Tag Archives: RCA_Satcom

January 22, 1979 – News from Anheuser Busch

New York, New York – Back to Gene Petrillo’s office! “I’ve talked to my people at the brewery,” he opened, “and we’d like to buy a franchise position for a half-million dollars.”

Bob and I looked at each other. We assumed Gene would come back with a counter offer, but not one-fifth of what we were asking. Bob said, “We’ll have to think about that one. Can we get back to you in a few days?”

“Sure. Let’s talk when you’re ready.”

Bob and I left Gene’s office and by the time we hit the street, we had decided that we would say no to the $500,000 counter proposal. How about that? Our company was all but broke, but we were brash enough to say a half-million dollar offer isn’t good enough.

Even though the offer was low, we now had “action” in several necessary arenas to allow us to launch the concept:

Financing – Getty hadn’t closed us out;

Advertising – Budweiser hadn’t said no;

Content- the NCAA was definitely interested (at least extremely curious);

Technology – we were set to meet with RCA Americom to keep our spot on the “bird” (Satcom1) alive;

and Subscribers – cable system operators were beginning to warm to this innovative, crazy, smart, outlandish, clever, ridiculous (you decide which) concept of sports 24 hours a day / seven days a week,

Busy days ahead!

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January 15, 1979 – First meeting with Anheuser Busch (Budweiser) Agency

New York, New York – Rutgers – UConn was behind us, we were scheduled to meet RCA and the NCAA back-to-back on the 24th and 25th and then Bob Chamberlain added a new dimension tp our schedule when he announced he had set up an appointment with Gene Petrillo at D’Arcy, McManus. “Gene is the top agency man for Budweiser and he wants to hear our story.”

So 33 years ago today we told our story again – this time to our very first advertising contact. Think about that for a second! Without any studio, long-term financing, programming or subscribers, and only eight employees, we were about to sit down with the agency for the biggest sports advertiser in the world – Anheuser Busch. Wow!

Gene asked, “Do you have any proposal for me?” We had nothing in writing, but said we would have something for him the next day. Bob did tell him the general terms of our proposal: “We propose to sell 1/8 sponsorships for $2,760,000 which will give you billboards and 30 second spots throughout the day.” We chatted for a few more minutes and Gene said he would call us later in the week. We never did get the proposal in writing to him before he called us back and asked us to meet with him on Monday (January 22).

The scheduled meeting added to the general euphoria building in Plainville. We presumed (correctly, as it turned out) that he wouldn’t have asked us to meet again unless he had some sort of a proposal (he did, but that’s for next week).

January was proving to be a very productive month!!!!

October 16, 1978 – John Toner, UConn and “Demo events”

Storrs, Connecticut – The opening minute of my convesation with John Toner was illuminating. Following a question about my impression of the NCAA meeting, John said, “…I’ve talked to Tom (Hansen) and they like your idea. Walter (Byers) is interested, but he has his doubts about your ability to pull it off.” He went on to say we should follow Tom’s advice about mailing details to all of the TV Committee members  and then do the follow up calls. I said, “They’re already in the mail.”

Next we turned to the UConn program that we had been discussing before we ever thought of going to Shawnee Mission. I suggested that the proposed UConn schedule would be incorporated into whatever arrangement we ultimately made with the NCAA. Toner agreed and we moved on to a very pressing need for our fledgling network.

We desperately needed to show the world what we had in mind for our all sports network – in other words we needed to produce some live games from a college campus and send them to cable systems around the country. Ideally, our “demo events” would be back-to-back on the same day or on consecutive days to give both the NCAA and cable operators a brief look at the concept. We had to produce something before we could move forward.

“Will you allow us to originate a couple of games before the end of the year?” I asked.

“What did you have in mind?”

“We’d like to combine a basketball game with one other event, either on the same day or on consecutive days.”

“Would you consider soccer?”

“Certainly” I answered, “but the season is almost over.”

“You’re right, but we will be hosting an ECAC playoff game on Saturday morning, November 18, and we do have a basketball game the night before.”

“Sounds perfect,” I said, “can we count on doing those two games?”

“Yes, I think you can. I’ll let you know tomorrow, but I don’t anticipate any problems.”

We had our “demo events” and on Friday night, November 17, 1978, the E. S. P. Network sent the UConn vs. Athletes in Action basketball game to any cable system capable of receiving a signal from RCA Satcom 1. The next morning we did indeed do the ECAC soccer playoff game.