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Cable Sports Network To Pay Higher Rights Fees In Gretsky Deal

August 17, 1988

DENVER (AP) _ A regional sports network controlled by Denver cable-TV magnate Bill Daniels will pay $2.4 million in higher rights fees as part of the deal that lured hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles from the Edmonton Oilers.

The L.A.-based Prime Ticket network paid the higher prices -- an increase of $600,000 over four years -- because of the contributions the star player could make to the network and the Los Angeles Kings hockey team.

Daniels said in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News Tuesday that Bruce McNall, the team’s owner, approached him before the deal to talk about the money that would be needed to sign Gretzky.

″Bruce came to me and said, ’Would you raise your rights fees on the Kings games so that I can come up with the amount of money we have to come up with to get Gretzky?‴ Daniels said. ″My answer was, ’You’re damn right.‴

The increased fees, Daniels said, will be paid only as long as Gretzky plays for the Kings. The hockey star has a four-year contract.

Prime Ticket also agreed to triple the amount of money spent on promoting and advertising the Kings broadcasts, Daniels said.

The complicated Gretzky deal is expected to benefit Prime Ticket, which has an exclusive contract to televise Kings games in southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii.

″It pleases our affiliates, we’ll gain more affiliates and we can considerably increase the advertising dollars we charge,′ Daniels said.

Prime Ticket, which also is owned by Jerry Buss, the principal owner of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, is one of several companies launching a regional sports network in Denver.

The venture already has signed a deal with the Denver Nuggets to telecast a number of regular-season and playoff games.

As part of the Gretzky deal, Prime Ticket agreed to a significant increase in coverage of Kings games -- from 37 to 60 a year, said Tony Acone, the network’s president.

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