SBD/8/Sports Media

ESPN GETS WIDESPREAD ACCLAIM FOR HANDLING OF RIPKEN GAME

     ESPN's telecast of Cal Ripken's record-breaking 2131st
consecutive game played drew a "whopping" 7.5 cable rating, the
highest mark for an ESPN baseball game.  ESPN's Mike Soltys:
"Our initial expectations weren't quite that high. ... [But]
Ripken's streak had crossed over the sports line and got to be a
wider story.  That's where the audience kicked in" (Prentis
Rogers, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/8).  In Baltimore, Milton Kent
notes that WJZ-Channel 13 got a 30.1 local rating and HTS did a
14.2/20 in the Baltimore area.  Between 9:30 and 9:45, nearly 80%
of all Baltimore TV homes were tuned to coverage of the game
(Baltimore SUN, 9/8).  The previous high ratings for non-NFL ESPN
telecasts were Georgetown-St. John's basketball in February '85
(8.0) and  last year's Florida State-Miami football game (7.7).
The 9:30-9:45 portion of the program (when the game was made
official) drew an 11.3, and the 11:30-12:30 postgame show drew a
7.3.  ESPN's 7.5 rating includes over-the-air coverage on
Baltimore's WJZ and DC's WFTY.  Without those areas, it was 7.0
rating in the cable-only universe (ESPN).    SILENCE IS GOLDEN:
In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton writes, "For baseball junkies it was
nirvana, and ESPN, the network charged with recording this piece
of history, was up to the task" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/8).  In
Washington, Leonard Shapiro notes both Chris Berman and Buck
Martinez "allowed ESPN's pictures to do the talking, the perfect
approach to one of the greatest moments in sports history"
(WASHINGTON POST, 9/8).  NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol said
ESPN did an "incredible, classy and effective job.  It was TV
sports for the ages" (USA TODAY, 9/8).  In Orlando, Jerry Greene
writes, "I'm told Berman first suggested turning off his mike and
played a large role in the final decision.  You're more than just
a pretty face, Chris" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/8).  In Houston,
Carlton Thompson writes, "Berman forever will be known for his
clever wit and nicknames.  But when the moment dictates, he can
be serious and compassionate.  He proved that Wednesday night by
saying nothing" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/8).
     ANOTHER LANDMARK:  ESPN celebrated its 16th anniversary by
announcing that it is the first cable network to hit 70%
penetration of U.S. homes.  That 70% represents 66,805,000 homes
(ESPN).  The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Frederick Klein writes, "For
my money, the most important date in the modern world of
Sportsbiz was Sept. 7, 1979" -- ESPN's first day of cablecasting
(WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8).
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