$17 mil hoop rebate

TNT, TBS give up 25¢ a sub for lost NBA games

NEW YORK — Time Warner’s TNT and TBS will give about $17 million back to cable operators to compensate for 32 pro-basketball games that weren’t played during 1998-99 season because of the owners’ lockout of players.

The rebate will be a one-time-only payment of about 25¢ per subscriber.

Turner Network Sales, which is doling out the coin, had no comment. But one insider said TNT/TBS would get an undisclosed sum from the National Basketball Assn. to help make up for loss of ad revenues from the 32 missed games.

NBC, which owns the broadcast-network rights to NBA games, will also get some remuneration from the NBA. The Peacock net pays the NBA a license fee of $350 million a year through the 2002-03 season. TNT/TBS pony up $178 million a year through 2002-03.

Various sources say it’s rare for cable networks to make rebates to operators under any circumstances. For example, when parts of the 1994-95 baseball season vanished because of a labor dispute between the owners and players, ESPN gave operators some extra commercial spots but no cash.

In its letter to cable operators, Turner Network Sales suggested that individual systems could reimburse subscribers for the lost games. TNS is a sister company of Time Warner Cable, the largest cable operator in the U.S.

Instead of starting last Nov. 3, the NBC season didn’t begin until Feb. 5. However, the league did manage to keep the full post-season schedule of playoff games intact.

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