Viacom announced yesterday it has signed contracts with 40
"key" Blockbuster Entertainment senior managers to go into effect
upon completion of the merger. The list does not include
Blockbuster Chair/CEO Wayne Huizenga. Although Huizenga was
given the title of Vice Chair of Viacom and Chair of the soon-to-
be-formed Blockbuster Entertainment Group, "he will only remain
with the companies for what is being described by Viacom
executives as an 'appropriate' transition period." Blockbuster
Vice Chair Steve Berrard was offered a long-term pact, and will
serve as president and CEO of Blockbuster Entertainment Group
(DAILY VARIETY, 9/21). Shareholders are set to meet 9/29 to vote
on the proposed merger. Viacom Chair Sumner Redstone: "We are
particularly pleased that Wayne, who created Blockbuster and made
it a household name, will stay on with us through the transition
period" (AP/ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/21).
On Monday, the Cable Television & Communications Association
of IL filed a complaint with the IL Commerce Commission charging
Ameritech with illegally entering the field of cable TV. The
trade group presented regulators with a July 15 letter from an
Ameritech official outlining Ameritech's plans to enter the cable
industry. The group wants the commission to investigate what
Ameritech is doing and whether the company is "illegally charging
ratepayers to build a cable system" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES,
9/20)....In Baltimore, Milton Kent notes David Letterman's many
jokes about CBS Sports: "Letterman's jokes help feed a
perception, warranted or not, that CBS Sports is ailing or,
worse, worn down by a series of losses of valuable properties,
announcers and production staff" (Baltimore SUN, 9/21)....
COMSAT Video Corp. and Prime Sports Network (PSN) "have
agreed to undertake a joint venture aimed at developing new
sports and entertainment programming." The Bethesda, MD-based
COMSAT Video owns the Nuggets, while PSN is a division of TCI,
the nation's largest cable company. COMSAT Video spokesperson
Paul Jacobson said that "while the agreement is sports directed,
it is not necessarily limited to sports programming" (Brooks
Boliek, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 9/20).
TCI FISHING FOR A TEAM? "A sports team may be the lure for
TCI," while COMSAT has plans in Denver to build a new $110M,
19,000-seat arena with a $20M TV center to be placed next door.
COMSAT reportedly is also interested in acquiring an NHL
franchise. Analyst Paul Maxwell of Media Business Corp. says the
COMSAT/TCI venture is a sure sign of TCI's desire to do more
sports, while COMSAT is bent on building a world class
entertainment center in Denver (Dinah Zeiger, DENVER POST,
The Portland OREGONIAN is conducting a nationwide search for
a sports business reporter. The "big gorilla" in Oregon is Nike,
but there are other important players in the local sports
community -- ranging from Paul Allen's Trailblazers, to hot ad
agencies such as Wieden & Kennedy, to manufacturers such as
Adidas, Avia, and Columbia Sportswear. THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY
interviewed Judy Rooks, Business Editor of the OREGONIAN, on the
search and the newspaper's need for a sports business reporter.
THE DAILY: Why has the OREGONIAN decided to hire a full-
time sports business reporter?
ROOKS: We figure there are three areas of local business
news in which we need to shine: wood products; high-tech
electronics; and sports business -- primarily because of Nike,
but also due to the presence of other companies, such as Adidas,
Avia, Columbia Sportswear, and the Portland Trailblazers. This
critical mass creates a focus and energy that you don't typically
find in other markets. ... Nike is the hub of the wheel, but
there are more and more spokes coming off that hub all of the
THE DAILY: What exactly will this reporter cover? What
issues will he or she focus on?
ROOKS: In some ways this will be a traditional business
beat, because the companies we're going to cover are primarily in
the manufacturing industry. But, since Nike and the others are
renowned for their marketing savvy, there will be a heavy
marketing component to this beat. ... We will also cover our
local advertising industry, which is not terribly large, but has
a national reputation because of Wieden & Kennedy and up-and-
coming agencies such as Cole & Weber and AKA Advertising.
THE DAILY: Who is your audience for sports business news?
Fans or insiders?
ROOKS: We are writing for a business audience. Last year,
Nike was the top-revenue producing public company in Oregon and
what Nike does affects a lot of people's working lives -- either
employees, suppliers, would-be suppliers or other ripple-effect
companies. ... We will be covering the industry as a business,
but that doesn't mean we can't have fun. These businesses are
something we have a cultural familiarity with, and that gives our
audience an immediate entre to the news we will be reporting.
THE DAILY: What does your move say about the sports
ROOKS: In a consumer society with sportswear, sports
equipment, and sports as entertainment, sports has reached a very
high level of public consciousness. Everyone knows what Air
Jordan's are, whether or not they give a darn about sports. ...
Sports marketing has been remarkably successful at making these
products and these companies a part of our everyday parlance, if
not our lives. And in the Northwest, we see a synergy developing
where there are spinoff companies coming up because Nike is here.
... There's a growing realization, especially with developments
like the baseball strike, that sports is a business, just like
THE DAILY: How will Nike respond to this new coverage?
ROOKS: Nike's spokespeople seemed very receptive to the
idea. I think it would be a great advantage to them because we
have covered them in such a hit or miss fashion over the years
and they've had to deal with a number of different reporters. ...
This is not to say that everything we write will be terribly
flattering, but I am hoping that what we write will be more
professional, sophisticated and thorough than in the past.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Experienced reporters with an interest in
sports business issues, and who want to reside in "one of the
most livable cities in the country," should contact Judy Rooks at
the OREGONIAN -- 503-221-8200.
Speaking to a Museum of Television and Radio breakfast
yesterday, Ted Turner "reiterated his desire" to purchase a Big
Three network. In addition, Turner confirmed that he would be
meeting with Time Warner later this week to try to work out a
deal in which Time Warner would no longer hold its stake in
Turner Broadcasting, estimated at 20% (DAILY VARIETY, 9/21).
Financial and regulatory issues make buying a network difficult
for both companies if Time Warner retains its sizeable stake in
Turner Broadcasting (Charles Haddad, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/21).
TBS TO REDEEM DEBT: Turner Broadcasting announced yesterday
that it will redeem $540M of its most costly long-term debt.
Prudential Securities media analyst Sharon Williams viewed the
redemption as a "routine financial move": "It's part of a general
effort to keep the cost of borrowing down" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION,
THE NETWORK SHUFFLE: GE has retained investment banker
Allen & Co. to explore selling all or part of its NBC unit, and
is in discussions with Time Warner and Disney, among others (WALL
STREET JOURNAL, 9/21)....In L.A., Alan Citron and John Lippman
report that CBS Chair Laurence Tisch has made "overtures" to
former Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg about running the network
on a day-to-day basis as well as expand its entertainment
holdings (L.A. TIMES, 9/20).