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PLAYOFF CONTROVERSY: BASEBALL NETWORK DOESN'T HAVE MONOPOLY
Published October 6, 1995
KNBR-AM, the San Francisco affiliate for the CBS Radio Networks' broadcast of the MLB divisional playoffs, has been bucking the network's policy that calls for exclusive coverage of one series, and plans to continue doing so in the face of a "cease and desist" letter from CBS. While CBS' agreement with MLB calls for affiliates to choose one series and stick with it for its duration, KNBR has put together its own format which draws on CBS' feeds with KNBR announcers directing inning-by-inning updates on all four games. In between updates, the station has been clearing CBS' ad inventory, as well as its own. In a letter dated yesterday, Eileen Thorgusen, District Dir/Affiliate Relations for CBS Radio in L.A., cited the network's agreement with MLB and informed KNBR that they must end their "spliced" broadcasts. In a subsequent written response, KNBR Program Dir Bob Agnew asked them to reconsider. Later, in an interview with THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, Agnew said he intends to continue with the broadcasts claiming "overwhelming support" from listeners. He also said he is not alone. According to Agnew, Chicago's WMVP has been jumping from game to game, with permission. As explained by Helene Blieberg, VP/Communications at CBS Radio Networks, the contractual arrangements with the 330 stations carrying CBS' MLB feed are clear -- that they will air one series live and in its entirety. Should games end while others are in progress, that coverage can be picked up. In addition, if a series ends early, a station can switch to another. Blieberg had no knowledge of a waiver for Chicago's WMVP, saying "that could not be true" under the contract. CBS Radio's MLB deal runs through '99. "There is no downside to what we are doing," Agnew told THE DAILY. "There is no negative, other than archaic, old-school thinking." Agnew noted their approach was designed to respond to the "unique situation" facing those carrying baseball this year, particularly in the Bay Area where attendance showed such a precipitous drop. As he stated in his response to Thorgusen, "All of us in the baseball business must wake up right now or we're going to be in worse shape than we already are." On their response should KNBR go ahead with its program, Blieberg told THE DAILY, "We will have to deal with that if and when it comes up." She offered no specifics on a possible response, but Agnew said that if they decide to "pull the plug" on KNBR's baseball feeds, "they will never find another station in the market to take on baseball." Asked if losing the World Series is a concern, Agnew said, "Fine. It's on their shoulders" (THE DAILY).