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Cox Communications and Fox Cable Networks have entered into a six-year deal to continue carriage of FSN Arizona, FSN South, FSN Southwest, FSN Midwest, FSN Rocky Mountain and FSN West on Cox' standard cable lineup, beginning January 1. The deal covers about 3.3 million Cox customers in Phoenix, Tucson, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Baton Rouge (LA), Omaha, San Diego, Macon (GA), as well as markets in Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and North Carolina (FSN). In L.A., Sallie Hofmeister cites sources as saying that Fox, which was "demanding a 35% increase" for FSN, "will get an average yearly rate increase of about" 9-10%. Fox "also gets distribution for additional channels such as" National Geographic and Fuel (L.A. TIMES, 12/4). Also, sources said that the FSN deal "coincides with a new agreement with Cox for FX" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 12/4).
LOCALLY: Sharon Kleinpeter, a spokesperson for Cox's Baton Rouge operations, said that the agreement "will not result in a rate increase when it takes effect." However, Kleinpeter indicated that in the long term, "routine increases could take place" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 12/4).
ESPN NEXT? Cox' carriage deal with ESPN expires at the end of March, and Merrill Lynch stated in a report yesterday that "questions about ESPN's future revenue and its management stability were helping to weigh down Disney stock." Contracts covering half of ESPN's 87 million HHs "will expire in the next two years, subjecting the company to demands for rate rollbacks" (L.A. TIMES, 12/4).
Ebersol Appears On "Squawk Box"
NBC Sports and Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol appeared this morning on CNBC's "Squawk Box," which was guest hosted John Hancock Chair David D'Alessandro. Ebersol, on NBC opting out of TV rights to the NFL, NBA and MLB: "With GE's money, we were able to become the first network basically to have everything in big-time sports in the first half of the '90s, up about until 1997. But, with getting that money in good times came the responsibility not to waste it in bad times. With the NFL negotiations in early '98, we could see very, very clearly that the kind of escalations they were looking for were going to have us in a situation where we were going to lose more than $100[M] a year, so we said no. Our involvement with baseball at that point was just their post-season, and we were losing a lot of money, and our entertainment division was annoyed that two weeks after the season started, all their new shows were pre-empted the same problem that the Fox people complain about now with baseball. Basketball is an emotional thing for me; we're dealing with one of my better friends in the world in David Stern. We had a ten-year run of making a lot of money. The last two years we lost a lot. We just decided, 'Hey, unless they want to make a deal with us going forward at break-even, it doesn't make sense to stay in the game.'" Ebersol, on the changing landscape of major league sports on TV: "Look at the last go 'round with the NBA. Basically, all the networks said no, and ESPN, which has the best dual revenue stream of anybody, (with subscriber revenue and advertising revenue) ... they were there to pick it up. I think the better way of looking at this is how much longer we are going to have a lot of major sports on free over-the-air television with only one revenue stream" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 12/4). For more on Ebersol's "Squawk Box" appearance, see today's Closing Bell. See Leagues & Governing Bodies for MLB President Bob DuPuy's appearance.
ESPN, Charter Communications, the Wisconsin Sports Development Corp. and the state of Wisconsin announced that the ESPN Great Outdoor Games will be held July 8-11, 2004, in Madison. Wisconsin sent 20 athletes to the Games in '03, the largest delegation of competitors from any state. Next year will be the first time the event will be held in the Midwest, after stops in Lake Placid and Reno. ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 will air more than 20 hours of programming around the Games (ESPN). Charter President & CEO Carl Vogel noted that the MSO "will devote significant cross-channel avails to tout the Outdoor Games, and it will use bill-stuffers and other materials to help generate awareness and tune-in nationally." Charter will "also be involved in a number of promotional programs in Wisconsin to help build attendance there." ESPN Outdoors VP & GM Christine Godleski noted while ratings were up 16% on ABC's coverage last summer, viewership was "down slightly" on ESPN and ESPN2, but "still captured some 28 million watchers" (MULTICHANNELNEWS.com, 12/3).
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Cablevision and YES Network have selected retired federal judge Stanley Sporkin, who "specializes in [SEC] matters, corporate governance and litigation," and retired Time Warner exec Richard Aurelio, who founded NY1 News, N.Y.'s 24-hour news channel, as arbitrators in their carriage dispute. The two sides "still have to determine a third arbitrator to complete the panel." Sporkin: "These are private proceedings. Like a court trial, there will be discovery and hearings. It probably will be quick" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 12/4)....Speed Channel, which has added more than 4.7 million HHs in the past 12 months, has surpassed the 60 million Nielsen HH mark for the first time in its nine-year history. Since being acquired by Fox Cable Networks in July '01, Speed has added 19 million HHs (Speed Channel) NFL Network has developed a call-in number for fans. Every Sunday from 1:00pm-1:00am ET, fans can call 1-866-NFL-VENT to leave a message on the "NFL Total Access" Vent Line. The best messages of the week will be featured on "NFL Total Access" (NFL Network)....The Mavericks and ESPN Radio's KESN-FM extended their broadcast agreement through '05-06 (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/4).
Tagliabue Discusses "Playmakers"
On HBO's "Inside The NFL"
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue appeared on HBO's "Inside The NFL" last night, and said of his discussion with Disney Chair & CEO Michael Eisner about ESPN's "Playmakers": "My concern was that the show was one-dimensional and traded in racial stereotypes, and I didn't think that was either appropriate for ESPN or right for our players. (Eisner) said that his people had told him that there were things that had gone on 20 years ago, shows that had been out there, and this was not a heck of a lot different. I said basically on that that I think society's expectations as to the standards that athletes meet are higher today than they were 20 years ago when it comes to what we expect of our role models for kids. Whatever might have been okay 30 years ago ... I didn't feel was okay today. We had to meet a higher standard." Tagliabue, on whether the league's rights negotiations with ESPN would be impacted should the network continue the series: "We would take it into account to the extent we could, but we don't view ourselves as the ultimate censor. I don't view myself as a 14th century pope in terms of what people have access to. I made my views known. I hope they consider them. If they don't it will be their editorial judgement, but life will go on" (HBO, 12/3).
PLAY IT AGAIN? "Playmakers" creator John Eisendrath and ESPN Original Entertainment Senior VP/Programming Rom Semiao indicated that "Playmakers" "remains in limbo." Eisendrath: "I'm hopeful that the powers that be will see that the NFL and 'Playmakers' can coexist and that the show, if anything, increases the popularity of the league" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12/4).