WNBA ANNOUNCES NETWORK TV DEAL WITH NBC, CABLE UNCLEAR
In a teleconference yesterday, NBA Commissioner David Stern,
NBA VP/Business Affairs Val Ackerman and NBC Sports President
Dick Ebersol announced a five-year TV rights agreement between
the new Women's NBA with NBC presenting weekly coverage beginning
June '97. Stern cited NBC's track record and the NBA's "comfort"
level with the network as key reasons. Ebersol indicated the
deal is based on revenue and profit sharing and that NBC expects
WNBA coverage to produce at least a 3.0 rating by the third year.
Stern said a cable deal, airing two prime time games a week,
would be announced within three weeks, with Lifetime and Turner
among those considered. Any local TV deals will be negotiated by
the teams (THE DAILY). Ebersol: "In the last three years, the
two sports that have shown the most growth are NASCAR and women's
basketball. Knowing what the NBA can bring to this, it can
really develop into something" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/28).
CABLE: INSIDE MEDIA's Mike Reynolds reports Lifetime and
ESPN are the front-runners for the cable package (INSIDE MEDIA,
6/28). ESPN's Dan Quinn: "We're very interested and discussions
are taking place" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/28).
DETAILS: Stern said the eight teams would play in NBA
cities, in NBA arenas, and would be operated by NBA team front
offices. He added the WNBA's access to those resources --
including "the best marketers in all of sports" -- coupled with
the NBC deal, are two differences between the WNBA and past
failed women's leagues. The NBA's Val Ackerman said the best
players will get "top salaries," but they would likely be lower
than the ABL's considering the ABL has a longer season. Stern
does not see the ABL as "a competitive issue" since the ABL will
play in the fall and the WNBA in the summer. The WNBA has a Labor
Day timetable to announce cities and player signings (THE DAILY).
REAX: Stern: "If we can't do it, it can't be done"
(WASHINGTON POST, 6/28). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes, "One
can't help but think that NBC has taken a big step toward
protecting the second most valuable television sports property,
after the NFL" (Baltimore SUN, 6/28). In St. Pete, Brian Landman
writes, "No women's league -- amateur or professional -- has
commanded such coverage, which bestows a credibility to the
fledgling league" (ST. PETE TIMES, 6/28).