ESPN said that ratings for its three-game coverage of
the NHL Stanley Cup Finals dropped 57% from last year,
according to Michael Starr of the N.Y. POST. ESPN averaged
a 2.6 rating, with 1.9 million viewers, compared to the 4.1,
with 2.9 million viewers, it averaged for three games last
year. Fox earned a 3.3 rating for its coverage of Game One
of the Finals, down from last year's 4.0 (N.Y. POST, 6/18).
NO SEE-BC? CBC's Stanley Cup ratings, which "suffered
throughout the playoffs, took an ever great hit during the
finals." Ratings for the first three Capitals-Red Wings
games averaged 1.38 million viewers, down 34% from last
year's finals average of 2.08 million. CBC Sports Dir Alan
Clark said he was not displeased with the numbers since no
Canadian teams were featured (TORONTO STAR, 6/18).
Officials from Fox Sports Pittsburgh (FSP) and the
Penguins announced yesterday that the two sides have reached
a "binding, three-pronged agreement" in exchange for
dropping their respective lawsuits, according to Chuck
Finder of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The deal calls for
FSP to retain the team's broadcast rights through 2008-09.
In addition, the Penguins have pledged to pay $537,000
"within a month in advertising fees owed to" FSP. The
dispute over $616,000 in cable subscriber fees "will be
determined by both parties or, beyond that, an agreed-upon
arbitrator." Penguins co-Owners Roger Marino and Howard
Baldwin are scheduled to meet with Fox officials today in
L.A. to "hammer out possible changes" to the broadcasting
agreement. Finder reports that all lawsuits were dropped
except a breach of contract one FSP filed against former
station GM Bill Craig, who left the channel last September
and joined the Penguins two months later as the team's Dir
of Business Development (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/18).
KCAL has signed a new seven-year deal for local TV
broadcast rights to the Lakers worth an "estimated" $140M,
according to Cynthia Littleton of DAILY VARIETY. Under
terms of the deal, KCAL will control all production and ad
sales for its telecasts of the team's 41 away games. KCAL
has controlled local Lakers rights for more than 20 years,
and its previous deal with the team "was governed by a
complex revenue-sharing formula." However, the station is
paying more under the new deal "in exchange for exclusive
control of ad sales, sponsorship and promotional tie-ins."
Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed, but sources
said that KCAL will pay "about" $20M a year in the deal,
which begins in the '98-99 season and runs through 2004-05.
KCAL also carries the NHL Kings, Ducks, Angels and Clippers
and is "planning to try out a few" WNBA broadcasts this
summer. Fox Sports West hold rights to the Lakers home
games (DAILY VARIETY, 6/18). KCAL also will receive rights
to all Lakers' playoff games "not covered by" the NBA's
network commitments (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/18)
U.S. OPEN: NBC kicks off 16 hours of U.S. Open coverage
from 3:00-5:00pm ET today, with two more hours tomorrow.
NBC has six hours of coverage on both Saturday and Sunday
(Baltimore SUN, 6/18). In Boston, Howard Manly reports that
Casey Martin "will command at least initial face-time from
NBC" at the Open. NBC analyst Roger Maltbie: "We'll
definitely be covering Casey's opening tee shot today. We
feel it's a special occasion. It's newsworthy and we want
the viewing public to see it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/18).
OTHER NOTES: In Baltimore, Milton Kent notes reports of
CBS possibly airing a barnstorming tour of locked-out NBA
players, and writes, "The prospect is delicious with irony."
After passing on the NFL, NBC officials "have been casting
public and private doubts about CBS' ability to make money"
on the deal, "while hinting at starting a new football
league that might have NBA backing." Now, CBS "may take the
NBA players that NBC has made into stars and show them at a
dramatically reduced cost, while NBC, which is obligated to
pay the NBA even during a lockout, stews on the sideline"
(Baltimore SUN, 6/18)....In Chicago, Fred Mitchell notes
talk that ESPN's Bonnie Bernstein is "leaving" to join CBS
Sports "to become the main reporter for NFL Today" (CHICAGO
TRIBUNE, 6/18)....TBS announced plans to construct a $52M
production facility on its Techwood Campus and to renovate
its CNN Center, both in Atlanta (DAILY VARIETY, 6/18).
SportsLine USA "would appear to be in the catbird seat"
as World Cup action attracts "as many as" 10 million hits a
day to its Web site and its stock price is "holding its own
after sinking sharply last month," according to Jay Sherman
of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. However, although "the outlook
looks bright," some execs "aren't satisfied and have
launched an initiative designed to bring the SportsLine name
beyond personal computer screens." SportsLine USA
VP/Programming Ross Levinsohn said that he "envisions"
expanding the brand "by rolling out TV-like content on the
site, building a fan base and then making the leap to either
TV or movies." Levinsohn said that the company "is in
talks" with a major studio to develop a TV program which
would start on the Web and "eventually air on TV, provided
it developed an audience online." Although he declined to
be more specific, he said he "would like" to have a show
running by year-end or early next year. SportsLine has been
working with the William Morris Agency and "exploring" how
to meld its "sports business with entertainment," and the
company has set aside "its second-largest financial
commitment yet to develop new content." Levinsohn has been
"scouring the creative communities" in Hollywood, N.Y. and
London in search of "ideas that will work within the
SportsLine framework" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 6/18).