During halftime of Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Fox
Sports and the NFL announced a partnership to broadcast NFL
Europe League regular-season games beginning this season.
The deal, which is in place for the '99 and 2000 seasons,
includes the national broadcast on Fox of one NFLEL game on
each of the league's final three Sundays, June 6, 13 and 20,
and the broadcast of the '99 World Bowl on June 27. FSN
will also air one game-of-the-week beginning April 17 (NFL).
BUT ARE AFFILS HAPPY? News of the additional weekend
sports programming comes as MEDIAWEEK's Freeman & Consoli
write that Fox's reclaiming of weekend time "has raised
concerns" among some affils over loss of spot inventory and
contractual conflicts with syndicators. Fox's recent pickup
of some NTRA races and two women's pro tennis events, along
with the NFLEL, has "several" Fox station execs saying "the
network's ever-expanding sports slate may be a source of
contention" at next week's affils meeting in New Orleans.
Fox Sports Senior VP/Media Relations Vince Wladika: "Our
affiliates have to realize that they are part of a network,
and that live network sports programming has [increased] the
value of their stations immensely" (MEDIAWEEK, 1/18 issue).
"Fox Sports News"' Keith Olbermann commented on the
"Esquire" article by Charles Pierce claiming former Dodger
Kirk Gibson took steroids before his historic home-run
during the '88 World Series. Olbermann noted that Gibson
received a cortisone shot, which is "not an anabolic,
illegal, banned, growth or performance-enhancing steroid."
Olbermann: "It's just so unfair to drag Gibson into, and
through, [controversy] merely because -- technically --
cortisone is a steroid" ("FSN," 1/19)....The Padres have
reached a five-year agreement with flagship station KURS-AM
to allow the Spanish-language network to broadcast games in
much of Baja California (S.D. UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/16)....In
Miami, Barry Jackson reviewed the year in the NFL and wrote
that CBS's AFC telecasts "were not awful or offensive" but
"simply did not measure up to NBC's" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/18).
...ABC's lockout of 2,400 NABET employees ended Friday
(Mult., 1/16)....In N.Y., George Vecsey wrote that ESPN's
"SportsCentury" series on the best North American athletes
in the past century "will keep people talking for the entire
year." He added that ESPN "put on its journalistic hat" and
"did its homework" as the series "seems legitimately rooted
in history, by adults, for adults" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/17).
Nielsen ratings for the NFL Conference Championships
were "about even" with last year, according to USA TODAY's
Rudy Martzke. Fox's earned a 26.2 Nielsen overnight for the
Falcons-Vikings, similar to last year's 26.1 rating for the
Broncos-Steelers on NBC in the same time slot. CBS's 27.3
Nielsen overnight for the Jets-Broncos was down 1% from
Fox's 27.7 for the Packers-49ers in the late time slot last
year (USA TODAY, 1/19). The Jets-Broncos earned a 30.0/52
in the N.Y market, while the game earned a 54.4 rating in
Denver. The Falcons-Vikings earned a 50.6 rating in Atlanta
and a 47.7 in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Denver and Minneapolis
both had viewer shares topping 80% (Richard Sandomir, N.Y.
TIMES, 1/19). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay notes that "The NFL
Today" on CBS took a "major hit" from the overtime Falcons-
Vikings game, as the show earned a "paltry" 2.6/5, compared
to a 9.4/24 last year (NEWSDAY, 1/19). In Detroit, Steve
Crowe wrote that the NFL gave CBS permission for a 12-minute
start delay with the NFC game in OT (FREE PRESS, 1/18).
SUPER LINEUP OF TEAMS? DAILY VARIETY's Richard Morgan
writes that this year's Super Bowl advertisers "have reason
to be content" with the contestants, as the game features
the U.S.'s 10th-largest market against its 18th-largest
market. Fox Sports Senior VP/Media Relations Vince Wladika:
"We got returning champions in Denver. And Atlanta's going
to deliver the entire Southeast" (VARIETY, 1/19).
MA-based ThingWorld.com is joining with the NFL to
"deploy its digital collectibles technology on all on-line
venues of the league and its teams," according to Gregg
Krupa of the BOSTON GLOBE. The relationship allows the NFL
to "create protected interactive content" that can be
downloaded by computer users. The two companies will
"comanufacture and comarket" NFL branded materials,
including interactive games and icons. The league, which is
expected to use the on-line service to sell collectibles,
currently sells less than 1% of its projected $3B annual
license-product market on-line. Deal details are expected
to be announced today (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19).
MORE WEB INVESTMENTS: The SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's John
Rofe reports that Pistons Owner William Davidson and two
other individuals invested a total of $5M into CA-based
Praja Inc., which produces interactive highlight videos and
stat package for NCAA Div. I football team Web sites. Praja
hopes to use the "infusion" to expand into the NFL, MLB, NBA
or MLS (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/18 issue).