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Time Warner Sports CEO Seth Abraham and HBO Sports Senior VP & Exec Producer Ross Greenburg were joined by announcer Jim Lampley in introducing Martina Navratilova as the newest member of the network's Wimbledon broadcast team. Under the one-year deal, Navratilova will participate as a part-time analyst for both men's and women's matches, while also participating as a doubles player. Abraham cited Navratilova's "passion" for and "intimate knowledge" of the tournament as the key reason for seeking her out. Greenburg said he believes viewers will find Navratilova to be as "candid, blunt, provocative and entertaining" as Billie Jean King, whom Navratilova will join as an expert analyst. Navratilova said the deal with HBO is not exclusive and would allow her to sign on with another network. She left open the possibility of working for CBS during the U.S. Open, but added, "I want to see how this goes" (THE DAILY). CBS Sports Senior VP Rick Gentile: "Yes, we've had some discussion. There's interest, but we haven't identified any role for her" (Steve Zipay, N.Y. NEWSDAY, 5/23). REACTION: In New York, Richard Sandomir compares it to NBC's signing of Joe Montana. "HBO made the better hire. Navratilova has everything Montana needs to start a TV career fast: a reputation for great bluntness and candor" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/23). Steve Zipay writes, "When it comes to new faces in sports broadcasting, Martina Navratilova promises she won't be like any ordinary Joe. Or even like an extraordinary Joe -- Joe Montana" (NEWSDAY, 5/23). USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke: "In this TV age when fresh, candid analysts are rare, HBO might have scored an ace Monday" (USA TODAY, 5/23). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes that HBO "is expecting Navratilova to be as blunt and outspoken in the booth as she was after matches" (Baltimore SUN, 5/23). OTHER BON MOTS FOR HBO: In Boston, Ron Borges writes that Abraham "deserves credit" for signing Oscar De La Hoya to a six- year deal before his win a few months ago over John John Molina. "That leaves HBO well established with one of the sport's fastest-rising stars" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/23).
MD-based Home Team Sports will launch a World Wide Web site this summer, The service, which will provide programming updates, player and event info and merchandise opportunities, is being developed with NDC Group of Arlington, VA (GOULD MEDIA SERVICES)....NBC's Bob Costas will host a two-hour special in celebration of The Discovery Channel's 10th anniversary (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 5/22).... During a panel discussion at the Women's Sports Foundation's Summit '95 in Dallas on Sunday, ABC programmer Lynn Stephans said she faced resistance from the ABC sales staff in trying to find advertisers for "A Passion to Play." Stephans: "Then I put two and two together. The ABC Sports staff was used to looking for advertisers interested in attracting the lucrative 18- to 49-year-old male. So I went to our daytime and entertainment sales staff" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/22). ....America Online paid $46M for stock in two software companies and announced alliances with CD-ROM makers in a bid to bolster its Internet presence (WASHINGTON POST, 5/23). America Online CEO Steve Case appeared on CNBC's to offer his view on the failed Intuit/ Microsoft merger and his hope that Microsoft stays out of the online services market. Case: "You get a broad range of service from America Online for a fixed fee. ... The Microsoft approach is more like a pay per view approach. All we are saying is give the consumers the choice" ("Business Insiders," 5/22). ....Ted Turner told the Video Software Dealers Association's annual convention: "I know I worry all the time. I never think I'm big enough. This year we're going to do $3.4 billion, but I just feel like I've got to have one of those over-the-air networks" (AP/ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/23).... Rangers "insiders" say former GM Tom Grieve likes his role on Prime telecasts so much that "he might bypass any future front office opportunity" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/21).
With the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers and Suns out of the playoffs, John Helyar writes in the WALL STREET JOURNAL that the loss of the nation's top three media markets and another with a top star -- Charles Barkley -- "may augur poorly for continued playoff viewership." The NBA's Final Four, ranked by media market: Rockets (No. 11), Magic (No. 22), Pacers (No. 24), and Spurs (No. 39). While Jerry Dominus, Senior Partner at J. Walter Thompson USA, says those teams are "not exactly David Stern's dream team," NBC Sports spokesperson Ed Markey counters, "The idea that ratings are driven by the size of market is a fallacy. It's really storyline-driven, personality-driven, quality-of-play driven." Helyar notes that the NBA "faces stiffer competition from the NHL playoffs from here on out." Fox will run the Blackhawks-Canucks on Sunday, hoping to grab viewers from the No. 3 Chicago market (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/23). In New York, Steve Zipay writes that NBC is not worried. "The worst-case Finals would be Rockets-Pacers and 80 percent of the ads are already sold for next season" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 5/23). RATINGS CHECK: The Knicks-Pacers Game 7 earned an 11.4/28 in overnights, with a 17.2/37 in New York and a 31.6/58 in Indianapolis. The Rangers-Flyers managed a 4.4/10 in New York during the same period (N.Y. POST, 5/23). Nationally, the NHL got a 2.7 in overnights, up 17% from ABC's coverage last year (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/23). ANYTHING FOR FOX: The NHL's remaining Western Conference teams are "steaming over" the fact that they will have to play back-to-back games in each city this weekend, so that both games can be shown on Fox. In order to show Sunday's Blackhawks- Canucks game at 2pm CDT on Sunday, the teams have to fly out immediately after Saturday's game in Vancouver (Mike Beamish, VANCOUVER SUN, 5/23).
The Blazers, the first NBA team to develop their own World Wide Web site, "may soon be tapped to create an Internet site for the [NBA] to promote all of its teams," according to the current AD AGE. The team is already advising the league on its online strategy, and a formal assignment "could cement the Trail Blazers' position as one of the most active developer of new- media applications in pro sports." The team's four-person multimedia staff has also developed "Game Ops Commander" software, which automates the video and sound effect entertainment during games, and is planning interactive kiosks at the team's new arena. The team's plans were so advanced, the NBA forced them to dismantle their Web site in March citing NBA marketing rules. Blazers VP/Marketing & Communications Larry Hitchcock: "We were just a little ahead of the game" (Charles Waltner, ADVERTISING AGE, 5/22 issue). The Blazers are owned by Starwave Corp.'s Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.