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Radio stations holding the rights to MLB teams are questioning their obligation to carry replacement baseball. John Mainelli, program director for WABC, which holds the Yankees rights, says his station will question broadcasting the replacement games. Mainelli: "If we're legally bound, we'll have to do it. But until we know more, we're not sure how it will play out." Stations are also questioning the amounts they have to pay for replacement ball. WFAN in New York paid $5.5M for the Mets' rights and is worried about the prospect of replacement ball. WFAN Program Dir Mark Chernoff: "First, are listeners willing to listen to games played by replacement players, and will advertisers want to advertise on games that have replacement players, not regular players. Everybody would feel more comfortable if we were dealing with regular players, not replacement players" (Donna Petrozzello, BROADCASTING & CABLE, 1/30). BANNED IN BOSTON? Officials from NESN and WSBK-TV "soft-pedaled" reports from Boston's advertising community that the use of replacement players woould reduce the value of spots on Red Sox broadcasts by up to 90%. While NESN GM John Claiborne and WSBK GM Stu Tauber would not specify the potential damage, other officials at the stations estimated the impact at about 50%. Tauber admitted many advertisers "are voicing concern and some are refusing to buy spots" for replacement games, but he called a 90% cut "way too cheap, even ludicrous" (Jim Baker, BOSTON HERALD, 2/1). NETWORK INTEREST IN PLAYERS' LEAGUE? CBS is "denying a report that it's interested in televising a series of games played by baseball stars if the strike is not settled," according to USA TODAY's Rudy Martke. CBS Sports President David Kenin said the network has had no "conversations of late" about a players' league. Fox "also was approached," but will not carry any games (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 2/2).
The Pac-10's rejection of a four-year, $3M offer from ESPN in favor of Liberty Sports has raised some questions within the conference. The ESPN deal was reportedly rejected due to the network's desire to add the conference to the end of its "Big Monday" package, starting games at 9pm PST. Conference leaders were apparently concerned about the effect of late starting times, including attendance, fan safety, study time and travel schedules. But Oregon Coach Jerry Green was not pleased with the decision: "I'm for anything that gets us on national television more. I don't care where we play. I don't care when or what time of day." Oregon State AD Dutch Baughman, a member of the Pac-10 TV committee, says the sale of the package to Liberty means the conference could be distributed to a variety of cable outlets, including ESPN. However, ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys says that's "not an option" for the next few years. Another unnamed ESPN source "ripped" the Pac-10: "I think sometimes you throw up your hands with them. They're the only conference dumb enough to do this." Green noted the Liberty package calls for games to start no later than 8:30pm PST: "What's the difference? One hour?" (Ken Goe, Portland OREGONIAN, 2/1). More from Soltys: "We're surprised they gave up the exposure. ... Liberty says it has a lot of homes (55 million), but a lot of people are counted twice. I have MSG and New England Sports Channel." CBS' Len DeLuca: "Liberty Sports has established itself as a real competitor to ESPN" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 2/2).