?Tom Good, Bill Bad
?When Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. agreed to buy a controlling interest in DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite broadcaster, sports TV's most potent player got a lot stronger. (The $6.6 billion deal is subject to regulatory approval.) Murdoch's Fox Sports already airs the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR nationally, and his 21 regional networks control local broadcasting rights to 67 of the 80 MLB, NBA and NHL teams. If Murdoch gets DirecTV, he'll have a distribution network with 11 million subscribers To go with his programming assets, putting him in an even more powerful position should he get into the kind of turf battle he fought with cable-TV carriers in Orlando and Minnesota earlier this year. Magic and Timberwolves games were kept off the air for several months while Fox Sports and Time Warner Cable squabbled over rights fees. DirecTV will give Murdoch a big hammer in any future fight like that one: He could threaten to offer steep satellite discounts to steal viewers away from cable. The likely result? Games would not be shown while the two sides negotiated. Also, given Murdoch's hardball style, it may be difficult for non- Fox Sports channels—such as the Yankees' YES Network—to strike deals to be carried on DirecTV. Murdoch's increased leverage could leave many sports fans missing out instead of watching their favorite teams.
? Tom Tolbert is the best thing about ABC's NBA broadcasts. The former NBA journeyman is funny (when Shaquille O'Neal landed on Timberwolves guard Rod Strickland on Sunday, he said, "That'll crush a pancreas right there") and astute. Let's hope that partner Bill Walton learns to play off Tolbert and quits relying so heavily on tired catchphrases such as, "Throw it down, big fella!"