'SPORTING NEWS' SWEETENS PROSPECTS WITH TV DEALS: 2 SPECIALS MAY AID TIMES MIRROR IN SELLING MAGAZINE
The Sporting News has lined up two TV deals as it gets spruced up for its trip to the auction block.
Times Mirror Magazines earlier put the weekly newspaper up for sale in part because it said it could no longer compete with the multimedia capabilities and promotional prowess of larger rivals.
The ESPN franchise, for example, includes several cable networks, a Web site and a magazine. Sports Illustrated also has a cable connection via parent Time Warner.
Times Mirror has not yet sent out financial information to prospective buyers, but The Sporting News moved to secure a couple of attractive, one-shot TV tie-ins.
On Oct. 25, the opening day of the World Series, NBC will broadcast a 90-minute special on "Baseball's 25 Greatest Moments." And on Nov. 6, CBS will air a 1-hour special titled "The 100 Greatest Football Players." Both are based on Sporting News reports.
"To compete in the arena of covering spectator sports, we needed TV promotion. So we began to look for creative ways to generate that. It would be cost prohibitive to buy the kind of exposure we were looking for," said Francis X. Farrell, senior VP-publisher of The Sporting News.
The 113-year-old weekly also hoped the subjective nature of its rankings would cause buzz among potential readers and advertisers.
"Part of the appeal of these lists is that they create great debate," said Sporting News VP-TV Development Stuart Marvin. "We want it to be participatory and have the viewers weigh in."
In addition to the TV specials, the newspaper is inviting fans to vote for the top football players and greatest baseball moments through ballots in the publication and on the weekly's Web site (sportingnews.com).
The Sporting News sold sponsorships of the baseball special to American Honda Motor Co., Eastman Kodak Co., MasterCard International, Nike, Schering-Plough Corp. and electronic games maker Konami.
Packages included TV, print and online media, with joint sales efforts by The Sporting News and NBC. Ad sales for the football special are just beginning, but media packages are similar and CBS and The Sporting News will share revenue similarly.
Sporting News VP Jay Burzon, said the TV deals help the publication attract interest from a new group of marketers and also may lure a wider group of potential buyers.
"From a selling standpoint, the addition of TV has allowed us to talk about true integrated marketing and, with that approach, higher-level people are interested in hearing about it," Mr. Burzon said.
Sporting News had revenue last year of $65.8 million, which means the