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Volume 24 No. 157

Sports Media

          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).