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The Baseball Network premiered their regional coverage of the divisional playoffs last night. Scores were kept updated, however replays were shown only of the big plays in each game. During a critical point of the Indians/Red Sox telecast, TBN split screens to record the final out in Yankee Stadium. Afterward Bob Costas apologized to viewers for the untimely cut. Costas was more subdued in his criticism of baseball's new playoff format, but did say at one time, "it doesn't make any sense" (THE DAILY). In Boston, Jack Craig writes TBN's "claim that it would break new ground on delivering out-of-town action proved overblown ... but that was neither surprising or disappointing." He does note that "TBN's capacity to swing from game to game is a nice advantage" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/4). In San Francisco, NBC affiliate KRON decided to go with local news coverage of the O.J. Simpson verdict rather than show the Dodgers-Reds in its entirety. KRON GM Al Holzer believes "virtually every station up and down the West Coast went with O.J., not baseball" (C.W. Nevius, S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/4). SCRAMBLED OR NOT? Patrons in two Boston bars contacted by the BOSTON HERALD noted they shoed the entire Braves game, even though TBN officials said the signal would be scrambled. But NBC Spokesperson Ed Markey said the Atlanta affiliate sold its signal to a distributor that can unscramble it for dish owners via a DirectTV package." NBC News reportedly considered replacing last night's telecast with a special on O.J. Simpson, but were "advised only a Presidential assassination could knock off a contract event" (Jim Baker, BOSTON HERALD, 10/4). The S.F. CHRONICLE also reports confusion as to the descrambling policy. While several Bay Area bars were unable to pull down satellite signals for games other than Dodgers-Reds, some bars had clear signals (Bruce Jenkins, S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/4). BASEBALL NIGHT IN CANADA: In Toronto, GLOBE & MAIL sports editor David Langford calls the regionalized format "a mess." Langford notes viewer anger over CBC's decision on which provinces will see what game. But the "major problem" on the horizon for CBC is that the network will not carry a MLB playoff Game 4 on Saturday night, showing Hockey Night in Canada instead (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 10/4). In Toronto, technical problems interrupted the Yankees/Mariners game on CBC-TV. Some Canadian cable companies dropped the simulcast with NBC and put U.S. signals back in their normal position. CBC TV Sports Senior Exec Producer Don Peppin: "This is a Baseball Network production and we have to go through them. And everything they have done has been last minute" (Ken McKee, TORONTO STAR, 10/4).
TCI Chair John Malone lived up to his reputation of "rarely leaving anything on the negotiating table" in his recent dealings in the Time Warner/TBS merger. Investors, Wall Street analysts, and cable competitors are "puzzling over Malone's package of concessions -- and in some cases are questioning its fairness." Analysts say his purchase of two regional sports networks to fold into Liberty Sports would "add to Malone's efforts in building a rival to ESPN." What "irks" many cable operators is the discount rates that Malone's cable systems would have for 20 years to run Turner's Cable News Network, TNT and its cartoon and movie channels. One cable exec: "Watch out. This lowers TCI's costs." These lower costs could give TCI an advantage "in a bidding wars for additional systems as the cable industry consolidates" (Sallie Hofmeister, L.A. TIMES, 10/4). TURNER RALLIES HIS TROOPS: Over 3,000 Turner Broadcasting Network employees went to the Omni yesterday, with other offices watching via closed circuit TV, to hear TBS Chair Ted Turner explain why "he wants to sell his company to Time-Warner." Turner's 35-minute presentation was his first address to employees since the merger was approved on September 22. Observers said Turner didn't reveal any new details, and "discounted any significant layoffs would be caused by the merger" (Haddad & Unger, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 10/4). VIACOM INTEREST? Wall Street rumors suggest that Viacom "was considering a counterproposal to Westinghouse's bid for CBS," according BROADCASTING & CABLE. A source at Viacom would not rule out a bid, but said a decision was "not imminent" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 10/2 issue).
Dan Duva, Evander Holyfield's promoter, on the decision to keep Bowe-Holyfield on pay-per-view the same night as Mike Tyson's free event on Fox on November 4: "When you go to a restaurant and they give you free appetizers, you're still going to buy dinner" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/4).
Sports Illustrated's first Professional Basketball Preview was to hit the newsstands this week, but will be delayed until October 23. An SI spokesperson said the decision was made based due to the uncertain labor situation in the NBA and the threat of a possible work stoppage. With transactions during the off- season compressed into a two-to-three week window, SI wanted to guarantee their issue was up-to-date (THE DAILY). Matt Barr, Publications Dir of Sports Illustrated Presents, said "ad sales had nothing to do with it. It's a newsstand driven product and it has to have a sense of currency to appeal to readers." The cost for a full color ad is $14,000 (AD AGE ONLINE, 10/4).