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NFL, Networks Negotiating for TV Deal


Wed Jul 21, 4:09 PM ET


By DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer


NEW YORK - The ever-present gossipmongers in the television world worked overtime a while back when Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports, had lunch at an expensive New York restaurant with NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.




That must mean, went the rumors, that NBC is back in the picture for a piece of the NFL's television contract, which it lost when CBS jumped back in after the 1997 season.



Right. And wrong.



NBC might be interested, but only Fox is in serious negotiations, according to both industry and NFL sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Both sides said they have discussed substantive issues but have arrived at nothing definitive.



That's because the first crack at the most lucrative contract in sports goes to current rights-holders Fox, CBS, ABC and ESPN. It's something like restricted free agency for players: A new team can get in the game, but players' current teams, like the league's current networks, have the right of first refusal.



But the Tagliabue-Ebersol meeting ? in a spot where they were sure to be seen by other important people ? is the classic method the nation's most prominent league uses to squeeze big money from the networks. The idea is to let the other guys know you're meeting with the odd man out, and they're bound to be more willing to up their bids.



"The price will be whatever the NFL can generate," says Neal Pilson, a television sports consultant who is the former president of CBS Sports. "It's the most valuable property in television, and nobody wants to get left out. You're talking about 60 rating points a week, more than any Super Bowl gets, and 10 times the number for any other sports property."



It's still early.



The eight-year $17.6 billion contract between the NFL and the networks doesn't run out until after the 2005 season.



And regardless of who gets which package ? Fox, CBS, ABC, ESPN, or outsiders like NBC or other cable networks ? fans will get their football. Perhaps at slightly different times or even new days, but not in any way radically different from what they're getting now.



But if it's not a big deal for viewers, it is for the networks.



When Fox outbid CBS for the NFC package in the contract that started the 1994 season, it turned itself into a legitimate network.



Some Fox affiliates grabbed more desirable spots on the dial, and the revenue helped develop programming that has made the network competitive in prime time. The loss of the NFL had a hugely negative effect on CBS, which got football back by outbidding NBC for the AFC package four years later.



In the Fox talks, NFL officials hint that the network might be after something bigger than its current Sunday afternoon package of NFC games. Network officials, without speaking for attribution, acknowledge the talks are going on but indicate they are satisfied with their current situation.



If there is to be a change, it could involve Sunday or Monday nights, although those games probably will stay within the ABC-ESPN family, owned by Disney.



Despite top 10 ratings every week, ABC has been losing money on the most lucrative prime-time sports show. That's in keeping with a general slide in all ratings as the television universe has expanded to include cable and satellite.



So one scenario painted by both league and industry officials is a flip-flop of prime-time games, with ABC taking the Sunday night package, and ESPN getting Monday night. Last season, ESPN gave ABC the Thursday night opener, which began in 2002 and will be kept to give the league a one-game start to the season.






ABC will do that opening game again this year Sept. 9, when Indianapolis is at New England, a repeat of last season's AFC title game.


But the Monday night shuffle ? if there is one ? could open the way for NBC to get back into the picture.


The NFL would love that. ....


The more competition, the more money.

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NASCAR and Cartoon Network will soon have NASCARtoon Network




Good joke...


I wish we could get more games, and get NBC and ABC in the mix to take AFC and NFC and split them with Fox and CBS. I mean I know that will never happen but I can dream.



NASCAR and Cartoon Network Introduce `NASCARtoon Racing' Brand with Two-Week On-Air and Online Promotion

LOS ANGELES--July 19, 2004--

Interactive Campaign Courts Young Fans By Combining NASCAR Racing Excitement with Favorite Cartoon Network Characters.






NASCAR and Cartoon Network have teamed to develop the 'NASCARtoon Racing' brand, a customized on-air and online campaign sponsored by Kellogg's and designed to engage young fans with the excitement of NASCAR racing through the familiarity of their favorite Cartoon Network characters.


'NASCARtoon Racing' will be introduced on July 19, 2004, with a national promotion that will extend on-air and online with a national sweepstakes and 'NASCARtoon Racing' Garage game where kids get to design their own Cartoon Network racing car. Additionally, Cartoon Network will create a sustained campaign on-air and online called 'NASCARtoon Racing Presents...' featuring Cartoon Network characters providing fun and highlighting themes such as the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, teamwork and competition. The campaign has been designed to carry the 'NASCARtoon Racing' brand through the end of the 2004 NASCAR season.


"The 'NASCARtoon Racing' campaign is an educational and interactive way to create new NASCAR fans by teaming with the Cartoon Network brand. And, as NASCAR families are likely to experience the car design activity together, we'll help introduce new viewers to the network's colorful cast of characters," says Sarah Nettinga, director, film, television and music entertainment, NASCAR Digital Entertainment.


"NASCAR's broad appeal with men and women, adults and children, means we're able to deliver a great deal of support to cross-promotions such as these," said Liz Schlosser, senior marketing strategist for NASCAR.


"This partnership unites the thrill of live NASCAR sporting events with the unexpected fun and surprise of Cartoon Network," says Kim McQuillken, executive vice president, Cartoon Network Sales & Marketing. "Together with our sister network TNT, a NASCAR broadcasting partner, we've constructed a campaign to capture each child's imagination. Cartoon stars such as Dexter, The Powerpuff Girls and Johnny Bravo will encourage kid viewers to take part in the sweepstakes, test their own creative abilities, and see how they, too, can enjoy NASCAR along with the rest of the family."


From July 19th through Aug. 1, 2004, the Cartoon Network will air 30 second spots introducing 'NASCARtoon Racing', promoting the sweepstakes and driving kids to www.CartoonNetwork.com. To enter the national sweepstakes, participants must visit the 'NASCARtoon Racing' area within the site. Kids will also be able to create and submit an original race car design by playing the 'NASCARtoon Racing' Garage game.


The online car designing activity provides distinctive artwork and other tools from favorite Cartoon Network shows Scooby-Doo, Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls and others to help kids bring their creations to life. At the end of the two weeks, a panel of NASCAR drivers and Cartoon Network producers will select the favorite design. The best car design will be showcased at the conclusion of the promotion in a customized promotional spot on Cartoon Network.


The 'NASCARtoon Racing' sweepstakes Grand Prize winner will receive a trip for a family of four to attend a 2005 NASCAR race. Four hundred runners up will receive a die-cast No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet car autographed by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Terry Labonte.


Following the conclusion of the sweepstakes, the mini-site will be updated to include a photo gallery of the 'NASCARtoon Racing' car designs submitted by kids, the 'NASCARtoon Racing' Garage game, 'NASCARtoon Racing Presents...' content and a link to NASCAR.COM, the official site of NASCAR, produced by Turner Sports Interactive.


NASCAR has 75 million adult fans, which means NASCAR fans represent 1/3 of the U.S. adult population. According to ESPN Sports Poll (1999-2002) and Nielsen Media Research (1999-2002), more than one-half (58%) of kids 7-11 years old are NASCAR fans. Additionally, the number of 12-17 year olds who watch NASCAR has doubled since 1999, and there are currently twice as many 12-17 year olds who watch NASCAR as watch the NBA.


Cartoon Network, currently seen in 86.4 million U.S. homes and 145 countries around the world, is Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.'s 24-hour, ad-supported cable service offering the best in animated entertainment. Drawing from the world's largest cartoon library, Cartoon Network showcases unique original ventures such as Codename: Kids Next Door, Duck Dodgers, Teen Titans, The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Ed, Edd n Eddy and other Cartoon Cartoons. Cartoon Network also features Adult Swim, its signature late night block of animation for grownups. Since its launch in 1992, Cartoon Network has remained one of ad-supported cable's highest-rated networks. Cartoon Network's Web site is located at http://CartoonNetwork.com (AOL Keyword: Cartoon Network).


Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company, is a major producer of news and entertainment product around the world and the leading provider of programming for the basic cable industry.



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