" (TORONTO SUN, 8/7).   
              NO INCREASE: ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys said if the
         network's bid is successful, ESPN "will not impose an NHL
         surcharge" on cable operators: "There was one report saying
         we have a clause in our affiliate contracts that permits us
         to increase fees when we pay higher rights fees for sports
         programming.  There's no such clause" (NEWSDAY, 8/7).
              WHY SO MUCH? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes, "You
         must wonder what Disney's strategy is beyond guaranteeing
         that hockey will stay on ESPN and ESPN2 for five more years. 
         Clearly, this is heavily a cable play. ... But adding ABC to
         the mix is dumbfounding.  Does ABC, a struggling network,
         need more low-rated programming?  Wouldn't its affiliates
         prefer an eighth-run flick to a Saturday or Sunday night
         game that gets a 1.4 rating?"  Sandomir writes that ABC "is
         stepping into a quagmire. ... Yet, Disney sees benefits to
         making a blockbuster bid.  The Mouse Kingdom's target for
         such spending is questionable enough, but why do it at a
         time when big losses are expected from the stupendous N.F.L.
         deals?"  Sandomir: "Perhaps it will come down to corporate
         egos ... Maybe Disney opted to overpay to make sure it swept
         Fox from hockey" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).  USA TODAY's Michael
         Hiestand defends the bid, noting that it "would likely
         include international NHL TV distribution as well as footage
         from old games for ESPN's Classic Sports Network" (USA
         TODAY, 8/7).  NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay: "On the surface, paying
         up to $120 million a season for the NHL ... seems wildly out
         of line. ... Will the deal be a money-loser?  Probably.  But
         ABC could use some winter sports programming."  He also adds
         that Disney needs to secure future programming for ESPN2,
         which will soon be in 60 million homes (NEWSDAY, 8/7).
              
    

    Print | Tags: ABC, ESPN, Leagues and Governing Bodies, News Corp./Fox, NHL, Walt Disney
  • NBA TALKS FACE SERIOUS SETBACK AS OWNERS WALK OUT

              Negotiations between the NBA and its players broke off
         yesterday when the owners' group "abruptly ended the
         session, dismissing a union proposal as economically
         perilous," according to Murray Chass of the N.Y. TIMES. 
         Chass: "Both sides accused the other of deliberately
         torpedoing the meeting and the immediate chance for progress
         in the off-season lockout."  No further bargaining sessions
         are scheduled, though lawyers for the league and the players
         will meet today with arbitrator John Feerick "to schedule a
         hearing on the union's grievance over the teams' failure to
         pay guaranteed salaries" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7). 
              DETAILS: USA TODAY's Roscoe Nance reports that talks
         took a "giant step backward" after a "cordial" and
         "seemingly productive morning" where the sides reached a
         consensus to add marijuana to the league's banned substance
         list and the owners offered a proposal for a hard cap to be
         phased in, which would add $50M a year to player salaries
         and increase the average salary from $2.6M to "at least"
         $3.1M in year four.  But those "good feelings disappeared"
         in the afternoon when union counsel Jeffrey Kessler
         presented a proposal from players which included: player
         salary increases tied to league growth, with 63% of BRI
         going to salaries; a three-year rookie wage scale with teams
         holding the right of first refusal in year four; a $500,000
         minimum salary for players with 1-5 years experience, and
         $750,000 for those with 5-7 years, with an extra $100,000
         per year of service; an average salary exception that would
         provide a $3M pool for teams over the cap to sign one player
         a year for the average salary; and a lottery exception that
         would allow teams over the salary cap that don't make the
         playoffs to sign any player they want to.  NBA Commissioner
         David Stern and the owners then walked out when Kessler,
         Stern said, began "lecturing owners on the risks they were
         taking by not accepting the proposal."  Stern: "The words
         they were using were an insult" (USA TODAY, 8/7).  In N.Y.,
         Lenn Robbins writes the meeting had a "sudden, childish
         conclusion" (N.Y. POST, 8/7).  NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter,
         on the walkout: "I think it's more feigned.  It's part of a
         charade.  It was funny" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).   
              LEGAL-ESE: Both Stern and Deputy Commissioner Russ
         Granik "attributed the afternoon breakdown to union
         management thwarting talks with 'a lecture' on the legal
         shaky ground the owners inhabited in two pending litigation
         cases" -- one where Feerick will rule if owners must pay
         players during the lockout, the other a complaint before the
         NLRB stating the owners have unfairly imposed the lockout
         before an impasse had been reached.  Granik: "The best we
         can surmise is their counsel told them, 'You don't want to
         do anything constructive here.  You want to play out the
         legal string'" (Ric Bucher, WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).  ESPN's
         David Aldridge reported that both sides will now wait on an
         anticipated hearing next week on whether the league has to
         pay its players' guaranteed salaries during the lockout.  If
         Feerick "rules for the union, and that ruling is upheld,
         there would be little financial incentive for the league to
         continue the lockout" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/6).
              MORNING SICKNESS? Hunter said "at least part" of the
         morning session was "acrimonious," including an early
         exchange between Karl Malone and Jerry Colangelo.  Kessler:
         "Colangelo said we had to address the drug agreement, rookie
         issues and a hard salary cap.  They want to slow the growth
         of salaries" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).  Granik said later that the
         "major change the union made that was positive" was their
         position on the rookie contract, which would run three
         years, with players subject to a first refusal system "akin
         to what we used to have" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/7). 
              WHO ATTENDED: Stern and Granik said the morning session
         included talks between players and owner reps, which
         included the Rockets' Les Alexander; the Knicks' Dave
         Checketts; the Jazz's Larry Miller; the Heat's Mickey Arison
         and the Suns' Jerry Colangelo (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).  
         Thirteen players attended the talks (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/7). 
              THE PLAYERS REACT: Karl Malone: "I was totally amazed
         at all the games they (owners) were trying to play, instead
         of dealing with issues.  When they walked out, I couldn't
         believe it. ... To me, the message was sent.  They treated
         me with disrespect by walking out of the meeting and not
         negotiating" ("The Last Word," FSN, 8/6).  Magic rep Danny
         Schayes: "It got a little ugly at the end, but that's
         typical at this state of negotiations" (ORLANDO SENTINEL,
         8/7).  The Wizards' Mitch Richmond: "When we first stepped
         into the room we said our stance hadn't changed and we
         weren't willing to go with a hard cap and I think right
         there they were willing to walk out" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7). 
         NBPA President Patrick Ewing: "It's just too bad that
         instead of dealing with it, the owners had to show us
         disrespect by getting up and walking out" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS,
         8/7).  CNN/SI's Mark Morgan reported that on August 10,
         Hunter and Ewing "will begin a series of meetings around the
         country to build union support" ("Sports Tonight," 8/6). 
              FROM MANAGEMENT: Stern: "I think they intended for
         their proposal to be insulting.  And then to have their
         attorney lecture the owners on what a grave risk they are
         taking if they don't accept the latest proposal.  That's not
         negotiating" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/7).  Granik, on the union:
         "The strategy here is to litigate, arbitrate and make no
         concessions" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).  More Granik: "At this
         point, it's hard to be optimistic" (USA TODAY, 8/7).
              DID KESSLER LECTURE? Kessler said he didn't lecture
         owners: "When they were about to storm out of the meeting, I
         suggested that they recognize there are going to be some
         very important legal decisions to be made rather quickly and
         it might be in their interest to negotiate seriously before
         those decisions come down" (Murray Chass, N.Y. TIMES, 8/7).
              OTHER REAX: On CBS SportsLine, Mike Kahn writes the
         last CBA was negated after players received up to 57% of BRI
         as opposed to 48% and "now they wanted more?"  Kahn: "We now
         have intermediaries involved who could destroy the 1998-99
         basketball season. ... With Kessler ranting legalese at
         Stern, Granik, [NBA Senior VP/Chief Legal Counsel] Jeff
         Mishkin and [NBA General Counsel] Joel Litvin -- all with
         law degrees -- it made little sense to expect a respectful
         audience" (CBS SportsLine, 8/7).  In DC, Michael Wilbon
         writes that despite yesterday's breakdown, he feels the
         "majority of NBA players aren't committed to missing a
         season.  Or a portion of a season.  A great number of the
         NBA's high-profile players are committed to one thing and
         one thing only: getting paid" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).
    
    

    Print | Tags: Cablevision, ESPN, Houston Rockets, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Miami Heat, NBA, New York Knicks, News Corp./Fox, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, RDV Sports, Sports Illustrated, SportsLine.com, Time Warner, Utah Jazz, Walt Disney
  • PAULIE'S CHORE: BEESTON EYEING WATSON FOR NEW MLB POST?

              Bud Selig's official appointment as MLB's full-time
         commissioner is "an opportunity to start the long-awaited
         revamping of the commissioner's office," according to David
         Rawnsley of BASEBALL AMERICA, who writes that "several" MLB
         officials said that COO Paul Beeston "submitted a revised
         organizational chart" for approval at last March's owners'
         meetings.  A "key element" of the plan is the creation of a
         new Senior Exec VP position, and Beeston's "first choice"
         for the new spot "was said to be" Braves GM John Schuerholz. 
         However, Beeston was unable to persuade Schuerholz to take a
         sabbatical from the Braves to take the post, and Rawnsley
         writes that "most speculation now seems to point" to former
         Yankees/Astros GM Bob Watson for the position (BA, 8/17).
         Twins DH Paul Molitor "insists there's nothing to
         speculation he'll take a position in the commissioner's
         office if he retires after this season" (USA TODAY, 8/7).
              BASEBALL BITS: Selig is the subject of an extensive Q&A
         with BASEBALL AMERICA's Alan Schwarz.  Selig, asked whether
         some MLB teams may have to relocate in the near future: "I
         won't give odds, because obviously in my position I don't do
         that, but I would say the next two or three years.  And
         maybe sooner than later" (BASEBALL AMERICA, 8/17 issue). 
    
    

    Print | Tags: Anheuser Busch, Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Leagues and Governing Bodies, Minnesota Twins, MLB, New York Yankees, Time Warner, YankeeNets
  • WINSTON-SALEM AN MLS DEACON? RFK-LITE IN NATION'S CAPITAL?

              Counting on soccer's "rising popularity" in NC, the
         Downtown Winston-Salem Development Corp. "is looking into
         what it would take to lure" an MLS franchise to the area,
         according to Martin Kady of the Winston-Salem JOURNAL.  The
         idea is still in the "early discussions phases," but
         business execs and city leaders will meet with MLS officials
         "some time during the week of" August 17.  In two weeks, MLS
         Exec VP/Business Affairs John Ertmann will visit Winston-
         Salem "to survey the city, talk to local leaders and look at
         possible stadium sites" (Winston-Salem JOURNAL, 8/6).
              RFK-LITE? With one year remaining on DC United's lease
         at RFK Stadium, team and local officials said "they are
         considering building" a $20M soccer-only facility next to
         RFK "to ensure that the team will stay in Washington,"
         according to Amy Shipley of the WASHINGTON POST.  DC Sports
         Commission Exec Dir Jim Dalrymple: "It's something that
         needs to be studied" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7).
    
    

    Print | Tags: AEG, DC United, Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLS, R J Reynolds
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