The NTRA reached an agreement in principle with ABC
Sports for an expanded package of Triple Crown prep races
for '99 and 2000. NTRA Commissioner Tim Smith said the deal
offers four new shows and an expanded fifth show leading up
to the Visa Triple Crown Challenge. The deal marks an
increase of two and a half hours from ABC's '98 coverage.
The deal was handled by The Marquee Group's SMTI (NTRA).
Following CBS's cancelation of "Public Eye With Bryant
Gumbel," the N.Y. POST's Michael Starr speculates on
Gumbel's future with the net and writes, "it isn't lost on
CBS and its sports division that Gumbel has a strong sports
background." Gumbel signed a five-year deal worth about $7M
per year with CBS last year, and with CBS set to begin its
new NFL deal, Gumbel's knowledge "could come in handy as
either a Sunday studio analyst or play-by-play man with his
brother, Greg Gumbel." But one "insider" told Starr, "He's
adamant about not going back to sports full-time." Pilson
Communications President Neal Pilson said that Gumbel "is
unlikely to assume a high-profile sports role at CBS."
Pilson: "CBS is well-served with Jim Nantz in the anchor
role on 'NFL Today,' and although that's a role Bryant
played years ago at NBC I don't envision him having an
important sports role at CBS" (N.Y. POST, 8/13).
In CA, Greg Hardesty reported that after Petersen
Companies' acquisition of Surfer Publications, about 15
Surfer employees in the accounting and circulation
departments -- about 25% of the company -- "lost their jobs"
(ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/12)...."Fox Sports News
Primetime" drew its best rating ever on Fox Sports SW
Tuesday following the Astros-Brewers game, earning a 5.4.
With cable penetration in Houston at 56%, that translates
into a 9.6 cable rating, and was the second-highest rated
show on basic cable (FSSW)....In L.A., Scott Moe reviewed
"Six Times As Sweet," a new book on the Bulls by NBA Exec
Editor Publishing Ventures Jan Hubbard. Moe called it "nice
to look at with plenty of quality photos ... [But] an
insightful book full of information that the mainstream
doesn't know? No way" (L.A. TIMES, 8/12)....PA-based
Comcast cable exercised an option to purchase control of CO-
based Jones Intercable, the largest cable operator in the DC
area, for $700M (WASHINGTON POST, 8/13).
PERSONALITIES: Blues VP/Dir of Ticket Sales Bruce
Affleck was named the team's new analyst on Fox Sports
Midwest (FSM). Affleck, on his two positions being a
conflict of interest: "In order to have any credibility you
have to be honest. ... If anything, I'll get flak from my
(Blues) bosses for being too critical" (ST. LOUIS POST-
DISPATCH, 8/13)....The Lightning will not offer a new
contract to radio voice Larry Hirsch, who had called the
team's games since its inception in '92 (Lightning).
ONLINE: In Ft. Worth, Tommy Cummings profiled Athlete
Direct (AD), which provides athlete sites on AOL. AD
President Ross Schaufelberger: "We view ourselves as the
primary company for athlete-oriented content. ... It's a
medium where the athletes can stay in touch with the fans"
(FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/10)....ATPTour.com received
120,000 page impressions, which translates into about 40,000
users, on Tuesday (CINCINNATI POST, 8/12).
THE ECONOMIST profiles Fox Sports Net and its "clever"
regional approach to sports TV and writes that it "is
beginning to inflict some nasty wounds on Disney's ESPN,
which has dominated American sports programming for nearly
20 years." But it notes that ESPN "is not about to drift
into financial difficulty. As cable TV goes digital, there
will be more space for more sports networks, and there is
probably still demand for more sports. ESPN has a
stunningly successful brand, and Disney's master-marketers
are thinking up ways to use it. ... Still, [News Corp.'s
Rupert] Murdoch and [Liberty Media's John] Malone look like
[they will make] a lot of money out of Fox Sports Net --
money that would, if ESPN had seized its opportunity, have
been Disney's" (THE ECONOMIST, 8/8 issue).
WILL FOX PASS? In Dallas, Barry Horn writes that if
Disney's NHL TV rights bid "is such a bad deal, how come Fox
and its own cable brethren are thinking about making their
own inflated bid? One thing is certain: whoever gets the
NHL won't lose as much money on that deal as the networks
will on the" $17.6B NFL TV deal (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/13).