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•CBS. Before NFL Today aired on Sunday, CBS Sports president Neal Pilson gathered the troops to give them a pep talk. "He told us not to worry," says someone who was at the meeting, "that we still had plenty of sports, like the Masters and the U.S. Open in tennis. At one point Terry Bradshaw raised his hand and asked, 'Does the Masters have a pregame show?' That broke everybody up."
For the most part, though, the mood at the CBS Broadcast Center on Sunday was grim. A lot of people will be out of jobs. Without the NFL, CBS Sports has little more left than the Masters, the U.S. Open, the upcoming Winter Olympics, a few college football bowl games and college basketball's Final Four (chart). In the last year alone CBS has lost out on Major League Baseball, the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics and now the NFL. They may have to bring back refrigerator racing on Sundays. Nobody at CBS is blaming Pilson, though. The point man on the NFL talks was executive vice-president Peter Lund, and he was following Tisch's orders. Pilson was only the messenger.
Another cause for concern over at CBS is what will happen to its vaunted Sunday-night lineup. Will as many people watch 60 Minutes and Murder, She Wrote if Madden and Pat Summerall aren't promoting Mike and Jessica during the Sunday-afternoon NFC game? "It's funny," says one former CBS Sports employee. "CBS spent all that money on baseball and the Winter Olympics a few years ago, and it helped take them to the top. Now Fox is using the same strategy against them. You live by the sword, you die by the sword."
A CBS executive was even more blunt. "This wasn't a rights-fee negotiation," he said. "This was a hostile takeover by Fox."
•Smalltown, U.S.A. Of Fox's 139 stations, 120 are on the weaker UHF band. While most of those stations are on cable, and Fox claims that it can blanket 95% of the U.S., there might be a few isolated areas that will no longer receive NFC games.
•The Poorer Clubs. Bill Parcells was kind of hoping to get some of those ex-49ers for his New England Patriots.
There are skeptics who think that Murdoch will lose his custom-made shirt over the NFL deal; one estimate has him losing $500 million over the next four years. Says Murdoch, "I've seen those outrageous numbers. We'll lose a few million in the first year, but even if it was 40 or 50 million, it would be tax deductible. It was a cheap way of buying a network."
There are also those who don't think that Fox will be able to mobilize quickly enough to provide quality NFL coverage beginning next fall. But thanks to network cutbacks, there are many seasoned producers, directors and on-air talents that Fox will be able to hire for a lot less than those people were earning before.
And if Murdoch wants a Jimmy the Greek type, who among us can ever forget the episode a few years back on Fox's The Simpsons when little Lisa Simpson made a fortune for Homer with her NFL picks?