DirecTV Inc., a unit of GM Hughes Electronics, announced a
deal yesterday to carry more than 400 regular-season NBA games on
its direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service. DirecTV customers
will be able to subscribe to the "NBA League Pass" starting on
December 1. The package will include games not shown on local
broadcast and cable channels and will cost $149 to residential
users. DirecTV plans to carry more than 700 NBA games in '95-96.
DirecTV President Eddy Hartenstein: "With exciting action from
the NBA, combined with our other professional and collegiate
sports packages, sports fans of any team will be able to watch
the games they want through the convenience of an 18-inch
satellite dish." NBA Commissioner David Stern: "We continue to
explore innovative ways to provide our fans with additional NBA
programming. DirecTV is an exciting complement to our national
broadcast partners, NBC and Turner Sports." DirecTV already
carries expanded NFL coverage through "NFL Sunday Ticket"
(DirecTV). "The exclusive programming only adds to concerns that
DirecTV will steal market share from cable TV system operators.
Some money managers are predicting that DirecTV will snare as
much as 10 percent of cable's 56 million subscribers by the end
of the decade" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/30). The NBA is expected to
announce another deal today with DBS service PrimeStar Partners
(W.S. JOURNAL, 11/30).
NBC will file a petition with the FCC today "asserting that
the stations that form the heart of Fox are illegally foreign-
owned." In today's N.Y. TIMES, Bill Carter calls NBC's action a
"direct challenge to the very existence of the Fox television
network" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/30). NBC has sought FCC examination
into Fox's role in the purchases of several local affiliates by
SF Broadcasting, a joint venture between Fox Television Stations
and Savoy Pictures Entertainment (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/30).
DID ABC/CAP CITIES OPEN "PANDORA'S BOX"? Some Hollywood
execs claimed that the deal between ABC/Cap Cities and the "Dream
Team" of Spielberg/Geffen/Katzenberg "has opened a Pandora's Box
... by agreeing for the first time to share a portion of
advertising revenue, predicting that other suppliers will demand
the same terms." One studio exec: "Once a network starts doing
something nobody has done before, it is going to make people want
it in their deals." Other studio execs and producers complained
that more network-developed entertainment programming will limit
the time slots available for shows developed externally (Hall &
Braxton, L.A. TIMES, 11/30). If the networks do begin sharing ad
revenues, one possible response to any "bottom line" reductions
would be to sell more 30-second spots (Kevin Goldman, WALL STREET
WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE BUYOUT TALK? The talk of a
reshuffling of the network landscape "has faded away faster than
a low-rated television series," writes Alan Citron of the L.A.
TIMES. Discussions about CBS and NBC, which were heated just
weeks ago, have "fizzled" according to one would-be dealmaker.
"Industry sources blame the rancid deal environment on everything
from inflated network values to nettlesome government regulations
and complex cross-ownerships." Ted Turner "remains in the game,"
although he is "frustrated" by complications involving his
partners, Time Warner and TCI. Disney could make another network
bid "if and when prices become more reasonable. And Viacom could
always enter the fray" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/30).
SWEEPS WINNERS: CBS leads the other three networks with
only two nights remaining in the November sweeps, gaining an
average rating/share of 13.1/21. For the season, CBS only trails
ABC by one-tenth of a ratings point. But there is good news for
others. ABC leads among adults 18-49. NBC leads Thursday night,
the No. 1 evening for 18-49s. Fox has posted sweeps gains of 10%
in 18-49s, 18-34s, 25-54s and a 7% gain in household ratings
(Michelle Greppi, N.Y. POST, 11/30). Ad buyer Paul Schulman, who
notes CBS won on the strength of specials, not its regular
schedule: "If you ask me who really won the sweeps, I'd say Fox.
They're up in every major category for regularly scheduled
programming, and the other networks are down" (USA TODAY, 11/30).
NFL'S FOURTH-QUARTER: As for NFL broadcasts, NBC retook the
lead over Fox with an average of 12.0/28, topping Fox's 11.8/28.
"This is NBC's first lead this late into the season since 1980,
and its highest 12-week average since 1985" (Milton Kent,
Baltimore SUN, 11/30). ABC's Monday Night 49ers-Saints game got
a 16.3. "MNF's" 17.4 average is up 4% from '93 (Dave Dye, USA
Viacom-owned Paramount Television Group is expected to
announce today that it will buy Boston independent station WSBK-
TV from New World Communications in a deal reportedly worth more
than $100M, according to a report in this morning's BOSTON
HERALD. WSBK is the broadcast home to the Red Sox, Bruins and
Celtics. Viacom sources say the deal also includes the 20% of
the regional sports cable-channel New England Sports Network
(NESN) owned by New World/WSBK. The other 80% of NESN is owned
by the Red Sox (48%) and the Bruins (32%). Paramount hopes to
use WSBK as Boston's home for its fifth network, planned to
launch on Monday and Tuesday nights only in January '95. The
impact on sports programming should be "relatively minimal" at
first, at least until Paramount extends its programming beyond
Mondays and Tuesdays. In the event of "sports and entertainment
collisions," there is the possibility that more Red Sox or Bruins
games would be moved to NESN -- "thereby increasing the value of
the pay cable operation" -- and more Celtics games moved to
SportsChannel. For now, Paramount "is embracing sports." But
should WSBK's sports load become too heavy for the network,
Tribune-owned WLVI could enter the picture. The Red Sox have one
year left on their WSBK contract; Celtics and Bruins have longer-
term deals. The deal is subject to FCC approval, which could be
at least 90 days (Jim Baker, BOSTON HERALD, 11/30).