Since August 1994, Jon Miller has served as Senior VP of
Programming at NBC Sports. In his present position and his
previous capacity as NBC Sports VP of Program Planning and
Development, he has been responsible for the development of all
NBC Sports properties, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, Notre Dame
football, the PGA Tour and AVP. He spoke yesterday with THE
SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY on the state of network sports coverage in
general, and NBC in particular.
THE DAILY: What does the baseball strike mean for NBC?
MILLER: Obviously, it's very disappointing because we were
very excited about The Baseball Network and our relationship.
These guys had done a remarkable job in the face of some pretty
daunting conditions, and they put together an organization in a
very short amount of time. Then they went out and did what
nobody thought they could --they restored value to the game.
THE DAILY: Will The Baseball Network be able to survive
when baseball comes back?
MILLER: I don't know. It is not up to us, obviously. We
certainly think they are better equipped than anybody out there
to do a good job for baseball. When you strip away the rhetoric
and the posturing, the fact of the matter is nobody is better
able to market and sell your product than you are. Witness how
well the NBA has done things.
THE DAILY: Is there pressure on the other networks to
follow Fox up the ladder on rights fees?
MILLER: We are in the sports business because we think it
is a good business to be in, in the sense that it does well for
our affiliates, it makes money, it helps promote other
programming. ... Different sports obviously have different
strategic goals, but for the most part I would say [the execs at
Fox] obviously have a business plan and some objectives and they
know what they're doing.
THE DAILY: Do you think the Olympics are a good buy at the
MILLER: The Olympics are the single biggest event in not
only sport, but in entertainment -- as evidenced by the
continuing popularity from countries that want to host it,
advertisers that want to be associated with it, and networks that
want to televise it. An advertiser who really understands his
marketplace and understands what he is trying to do, will
recognize that the Olympics is the best environment for him to be
in. Nothing else in sports shows you the emotion and the ability
to strive and to achieve. The Olympics aren't just about
winning, they are about participating, about the long road
getting there. For most companies, that tends to be a big part
of their message.
THE DAILY: What's the next AVP? Are there any other hot,
new sports properties?
MILLER: We were very fortunate with the AVP. It came at a
time when we needed the programming when we lost baseball in
1989. The AVP guys were very cooperative and eager to work with
us. We had good sponsorship support. It is probably -- in
addition to the NBA -- the single most integrated sports property
you can have. ... As far as what the next AVP is, I don't know.
I don't think that when we got the AVP we knew that the AVP was
the next AVP.
THE DAILY: With viewers hungry for sports, is there any
chance we will see any NBA games before Christmas?
MILLER: The NBA knows their product better than anybody
else. They know what works and they know the timing of it.
These guys are the best there is. ... I don't think that we're
looking to move up anytime soon, I think that we're going to have
a very exciting first and second quarter of NBA programming.
That's what we're sticking with.
THE DAILY: The AFC is topping the NFC in the ratings for
the first time in 15 years. Is that attributable to the NFC's
shift to Fox?
MILLER: No, I don't think it is attributable to that.
There are a lot of reasons. We have done a good job promoting.
I think that people really like our pre-game element, they see
"NFL Live" as a very strong, information-filled pre-game show.
... There are also a lot of real strong football stories in the
AFC right now, and a lot of very, very exciting players and
quality of football that is being played. ... [But] I'm not going
to kid you, the fact that they are the only game in town right
now doesn't hurt.
THE DAILY: What would a change in ownership at NBC -- a Ted
Turner or Disney -- mean for sports programming?
MILLER: That's really tough for me to comment on. These
guys are all very smart businessmen and they have had great
success wherever they have been. And I would think that whoever
would come in would say that if this makes sense and if this is
doing well, then we continue. And if it's not, why not? It's
not just sports. It would be the same for stations, business,
news, entertainment, video, cable, international, ancillary
marketing, promotion, you name it. That's the way successful
business strategists like that look at programming.