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Volume 24 No. 159

Sports Media

     WB, Warner Bros.' addition to the broadcast TV market, kicks
off tonight.  In New York, Verne Gay notes that the network has a
lot of similarities to Fox's start-up.  Three of the shows slated
for tonight compare with early Fox shows.  "The reason WB has
borrowed so freely from Fox's 'How to Start a Network' playbook
is simply that the network's president and part-owner, Jamie
Kellner, helped write it."  Kellner was Fox's longtime president.
Also, the United Paramount Network (UPN) begins January 16.
"Observers say WB, as well as UPN, are beginning life at a
propitious time.  Foremost, the network marketplace for
advertising time is booming ... and both networks report that
they've sold millions in commercial time already."  As for
affiliates, WB will broadcast on all Tribune owned stations, as
well as some small UHF stations.  WGN (Chicago) will account for
20% of WB viewers (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 1/11).

     CNN has moved its sports talk show "Calling All Sports" up
90 minutes to 11:30, just after their "Sports Tonight" (Baltimore
SUN, 1/11)....SportsChannel Chicago Senior VP/GM Jim Corno on the
NHL work stoppage and the effect of no Blackhawks telecasts:
"You've got revenue you're losing and expenses you're saving.  On
the other side, a lot of savings are going into new programming,
so in that regard, it costs us not to have the Hawks. ... But the
big thing is you lose the product that bring people to the
channel.  It's a matter of viewership" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/10).

     A proposed deal from Viacom to sell its cable systems for
$2.3B to a minority partnership is under scrutiny by the FCC.
The sale would save Viacom nearly $400M in capital gains taxes
under a program to promote minority ownership in the TV industry.
Senior officials at the agency say the deal will be closely
examined, as the FCC is concerned it "will be a costly drain on
federal tax revenue and will focus criticism on the FCC's
programs to expand minority ownership in the TV and radio
industry.  Critics have attacked the deal as a tax "windfall" for
Viacom and the minority ownership program as "a racially biased
set-aside."  Viacom is selling its cable systems to help pay off
some of the debt it took on when they acquired Paramount
Communications and merged with Blockbuster last year" (Paul
Farhi, WASHINGTON POST, 1/11).

     For the last 12 years, every Viking home game in Minneapolis
has been on broadcast on local TV due to a unique fund from
General Mills.  The fund, which guaranteed home games would be
televised locally if 90% of the tickets were sold 72 hours before
the game, "ran dry last fall."  Now the Vikings and local
broadcast channels must face the same rules of every other NFL
team.  At the end of this season, WFTC-TV and KARE-TV teamed with
the Vikings to run promotions and ads to get fans to buy tickets,
and next fall that strategy will continue.  Local TV stations
will have to "expend more effort to air home games, and blackouts
might be costly to their images and incomes."  WTFC GM Rip
Riordan said his station is now budgeting money to guarantee
local broadcasts of some games next year, as Viking football
greatly increased the visibility of the Fox affiliate.  Vikings
Marketing Dir Kernal Buhler said the team will help the stations
identify which home games will be difficult to sell out, and are
working on ways to increase sales (Rachel Blount, Minneapolis
STAR-TRIBUNE, 1/10).