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Volume 24 No. 155

Sports Media

          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) 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).