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WTBS, NFL agree to four-year deal

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Turner Broadcasting Systems and the NFL agreed Thursday to a four-year, $450-million contract to show 47 prime-time games on SuperStation WTBS, beginning this fall. The agreement calls for WTBS to televise three preseason games each year, plus regular-season games in the first nine weeks of the 1990, 1992 and 1993 seasons and the first eight weeks of the 1991 season. Most of the games will be on Sunday night.

"The NFL is among television's most elite programing. We are extremely pleased with the addition of their NFL to our sports telecast lineup," Terence F. McGuirk, president of Turner Sports, said in a statement. "This increased distribution of

the NFL games will benefit TBS and fans of the NFL as well."

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said: "The NFL is pleased to join TBS in the presentation of NFL games over the next four years. I look forward to an association with TBS that I expect will bring another first-class offering to millions of fans throughout the nation."

Television sources said ESPN will keep its package of eight Sunday night games in the second half of the season, which will stretch to 17 weeks in 1991 and possibly 18 after that. ESPN, which also gets the Pro Bowl and two exhibition games, also is expected to pay about $450-million. ESPN paid $153-million in a three-year deal that expired earlier this month.

"We are still negotiating with the NFL," said Roger Werner, president of ESPN said.

"An important factor was the additional promotional opportunity afforded by Turner with its four networks and also Turner's presence overseas," said Dick Maxwell, the NFL's director of information.

Officials from CBS met with the NFL on Monday and officials from NBC met with them Tuesday. A source familiar with the negotiations said NBC no longer is interested in trying to obtain NFC games as part of its deal.

CBS, the long-time network of the NFC, pays a premium for that conference because the teams come from larger markets.

ABC, meanwhile, is trying to keep its Monday night package despite competition from Fox and CBS.

The deals are expected to be completed by March 12, when the NFL starts its annual meetings.

Judging by the money the networks have been throwing at other sports, the NFL would appear to be in line for a big revenue jump.

CBS turned over $1.06-billion to baseball for four years, another $1-billion for seven years' worth of the NCAA basketball tournament and $543-million for the next two Winter Olympics.

Group plans to fight

over satellite dish lawsuit

CORAL GABLES _ A group of sports fans and satellite dish owners Thursday announced the formation of a grass-roots drive to fight a suit by the NFL over access to televised games.

In addition, the United Sports Fans of America seeks to provide a voice for the public on other issues such as stadium seating and ticket prices at all sports.

"It's time to balance the scales of power in American sports by uniting the fans," said Marc Forlenza, commissioner of the Coral Gables-based USFA.

USFA members say the catalyst for the group was the NFL's suit last year seeking to block commercial satellite dish owners from receiving games not on the local network broadcast.

USFA executive director Lynn Booth said the group will first concentrate on the suit by the league. A questionnaire by the group will identify other areas of fan interest prior to a March 25 meeting in Miami.

"We're the first case the NFL is trying, and if we lose, the door will be wide open for all sports leagues to limit the public's access to watching favorite teams play," said Jay Love, owner of one of the sports bars mentioned in the suit.

Booth said the group has begun a nationwide campaign for members.