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CBS, Affils Deal on NCAA

CBS affiliates have agreed to kick in $8 million to share the cost of the network's $6.2 billion, 11-year NCAA basketball rights deal, less than many had predicted. In exchange, the network has agreed not to ask for any more money later. "CBS will not solicit the affiliate body for financial assistance in future programming acquisitions," says the agreement.

The terms were not disclosed, but sources say station contributions vary according to market size, as with their NFL contribution. The NCAA agreement is also said to extend the NFL agreement, which includes limits on repurposing of network programming, through 2006.

CBS was said to have sought $26 million per year to help pay for the NCAA deal.

CBS will give up some ad inventory in prime time (two spots) and the CBS Evening News (three spots) in exchange for some inventory in Letterman (one spot), Late Night With Craig Kilborn (four) and The Early Show
(two). In theory, the difference in value between the prime and news spots that stations are getting and the early and late spots they are giving up will offset their individual cash contributions. Stations were running the numbers late last week to see how they fared.

CBS has also agreed to set up a futures committee to explore multicasting.

The network would say only that the deal involved a "broad exchange of value," including cash and sales inventory. The agreement, approved by the affiliate advisory board and affiliate board, must now be approved by more than 95% of affiliates in the next couple of weeks.

For their part, the stations had sought a variety of concessions, including a cap on what they pay for the affiliate news feed, clarification of digital spectrum use, more local cut-ins in The Early Show, and extension of the NFL deal.

CBS Affiliate Board Chairman Bob Lee sounded satisfied with the terms, at least in the official statement (he did not return calls for comment): "Ultimately, both parties listened to and delivered on the needs of the other."