Cablevision Chair Charles Dolan and News Corp. Chair
Rupert Murdoch officially launched Fox Sports Net (FSN) last
night at a ceremony in The Theater at MSG. NYC Mayor Rudy
Giuliani joined Dolan on stage and symbolically flipped
switches which connected all of the network's affils. All
Cablevision Rainbow Media RSNs that were known as
SportsChannel, including NY, OH, New England, Chicago and
Pacific, will now be known as Fox Sports NY, Fox Sports OH,
Fox Sports New England, Fox Sports Chicago and Fox Sports
Bay Area. The MSG Network will keep its name, but will
feature some FSN programming. New logos for each re-branded
channel were unveiled at the event, along with a taped
prospectus of what the newly launched FSN can offer in the
way of reach for national advertisers (THE DAILY).
THE EVENT: FSN's Kevin Frazier and Van Earl Wright
anchored "Fox Sports News." At 7:00pm ET, Frazier said, "We
invite you to celebrate television history in the making."
Fox's James Brown served as emcee while Murdoch appeared via
satellite from London. Murdoch: "Fox has always been a huge
believer in sports programming, and we believe Fox Sports
Net is the future of sports television." Dolan: "We are ...
very confident that the Fox Sports Net is poised to become
the premiere sports network in America" (THE DAILY).
FROM THE POWER PLAYERS: Earlier in the day, Cablevision
CEO James Dolan said that FSN "will provide viewers across
the country with unprecedented levels of choice and quality
in televised sports." Fox Sports President David Hill, on
bringing the Fox "attitude" to regional sportscasts: "What
we're trying to do is to ramp up the production of local
teams so that it looks like a full network broadcast." Fox
TV CEO Chase Carey, on the aggregate ratings of FSN: "When
you look at what our ratings will be combined on an NBA game
or an NHL game or an MLB game, combined against the national
games that are done [on TNT, TBS, ESPN, etc.] ... we will
have ratings that are multiples ... of what those guys are
doing." Hill, on competing with ESPN: "Are we going to cut
into ESPN's ad revenue? Absolutely. But I think that as
time goes on, I think the two services are pretty much
supplementary." More Hill, asked if there is too much
sports programming: "If there's one great thing about
sports, it's that it's unscripted. And the guy in the white
hat doesn't always get to kiss the horse. Sports is the
last frontier of reality in television" (THE DAILY).
TIERED-PACKAGES: Cablevision Chair Charles Dolan told
the N.Y. DAILY NEWS that "somewhere in the not-too-distant
future, viewers will be paying a premium for packages they
now receive as part of their basic cable package." Dolan,
on a tiered system: "If [the cable subscriber] wants all of
the games of all of the teams -- great. He can buy Fox
Sports New York and MSG together as part of a package, or he
can buy one of them separately. What I hope will happen is
we can pull teams out from the packages so if the subscriber
wants to buy the games of one particular team he can have
just that" (Bob Raissman, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/29).
MORE PROGRAMMING: FSN will premiere "Going Deep,"
hosted by Joe Buck, on February 1. The 60-minute weekly
sports magazine show will offer a "behind-the-scenes look"
at the names and issues "shaping the world of sports" (FSN).
WGN-TV will televise 92 Cubs games during the '98
season -- about 50 fewer than last year, according to
Hirsley & Jones of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The station
"characterized the decision as TV baseball history squeezed
by TV baseball economics: The Cubs need to be taken off WGN
at times for their own good." Hirsley & Jones: "Lower-rated
baseball broadcasts need to be replaced by higher-rated
entertainment shows so those programs can generate more ad
revenues to pay higher baseball bills as the cost of
fielding a competitive team continues to escalate." While
Cubs games averaged a 4.7 rating last season, programs like
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Dawson's Creek" receive
higher ratings. Most of the games taken off WGN will be
moved to CLTV, the Cubs' local cable partner, also owned by
Tribune Co. But Hirsley & Jones note that CLTV's signal
"doesn't reach beyond the immediate Chicago area," and added
that "about" 30% of Chicago-area viewers don't have cable.
Tribune Broadcasting Co. President Dennis FitzSimons:
"Ultimately, the Cubs have to be competitive in terms of
revenue they can generate for telecast rights if they're
going to put a competitive team on the field." FitzSimons
"stressed" that WGN still will carry more MLB games than any
over-the-air station this year. FitzSimons: "Advertising
budgets are not designed to support a 140-game (broadcast)
schedule. There's a reason why no other (non-cable) station
is carrying  games" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/29). Also in
Chicago, Dave Van Dyck writes, "Where the Cubs will be hurt
is in the marketing of a team that built itself through ivy-
walled, sunny afternoon baseball on free TV." In addition
to Cubs games, WGN will show 52 White Sox games and
"several" end-of-season Bulls games (SUN-TIMES, 1/29).
AND BUFFY? Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, on being
replaced by programming like "Buffy": "Well, hell, I'm more
attractive than Buffy. ... Oh yeah. She's a gorgeous hunk
of a woman. She may be good-looking, but she doesn't have
anything to do with baseball" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/29).
PERSONALITIES: Greg Gumbel will return to CBS Sports on
March 1, in time for its coverage of the NCAA Men's
Basketball Tournament. Gumbel said that the "chance to call
football lured him back to CBS," and that he was
"disappointed" that NBC hadn't named him as the No. 1 NBA
play-by-play man (N.Y. TIMES, 1/29)....The crisis in the
White House and the events in Iraq "may keep Dan Rather from
anchoring [the CBS Evening News] next week at the Winter
Olympics in Nagano" (USA TODAY, 1/29)....Former Indians
coach Dave Nelson was named to the Indians radio broadcast
team, along with Mike Hegan. They will join Tom Hamilton,
who will take over as play-by-play man for Herb Score
(Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/28)....HTS "is expected to
announce" that former Yankees analyst Rick Cerone will
become an analyst on Orioles TV broadcasts (SUN, 1/29).
...Former Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware, who played last
season in the CFL, "is trying to work out a deal with Fox"
to work college football games (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/28).
Sports Illustrated named Michael Klingensmith as its
new president, replacing Donald Elliman, who's stepping down
"for personal reasons," according to Keith Kelly of the N.Y.
DAILY NEWS. Kelly's "insiders" said that Elliman's "son is
ill and Elliman has spent the past year commuting from
Denver," where his son has been undergoing treatment.
Elliman, who has been with Time Inc. for 26 years, and
President of SI since '92, will continue with Time Inc. on
special projects. Klingensmith, who had been President of
Entertainment Weekly since he founded it in '90, would "not
reveal specific plans, but said he was sticking with Bill
Colson as editor." Time Inc. CEO Don Logan said that SI
"will explore spinning off other SI products, including
other magazines." Logan, on the potential for SI
Women/Sport and an SI for teens title: "I don't know if
either will see the light of day, but you'll see a lot of
print products -- including new magazines -- that are tied
to the SI brand" (DAILY NEWS, 1/29). Fabio Freyre and John
Jay will continue as Associate Publishers of SI, responsible
for ad sales and marketing, respectively (N.Y. TIMES, 1/29).