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NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol is featured in the current issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED as the man who led NBC to the "richest, boldest, riskiest rights acquisition" in TV history by securing Olympic rights through 2008. Sally Jenkins writes the "implications for the other networks are potentially devastating from a programming standpoint because Ebersol has now all but cornered the market on premier sports events." Ebersol's "colleagues and competitors have learned that beneath the casual attire and attitude is a thoroughly rapacious businessman," as he has a "habit of likening negotiations to love affairs, and his blockbuster Olympic deals owe much to the strength of his personal charm." As for the other networks, Jenkins writes, "When you've been hit by a surprise attack at dawn, it's your own fault if you haven't posted a lookout." NBC's competitors are having a "hard time explaining how they could have been caught flat-footed" after NBC's Olympic deal in August (SI, 12/25 issue).
ABC Sports is conducting an audit into the finances of The Baseball Network, according to the N.Y. TIMES. The Baseball Network, a partnership between ABC, NBC and MLB that ended at the end of this season. ABC Sports spokesperson Mark Mandel: "When a business dissolves, it's prudent to do an audit." As TBN's "term came to an end at the World Series, relations between TBN President Ken Schanzer and ABC Sports President Dennis Swanson "turned decidedly sour." Schanzer has since joined NBC, which has "not joined ABC in the audit." NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol said he was "surprised by ABC's move" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/22).
NBC's Will McDonough is being criticized by some Browns observers for favoring Art Modell in his discussions of the team. But McDonough, in speaking with the Akron BEACON JOURNAL, said his coverage is "fair and accurate." McDonough: "I have never done anything in favor of Art Modell. I just tell the truth." Questions persist because McDonough's son, Terry, is an Atlanta- based scout for the Browns. Terry has scouted college games for the Browns since '92, but McDonough said "if you play things down the middle and tell the truth, there's no problem." The BEACON JOURNAL's R.D. Heldenfels writes of McDonough's coverage, "it could be what McDonough sees as hard truths are simply unpalatable to Cleveland fans" -- like the lack of city support if the team was forced to stayed in Cleveland under Modell. NBC Sports spokesperson Ed Markey did not know if NBC had ever mentioned McDonough's son's post on the air. Heldenfels concludes that both McDonough and NBC "would have been better served" by making his family connection more "widely known" (Akron BEACON JOURNAL, 12/22).
Former Piston Bill Laimbeer has signed a deal with PASS cable to do a sports program. Laimbeer's show will be featured monthly (DETROIT NEWS, 12/22)....NHL Senior VP Steve Solomon, formerly of ABC, "downplays reports" he is a candidate to be President of CBS Sports (USA TODAY, 12/22). ...."Hoyt 'n' Andy's Sportsbender," ESPN's planned animated program, has been "postponed indefinitely from its planned Christmas day start" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 12/22)....USA Network announced their planned fight for Tommy Hearns has been cancelled. Hearns' fight would have been his second in four months, and the network "no longer wishes to be a party to his diminished capacity" (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 12/22). ....Radio stocks were up yesterday upon news an emerging telecom bill could lead to a wave of mergers. Infinity Broadcasting was up 3 3/4 to 36 1/2, Evergreen Media was up 3 5/8 to 27 1/2, and American Radio Systems was up 4 1/4 to 25 1/2 ("Moneyline," CNN, 12/21)....Jeff Cockin, TV negotiator for CART's U.S. 500, said Fox wants a prime time start, but the Michigan course doesn't have the lights. CBS is said to have changed its mind "a couple times" (USA TODAY, 12/22).