In a move several operators called unprecedented, Turner
Network Television and TBS Superstation will give operators 26-cent-per-subscriber rebates
to compensate for the loss of 28 regular-season National Basketball Association games.
TNT and TBS will give back more than $17 million to
operators that lost NBA telecasts during the six-month league owners' lockout,
industry executives said. Systems will be rebated 26 cents per TNT or TBS subscriber,
whichever is greater.
Operators have to return forms to Turner Broadcasting
System Inc. to get the rebates. TNT and TBS representatives could not be reached for
comment at press time.
After the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, ESPN offered
additional advertising inventory to operators to compensate for lost games, sources said.
And TNT never dropped its 12-cent surcharge for the
Sunday-night National Football League deal after it lost its half of that package to ESPN
One midsized cable operator called the rebate "highly
unusual," but lauded the networks for making the move. "It's
terrific," the operator said. "It's a show of good faith."
Turner suggested that operators give the extra 26 cents
back to subscribers as a goodwill gesture. But one operator said systems should use the
money to provide value-added promotions instead.
"I'm concerned about how subscribers would react
when they see a 25-cent rebate on their cable bill for the shortened NBA season. It's
sort of a slap in the face," that operator said.
Even with the rebate, one MSO advertising executive said
the company might not recover advertising revenue lost during the lockout.
Sources close to the situation said TNT and TBS expect a
rebate from the NBA to help compensate operators. League representatives could not be
reached for comment.
Despite an early backlash over the lockout, the Turner
networks generated decent ratings for NBA games. The networks' combined
regular-season Nielsen Media Research rating was 1.8, up 6 percent from last year.
Turner's combined 2.9 playoff rating was down 9
percent from a 3.2 in 1998, but the programmer had two fewer ratings-rich conference-final
games than last year.