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Volume 24 No. 156

Sports Media

     New Web sites:  The French Open's online site can be found
at http://www.frenchopen.org (English) or http://www.
rolandgarros.org (French) (USA TODAY, 5/28); NCAA info is now
available at http://www.ncaa.org (NCAA)....Fox and TCI are
reportedly discussing a partnership by which the cable operator
would carry Fox's new all-news channel, while TCI's Liberty Media
would get as much as a 20% stake in the new venture (N.Y. TIMES,
5/29)....Carolyn Wall, former CEO of Cowles Business Media, has
been named president of WBIS+, New York's new
business/entertainment/sports TV channel owned by ITT Corp. and
Dow Jones (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/28).  ....Hockey reporter Bob
McKenzie will leave the Toronto Star to rejoin The Hockey News as
a columnist/reporter (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/29)....In a piece
examining the prospects for a comeback at CBS under new
Westinghouse leadership, BUSINESS WEEK's Elizabeth Lesly writes
that CBS Sports "is a basket case."  CBS execs believe winning
back the NFL is a "priority" (BUSINESS WEEK, 6/3
issue)....Baltimore's Sinclair Broadcasting has bought the rights
to the October 13th Ravens-Colts game for Channel 54.  The game
will be shown nationally on TNT (Baltimore SUN, 5/28)....In New
York, Richard Sandomir previews MLB coverage on Fox, noting that
"dawn is breaking" in terms of league execs allowing
technological advances (miking of managers, bases, etc.) denied
to previous network partners (N.Y. TIMES, 5/29).

     CBC and its major unions reached a "12th hour" agreement in
ongoing labor negotiations to avoid a strike that would have
affected NHL playoff coverage and the network's Olympic
preparations (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/25).
     CUP CRAZE HITS FLORIDA:  The Panthers hit a new ratings high
on Miami's Fox affiliate, with a 10.6 rating and a 23 share for
Sunday's Game 4 against the Penguins.  The Panthers averaged just
a 1.8 for the regular season.  The NHL game topped both the Indy
500 (6.1) and the NBA's Jazz-Sonics (3.5) in Miami (Barry
Jackson, MIAMI HERALD, 5/29).
     NO DEAL:  TSN, Canada's cable sports network, failed to
acquire a package of NBA games for the '96-97 season.  The
reason, according to William Houston of the GLOBE & MAIL:  "TSN
thought the NBA's rights fees were too steep and objected to
sharing commercial time with the league."  That leaves the
possibility that a new channel, S3 (whose license is pending
before Canada's Radio-TV and Telecom Commission), could get NBA
rights.  Currently, CTV has the rights to 18 Raptors and
Grizzlies games (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/25).

     Boston's WSBK-TV has filed suit against the Red Sox and
Bruins, its partners in NESN, claiming the teams are "threatening
to run NESN into the ground by grabbing for more of its revenue
than the teams are owed," according to David Halbfinger of the
BOSTON GLOBE.  As owners of NESN, the Red Sox (47%) and Bruins
(31%) supply content, while WSBK (19%) supplies production
equipment and services.  An additional 3% is split among the
three.  The dispute involves the rights fees the teams receive
from games -- originally $.11-.16 per subscriber/per game.  But
Michael Gass, attorney for WSBK, notes that deal was negotiated
when NESN was purely a premium cable service.  However, more
cable systems recently have begun moving NESN from premium to
basic cable, cutting the channel's monthly per subscriber share
from $4-5 to around $.50.  Gass noted that since '85, "to account
for the disparity," the teams accepted lower rights fees.  But in
January, according to the suit, the Red Sox and Bruins labeled
those lower fees an "experiment" and threatened to terminate if
the fees didn't rise.  Gass, on the demands:  "This would put
NESN into the red this year, and further and further into the red
every year after.  And Channel 38 would lose money on the deal.
It's inconsistent with keeping the venture alive."  The GLOBE's
Halbfinger notes the "bad blood" between the Red Sox and WSBK-TV,
the team's broadcast partner for 21 years until a switch this
year.  Also, the $2.1M the Sox are demanding would help balance
$5M in local broadcasting losses under their new deal with WABU-
TV and $4M in national TV losses (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/25).  Red Sox
attorney Daniel Goldberg accused WSBK's owner, Viacom, of being
"far off on their facts."  Goldberg:  "Rather than come back with
a proposal, they came back with a lawsuit" (Jeffrey Krasner,
BOSTON HERALD, 5/25).    BEHIND THE BRIEFS:  The GLOBE's Joan
Vennochi writes the suit "is about revenge, money" -- and the Red
Sox's new TV rights deal, negotiated by team Exec VP John
Buckley.  Vennochi writes that Buckley's deal with WABU for
roughly $9M per year "may have put the team is such a bad
bargaining position, management is anxious to make up the
difference elsewhere --like NESN" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/29).

     ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 drew a 6.8 overnight
rating, a 21% drop from last year and the lowest Indy overnight
ever, according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY.  Yesterday,
ESPN projected a 3.0 cable rating for its coverage of the rival
U.S. 500 (USA TODAY, 5/29).
     RATINGS BREAKDOWN:  The following analysis, from Nielsen
Sports Marketing Service, compares this year's Indy 500
rating/shares to the '95 race (THE DAILY).  NOTE:  As these
numbers are preliminary, they may differ slightly from later
readings cited by networks and other news outlets.
MARKET          '95       '96      MARKET      '95      '96
New York       4.5/14    3.4/10    Denver     9.3/31   9.0/25
L.A.          10.9/33    7.8/24    Pittsb.    8.4/23   7.1/19
Chicago        9.4/28    7.5/22    St Louis  11.3/35   6.9/21
Phila.         8.1/23    6.2/18    Sac'mento  9.4/29   7.5/28
S.F.-Oak-S.J.  6.9/24    6.6/23    Orlando    8.6/25   8.5/23
Boston         3.9/17    4.0/15    Baltimore  7.8/22   5.0/13
Washington     7.1/21    6.4/18    Portland   9.5/32   8.7/30
Dallas-FW      9.9/26    7.8/21    Indian.   17.7/33  15.8/27
Detroit        9.8/25    6.9/20    Hartford   6.1/24   5.5/19
Atlanta        9.0/23    5.7/15    San Diego  8.5/27   7.7/24
Houston        8.2/21    7.2/19    Charlotte 10.3/28   7.8/21
Seattle        9.9/35    7.1/24    Cincy     12.9/35   9.9/28
Cleveland     11.9/30    5.6/15    Milwaukee 12.6/39  10.9/35
Minn-St Paul   8.6/27    5.6/20    K.C.       9.0/27   8.5/24
Tampa-St Pete  9.6/26    6.7/20    San Ant.   6.7/18   7.2/18
Miami-Ft Laud  5.7/17    6.1/17    W Palm Bch 9.7/26   6.6/18
Phoenix       11.7/34   10.1/29    AVERAGE    8.6/25   6.6/18