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Cable-TV Firm Signs '6-Figure' Pact To Broadcast High-School Games

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The National Federation of State High School Associations has concluded a long-term pact with SportsChannel America, a cable-television network, to telecast at least 25 high-school athletic contests a year.

Officials of the federation, who announced the deal last week, would not disclose the financial terms, except to say the rights fee was in the "low six figures." The cable network will reportedly pay more than $200,000 a year to the federation, an umbrella group of 51 state high-school activity associations representing more than 17,000 schools.

Since word of the pending agreement became public last month, many educators have expressed concern over what they see as high schools' increasing advance into the realm of big-time sports. (See Education Week, Feb. 22, 1989.)

Some observers speculated that the deal would include the creation of a national high-school boys' basketball tournament. But federation and SportsChannel officials stressed last week that the contract has no provisions for a post-season tournament.

The high-school package will begin airing next fall, most likely with Fri9day-night telecasts of boys' football.

"In the first season, I think it is fair to say most events will be football and basketball," said Dan Martinsen, a spokesman for the cable company.

However, SportsChannel officials have also promised coverage of other sports, as well as reports on student athletes and their achievements, the "positive educational values" of participation in high-school sports, and messages against drug and alcohol abuse.

Mr. Martinsen said a preliminary schedule of events should be completed by June.

According to Warren Brown, assistant executive director of the national federation, the group will keep a small amount of the rights fee to administer the contract, participate in scheduling telecasts, and prepare anti-drug and other informational messages.

After the federation's share is deducted, he said, schools participating in a televised game might receive anywhere from $500 to $1,500.

The federation and the cable network will jointly choose the games to be televised.

SportsChannel America, based in Woodbury, N.Y., is available on cable through affiliations with several regional sports networks and on a stand-alone basis through other cable operators.

Mr. Brown said the network was equipped to provide both national and regional broadcasts. For example, he said, the network could simultaneously show one game nationally and another game in specific region, or different games in several different regions.

"Regionalization is probably going to be the direction this goes," Mr. Brown said. "That certainly was attractive to us."--mw

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