As NFL owners convene in Detroit this week for their annual fall meeting, one key item up for discussion will be the future of the league’s TV contracts, which are up for grabs after the ’05 season. The picture remains cloudy, although ABC and affiliates have agreed on a cost-sharing plan, suggesting the Alphabet net may look to keep "Monday Night Football," regardless of the $150mln/season it loses on the NFL. Buzz remains steady about returning to a 2-cable net split—TNT carried half the season’s Sun night games from ’90-’97—and Turner Sports pres David Levy hasn’t been shy about expressing affection for pigskin, "The NFL fits…[Turner’s] criteria," he told CableWORLD in March. NBC Universal Sports is interested, says NFL broadcasting committee chmn Pat Bowlen. That could open the door for USA, with games on non-traditional nights (Thurs and/or Sat) in the latter half of the season. But a name that keeps popping up in chatter is Spike TV, thanks in large part to a Sports Illustrated column that fingered it as a suitor. With Viacom money behind it, the testosterone-fueled net would be a logical home to an 8-game package, and Spike has shown leanings in that direction, having hosted The Football Net’s Sat-morning "Football 101" and a fantasy football show last season, although both were scuttled to make room for its "auto block" programming. That said, Spike insists talk about it nosing around an NFL deal is merely "speculative" at this time. — Another option, unthinkable even a few months ago, is for the league to seed the late season/non-trad night package to its emergent NFL Net. Commish Paul Tagliabue said at the beginning of this season that live games are a possibility for the channel, although critics say handing that package to NFL Net would be tantamount to flushing $200mln-$300mln in revenue down the drain. (Analysts estimate an ancillary cable package could easily rake in a sum in that range, money over and above the NFL’s present avg $550mln/yr contracts with Fox, ESPN/ABC Sports and CBS.)

The Daily


Obituary: Ron Wolfe

Charter engineer Ron Wolfe passed away Nov 25 after a month-long battle with COVID-19, according to his obituary.

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