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TNT Knows Shaq

July 25, 2004 12:00 AM

The trade of Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat is launching a fast break by Turner Broadcasting, which is telling ad buyers that the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, televised by TNT, will be next season's hot ticket. Last year TNT's telecasts of the Western Conference Finals featuring the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Mr. O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, against the Minnesota Timberwolves set viewership records. With all of the marquee teams in the Western Conference, commercials on TNT's Conference Finals games cost $180,000, compared with $160,000 on ESPN's Eastern Conference Finals pitting the Detroit Pistons against the Indiana Pacers. "They're saying, `Well, Shaq's in the East now, so the East is the new West," said Mike Law, supervisor, national broadcast, at Carat USA. "I haven't seen any plans yet, but I'm sure [TNT will] be aggressive after two years of ratings growth. I'm sure they'll push a little bit on the price." Indeed, David Levy, president of Turner Sports and Turner Entertainment Sales, said he expects that the prices charged for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals will be on a more even footing. "I think there will be more balance this year, yes," he said. "The Eastern Conference Finals is ours this year. We certainly did well with the Western Conference Finals last year." -- JON LAFAYETTE

Pols Party

While we know who will win the Democratic nomination for president, we can only guess who will have the hottest political party in Boston this week. Here are some candidates: Demonstrating that they're fair and balanced when it comes to partying, News Corp. and Fox Entertainment Group have rented Boston's Fenway Park to host an invitation-only bash for several hundred guests. The invited elite will have a chance to hit a baseball over the "Green Monster," the park's legendary left-field fence. Time Warner is hosting a reception honoring New York's two Democratic senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer, then sponsoring an invitation-only blowout concert with Rock the Vote at the Roxy. Rock the Vote is also sponsoring other concerts and events, with former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Clinton listed as the special guests at its kickoff concert at the Avalon. Among the stars expected are the Rev. Al Sharpton, Jon Stewart, Natalie Portman and Jerry Springer. There will be a cocktail party and a chance to shoot pool with Ben Affleck at Jillian's sports bar and another post-nomination concert featuring Bon Jovi. Mr. Affleck and Danny Gloverwill be the featured panelists in an event sponsored by Comcast, pitching politics to teenagers in nearby Cambridge, Mass. In a coup for CNBC, Sen. Clinton has agreed to be the featured speaker at a luncheon hosted by Tina Brown of CNBC's "Topic A With Tina Brown." One of the speakers at another CNBC-sponsored luncheon will be former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. The National Association of Broadcasters and National Cable & Telecommunications Association both plan to wine and dine politicians, but preferred not to talk about it. However, sources confirmed that NAB and the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association are hosting an invitation-only luncheon for 150 at the Boston Club to honor Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. "To thank him for all his service to our industry," said Allan Sprague, MAB president. The Walt Disney Co. is hosting a performance of the stage show version of "The Lion King" for delegates in Boston. They'll do the same for the GOPers in New York. --DOUG HALONEN

His Team

Considering the emotional whipsawing that the Boston Red Sox have put their fans through this season, you'd think team owner and Chairman Tom Werner would be more than willing to part with his independent TV production company, Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, and devote his energies to baseball. Don't bet on it. Even though CWM hired UBS Investment Bank to explore a possible sale , Mr. Werner is still committed to creating the next big comedy. He said hiring UBS is simply a way to examine all options, including linking up with a larger studio, an outright sale or remaining independent. He told TelevisionWeek that the industry shouldn't be surprised to see him continue to develop shows because he still loves "the challenge of finding the next hit."-- JAY SHERMAN