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CBS Sports President David Kenin issued a statement yesterday announcing that golf analyst Ben Wright will not be part of CBS' golf broadcast team when coverage begins next month. Kenin acknowledged the "continuing controversy" over comments attributed to Wright "has detracted" from CBS' golf coverage and he said "there are no plans for Wright's return" (CBS Sports). In a statement issued by Wright's agent, RLR Associates of New York, Wright apologized to CBS, the LPGA and Wilmington News- Journal reporter Valerie Helmbreck. Wright: "Despite the fact that I have been widely misquoted, there is no doubt that I have been guilty of making some insensitive remarks" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/10) MEDIA REAX: In New York, Richard Sandomir calls it a "paid suspension" covering the length of his four-year contract with CBS -- reportedly worth around $1M. The "fact that he was not fired holds out a thin, but unlikely possibility of reinstatement." Sandomir notes there are "few suitors" at other networks, while The Golf Channel may consider him in the future (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). A source "familiar" with Wright's contract told WASHINGTON POST that it was "remotely possible Wright could be put back on golf after a year." A CBS source said honoring the contract was "a better alternative than a costly and prolonged lawsuit" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 1/10). ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "As firings go, we should all be so lucky" ("SportsCenter," 1/9). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay notes one CBS Sports source said "something had to be done. There were still no grounds for firing him. But things were never quieting down, it got to be too much" (NEWSDAY, 1/10). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes CBS' statement offered "ambiguity and evasiveness to encourage speculation" on Wright's possible return (USA TODAY, 1/10). In Atlanta, Prentis Rogers writes CBS is "trying to wash its hands of the controversy without totally removing the source of the controversy" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/10). Phil Mushnick notes, "Interestingly, Wright remains under contract." But he adds "no one should hold his or her breath" for Wright's return (N.Y. POST, 1/10). In Chicago, Steve Nidetz writes Wright is off the air "indefinitely. For Now" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/10). In Philadelphia, Diane Pucin writes "fine, upstanding CBS" will continue to pay Wright for four more years (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/10). Columnist George Vecsey notes CBS "needed to get rid of the distraction," while adding "it is worth noting how long it took" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). Kyle Smith of the N.Y. POST notes "the announcement was not only slow to come, but a total reversal of the network's staunch defense" of Wright (N.Y. POST, 1/10). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes CBS "did the right thing" -- even if it was late (Baltimore SUN, 1/10). OTHER REAX: LPGA Commissioner Jim Ritts said CBS' announcement has "been too long in coming. But our patience has been rewarded" (USA TODAY, 1/10). Ritts told George Vecsey of the N.Y. TIMES that Wright "will no longer be a distraction" and said the continued controversy had not affected tour sponsorships (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10).
The Golf Channel announced it has reached agreement with Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable operator in the country. The deal allows individual Time Warner cable systems to negotiate with The Golf Channel and put the channel on their systems. Time Warner Cable serves 11.5 million cable homes in the United States (Golf Channel). Also, TGC has "finally made a breakthrough in Boston" with Cablevision introducing the channel last week to its subscribers, according to Jack Craig of the BOSTON GLOBE. The channel now has 1.45 million subscribers nationwide, but "that number is growing steadily as regional systems are finally opening channels" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/7). The Golf Channel has hired LPGA golfers Beth Daniel and Jane Geddes as analysts (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 1/9).
SportsTicker announced their sports news and information service will be available on a pay-per-use basis through the Web Interactive Network distribution channel. Information would be accessible via WIN's distribution program, which allows the purchase of software and information on a pay-per-use or rent-to- own basis directly from the home PC (SportsTicker)....ESPN's Charley Steiner reported the George Foreman/Michael Moorer bout scheduled for February 29 at Madison Square Garden is back on, now that the 47-year-old Foreman has met TVKO's demand that the fight is guaranteed to be "the end of the line" for Foreman's boxing career ("SportsCenter," 1/9).
A consortium backed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has made a bid worth more than $2B for the European broadcasting rights for the Winter and Summer Olympics between 2000 and 2008. The bid is the "fiercest challenge yet" to the European Broadcasting Union, which "negotiates collectively" on behalf of Europe's public service broadcasters for sports rights. Until now, EBU "has always won the contract." The bid delivered to the IOC on Monday was signed by Sam Chisholm, who is in charge of all News Corp. TV interests outside the U.S. and CEO of British Sky Broadcasting. Other continental European broadcasters are believed to be in the consortium, as "its aim would be to show the Olympics on a mixture of subscription channels and terrestrial television networks" (Raymond Snoddy, FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/10).