Lazarus rises at net

Sales exec upped to prexy at Turner Sports

Ted Turner has reached into his sales department to come up with a new president for Turner Sports, Mark Lazarus.

Lazarus, 36, succeeds Harvey Schiller, who said officially Nov. 1 that he would not renew his contract as president of Turner Sports (Daily Variety, Nov. 2).

Although Schiller hasn’t announced his new job, most analysts said he will join a company George Steinbrenner is setting up to run the New York Yankees baseball and the New Jersey Nets basketball teams.

Driving deal home

Turner Sports is in the middle of talks to buy the rights to a major portion of NASCAR’s 35 annual Winston Cup racing events, which are now parceled out among six different networks, both broadcast and cable. Sources said Turner has linked up with NBC in a joint bid to share the NASCAR package.

But sports analysts said Turner is at a disadvantage with two of its competitors in these negotiations: Disney, which owns both ABC and ESPN/ESPN2, and News Corp., which owns the Fox Network and various cable channels, including FX, Fox Family and regional sports channels.

Disney and News Corp. can offer license fees to NASCAR that cover their various “platforms,” anchored by the main broadcast net and one or more cable nets. These platforms are tailor-made to take advantage of massive amounts of marketing and cross-promotion among the various webs.

But Lazarus disagreed that Turner is taking a back seat to Disney and News Corp. even though the one broadcast network in the Time Warner/Turner empire, the WB, is not a player in sports negotiations.

Citing a group of Time Warner holdings such as TBS and TNT, three pro sports teams (Atlanta Braves baseball, Hawks basketball and the brand-new Thrashers hockey teams), Warner Bros. filmed entertainment and print magazines, Lazarus said Turner can put together desirable platforms to entice NASCAR.

Media muster

And since the 1990-91 season, NBC and Turner’s TBS and TNT have engineered joint deals with the National Basketball Assn., agreeing to cross-promote televised games. “We can marshal the promotional power of two huge media companies, not just one,” Lazarus said.

Instead of continuing to report to Turner Sports, the Thrashers will move into the bailiwick of Stan Kasten, who’s president of the Braves and Hawks, and chairman of Philips Arena, home of the hoops and hockey squads.

And World Championship Wrestling, which Lazarus acknowledges is more showbiz than sports, will depart from Turner Sports and now be under Brad Siegel, who’s president of Turner’s general-entertainment networks.