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Volume 24 No. 137

Sports Media

     ESPN stopped selling inventory for a few days two weeks ago,
a move "indicative of the most robust sports marketplace in
recent years."  Jack Bonanni, Senior VP/Ad Sales at ESPN, said
the "flow of business was more than we could handle."  Bonanni
noted the return of the NHL had a "major impact" on the network's
schedule, and that "complicated matters."  One ad exec said ESPN
"doesn't have a state-of-the-art system to manage their
inventory" and that led to a hiatus to account for sale
inventory.  Other media buyers speculated the network was
"reassessing" their pricing.  But Bonanni insists the
interruption was strictly due to a "re-inventorying" process that
has been done in the past.  ESPN's sales "underscores the
strength of the sports TV marketplace these days -- from the
seller's perspective."  Ad time on all sports on broadcasts and
cable outlets is "moving briskly," if not sold out, and spending
on sports TV is up "significantly for numerous categories,"
including automotive, computer, and telecommunications
(Brockington & Reynolds, COWLES BUSINESS/INSIDE MEDIA, 2/16).

     The Maple Leafs are "ready to cash in on their popularity"
as negotiations continue for the team's local TV rights,
according to Rob Longley in today's TORONTO SUN.  Sources said
Leafs Owner Cliff Fletcher is seeking $15M per season, a figure
that would top the Blue Jays' current $12M deal.  IMG, which is
negotiating for the Leafs, has been in talks with Molson, which
owns exclusive national TV rights to the NHL in Canada.  Talks
with Molson "haven't exactly been smooth, but for the time being
at least, the brewery is the only major player.  If it wins the
rights, Molson will then vend the games to the station or
stations that will carry them."  While Molson may be involved as
a sponsor, it is possible Molson's production wing, Molstar, "may
have a reduced presence in a new deal."  Fletcher reportedly
wants to see the team take a more active role in the production
of the games.  Longley writes the presence of IMG is "a
potentially intimidating one for the rights holders."  IMG has a
large presence in sports marketing throughout the world, and is
"becoming aggressively involved with certain NHL teams,"
including the Leafs (TORONTO SUN, 2/17).

     Charles Barkley will attend a special court dedication on
this weekend's NBA "Inside Stuff."  Nike has made a basketball
court made of recycled sneakers for Phoenix's youth (NBA
Entertainment)....ABC Sports signed a multiyear contract with
Raycom for the Pigskin Classic.  ABC spokesman Mark Mandel: "We
consider ourselves the network of college football."....With a
"resurgence of interest" in boxing, due largely to the popularity
of George Foreman, HBO will telecast three boxing matchups in the
month of March.  It is the most shows since HBO added boxing to
its lineup (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/17)....Fox Chair Chase Carey
denies speculation that the network's losses from football could
climb to $500M by the time the 4-year, $1.58B contract
concludes....Sandy Grossman will be Fox's NHL director (Rudy
Martkze, USA TODAY, 2/17)

     TV sponsors for the Phillies are "getting restless -- and
they might be in line for rebates," according to this morning's
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.  Phillies VP/Marketing Dennis Mannion said
no sponsors have pulled out, but "we have quite a few in a sit-
and-wait pattern.  We weren't naive.  We knew it would come down
to this."  WPHL-TV GM Randy Smith said his stations are working
with each Phillies sponsor to sort our any problems that "might
arise because of decreased ratings" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER,