Due to the return of the NFL to CBS, the U.S. Open
women's final will move from Sunday to Saturday, taking
place between the men's semifinals, according to Langdon
Brockinton of MEDIAWEEK. The women's final will not take
place before 1:30pm ET. CBS will air the men's final on
Sunday following early NFL games. Brockinton also reports
that USA Network, which has cable rights to the Open, "will
pick up the whole first Sunday of the tournament," airing
matches from noon to 6:00pm while CBS carries the NFL's
opening day games. With the added Sunday coverage, USA will
broadcast 94 hours of Open coverage. Brockinton says the
move is "not a welcome development" for the Corel WTA Tour
which "had lobbied for years" to move the women's final to
Sunday, giving it equal billing to the men. Asked to
comment on the switch back to Saturday, a WTA Tour rep said,
"There is nothing to comment on." Brockinton writes that
the "resurrection of Super Saturday could help boost the
network's lagging Open ratings" (MEDIAWEEK, 4/13 issue).
TENNIS NOTES: Brockinton adds that USA Network VP/Ad
Sales John Cronopulos said that the net has sold "about" 55%
of its commercial inventory for its French Open coverage.
Deals have been cut with MCI, Ralston Purina, New Balance,
Johnson & Johnson and Benckiser (MEDIAWEEK, 4/13 issue).
...Fox Sports reached a two-year deal to broadcast the
final-round of the WTA Tour's Toshiba Tennis Classic in San
Diego. It marks the first time Fox has broadcast a women's
pro tennis event and the WTA Tour will now have events on
all four major U.S. TV networks in the same year (WTA Tour).
The nation's big cable operators "are balking" at
ESPN's plan to raise rates 20% "or more" annually through
the year 2006, and people familiar with the matter say it
"could more than quadruple the cost" of the network to
operators, according to Leslie Cauley of the WALL STREET
JOURNAL. ESPN's proposal is "causing howls" within the
cable-TV industry, "which will have to decide whether to
pass the new costs along to customers ... or to absorb them
in their own right," and some cable execs have called the
move "blatant price-gouging." The companies say the plan,
compounded over nine years, "could push the cost of ESPN to
well over the $4-a-subscriber mark." In addition, several
cable execs said that smaller cable companies "have been
informed" by ESPN that their rates "could jump as much as"
40% in the coming years. Cauley reports that to date, "only
a few big operators have signed up for ESPN's 2006 plan,
fearing they will face even higher fees later." ESPN Exec
VP/Sales George Bodenheimer declined to discuss the matter,
but said that it "hasn't set its rates beyond next summer."
He "declined to rule out" the possibility that ESPN's rates
"could exceed" $4 "over the long haul" (WALL STREET JOURNAL,
4/15). ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys said the net effect of
the new plan on operators "will be only a few cents" per
subscriber. He added that local affils can make up the cost
with the 46 additional 30-second commercials that ESPN is
adding to its NFL inventory (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 4/15).
In Oakland, Tony Kuttner examined the speed with which
sports Web sites are able to update real-time baseball
action. Kuttner: "And the winner is ... not that clear cut.
... It's easier to say which ones are losing than it is to
pick a winner." Kuttner wrote that Nandonet, USA Today and
The Sporting News sites are "in the back of the pack for
being too slow," while Fox and CNN/SI fall "[s]omewhere in
the middle," and CBS SportsLine and ESPN SportsZone are the
"fastest" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 4/14)....USA Today's Baseball
Weekly hit a circulation record of 422,881 with its March 25
Season Preview edition. That figure represents an 18.7%
increase from the '97 preview issue, which sold 356,258
copies (Baseball Weekly)....For its coverage of MLS
Revolution road games, WEEI-AM in Boston will pick up the
audio feed from the TV broadcast on Fox Sports New England,
simulcasting the call of announcers Derek Rae and Seamus
Malin. Dale Arnold and Adrian Healey will continue to call
home games (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/14)....A Citizens Action
Committee in NJ will stage a protest this Sunday at its
local Adelphia Cable office because the company has refused
to add Comcast SportsNet to its basic package. Adelphia,
which serves 100,000 area subscribers, has balked at the
cost of adding SportsNet (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/14).
NC-based Total Sports has agreed to acquire an equity
position in golf.com. Under terms of the deal, Total Sports
becomes an operational partner in the Web site, which is
comprised of a consortium that includes NBC Sports, NBC
Interactive Media, MediaOne Interactive Services, Golf
Digest and The New York Times Magazine Group. Total Sports
will be in charge of technology, sales, business development
and the hosting of golf.com, and will assist in a redesign
of the site. In addition, Total Sports will integrate its
proprietary cybercast technology into the site, particularly
as it relates to NBC-televised events (Total Sports).
Michelle Kwan has signed an exclusive four-year deal
with Walt Disney Network TV to star in several ice skating
specials on ABC, according to Eric Olson of DAILY VARIETY.
As part of the deal, Kwan "may only appear in ice skating
specials on Disney and ABC." Four shows are planned for
primetime airing "over the next four years." Disney Senior
VP Paul Villadolid called the pact "the most comprehensive"
TV deal ever signed with a figure skater (VARIETY, 4/15).