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Volume 24 No. 157
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     NBC and HBO retained their rights to televise Wimbledon
yesterday, signing a five-year deal worth an estimated $26M-$28M
a year.  The rights fees signify a 44% increase above the
previous deal.  HBO Sports President Seth Abraham: "It's a
critical deal because we have so few sports franchises." Fox
dropped out of the bidding when Wimbledon officials changed the
deal from a six-year to a five-year contract.  Fox Sports Dir of
Communications Vince Wladika said his network needed the extra
year to rebuild sagging ratings and balance expected early-year
losses with more profit.  NBC President Dick Ebersol:  "It's a
good deal, and if tennis comes back, it'll be a terrific deal."
Fox Sports President David Hill:  "We wish NBC and HBO all the
best with the event. ... But can you imagine what we would have
had to come up with to make Wimbledon sexy?" (Richard Sandomir,
N.Y. TIMES, 12/22).  Wladika:  "We declined to bid on five years
because we thought it would take six years to turn Wimbledon
around."  NBC's Wimbledon ratings have declined by 20% in the
last five years (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 12/22).