SBD/7/Leagues Governing Bodies

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).
          
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