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Time Warner Sports President Seth Abraham confirmed a report that the George Foreman-Michael Moorer fight for February 29 at Madison Square Garden if off, according to Greg Logan of NEWSDAY. The dispute is over the language of the contract between the two sides (NEWSDAY, 1/19). Bob Arum, promoter for Foreman's so- called "retirement bout," said provisions inserted by Time Warner made it "impossible" to go ahead with the event (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/19). ESPN's Charley Steiner: "In the end, the demands of Foreman and his promoter Bob Arum could not or would not be satisfied by Time Warner, which would have televised the fight on pay-per-view. And while Time Warner says it is hopeful of rescheduling the rematch, the reality is Foreman turned 47 last week and the sands through his hour glass have dwindled to a precious few grains" ("SportsCenter," 1/18). Logan calls losing the fight a "blow" to MSG's bid to rebuild its boxing business (NEWSDAY, 1/19).
In a demonstration yesterday at Boston's FleetCenter, site of the 46th NHL All-Star Game, Fox Sports unveiled "FoxTrax," a new system that will allow the puck to "appear graphically enhanced" on NHL broadcasts. Fox Sports President David Hill said the innovation "will help us keep our commitment to the league to attract new and young fans alike." NHL Senior VP & COO Stephen Solomon calls it a "technological breakthrough" that is "not only a visual bonus but also an informational bonanza" (Fox Sports). HOW DOES IT WORK? Special pucks are prepared, with miniature computer hardware inserted inside the puck. Working with sensors placed around the rink, special camera and mobile production equipment (the "Puck Truck"), and an in-arena PC, the visual effects to the TV viewer are a "translucent glow" around the puck and a "comet trail" that appears when the puck is shot at certain speeds. In addition, speeds can be translated to an on-screen graphic. During the All-Star broadcast, the "comet tail" will appear on all shots traveling over 75 mph. The pucks run on a battery that is good for 10 minutes of "on time." They are no good when the battery runs out (Fox Sports). "WORK IN PROGRESS": At the Boston news conference yesterday, all sides stressed the developmental nature of the technology. Hill: "If this works, it is going to be a demonstration. If it doesn't, it is an experiment. We are in the very early stages of this idea. ... It is a work in progress." Solomon: "This is the first phase of what I suspect will be a couple more years of development." The puck will be employed during the rest of the regular-season in one regional Fox game per week. There was no mention about the playoffs. Fifty of the pucks will be used on Saturday night, with changes made during TV timeouts if needed and retrieval necessary for those that go in the stands. Experiments with both a blue dot and a subtle white overlay will be conducted during the game (THE DAILY). LOVE IT OR HATE IT? Fox won't reveal the cost of the puck, but the Silicon Graphics computers alone cost $120,000 (Kevin Maney, USA TODAY, 1/19). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay estimates the cost at about $2M. He writes hockey "purists will mock it. The kids will think it is fun" (NEWSDAY, 1/19). Richard Sandomir calls the comet "fun" and writes while the "effects are not the greatest technological advance in TV history ... they should improve" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19). Phil Mushnick calls the puck "wild" and "pretty cool" (N.Y. POST, 1/19). In Boston, Jim Baker writes his first reaction was "laughter. ... Purists and veteran viewers don't need this" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/19). The BOSTON GLOBE's Dan Shaughnessy says to "give Fox credit for trying. ... Unfortunately, Fox is only contributing to the dumbing down of America" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19). In Detroit, Tim Kiska writes that the NHL and Fox "have turned hockey into something out of Sega. But whether the sport that calls itself the coolest game on Earth is getting any cooler is open to debate" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/19). In Toronto, self-described purist Bob McKenzie says the puck "sucks. It doesn't enhance the game. It alters it. ... If you love video games, you'll love this new puck." He does write that "many came away impressed" from the demonstration (TORONTO STAR, 1/19). TORONTO SUN's Rob Longley: "Can you say Sega? Predictably the NHL ... is defensive of the new technology" (TORONTO STAR, 1/19). Alan Adams of the CANADIAN PRESS writes that the puck "is not easy to get used to," and believes it will divert viewers' attention from the play away from the puck (CP/MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/19).
Fox's aggressive foray into sports TV is profiled in a lengthy feature by Sam Donnellon in today's PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. Fox Sports President David Hill, asked if Fox would ever try to alter a sports league's structure: "I've always felt that television should commentate on the game and show it in its best possible way and work in a partnership with the league. But I believe our business is broadcasting and the league's business is running the sports" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/19)....Sean McDonough will not return as the Red Sox's TV announcer next season because the team's new broadcast outlet has asked him to take a 60% salary cut. McDonough earned around $300,000 for his work on WSBK games last year. McDonough also works for CBS Sports in a contract that pays him $600,000 (Jack Craig, BOSTON GLOBE, 1/18)....Former A's broadcaster Lon Simmons will announce 25 to 30 games on KTVU next season for the Giants. The A's didn't renew the 72-year-old Simmons' contract at the end of last season (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/19)....Veteran CBS producer Frank Chirkinian's golf schedule has been "pared down to eight tournaments this year," while his '97 schedule is "undetermined." CBS Sports President David Kenin said Chirkinian fought it, "but we needed to do a planned sharing of his responsibilities" (Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 1/19)....NBC Sports has signed golf analyst Johnny Miller to a five-year extension (USA TODAY, 1/19)....CNBC President Roger Ailes resigned yesterday from the NBC-owned network. He will be succeeded by William Bolster, President and GM of NBC-owned WNBC-TV (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/19)....The Tribune Co. completed its $95M purchase of Houston station KHTV from Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment. KHTV is an affiliate of Time Warner's WB Network, of which Tribune holds a minority stake (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19)....For the first time, Super Bowl play-by-play will be broadcast in the Navajo language. KTTN-AM in Arizona is expected to broadcast the game to 250,000 or more people (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 1/19)....TNT will premiere "The Super Bowl at 30: Big Game America," an hour-long special from NFL Films and the Turner Network, on Monday at 8pm ET (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/18).
ESPN will carry live coverage of the first running of the U.S. 500 at the Michigan International Speedway on May 26, the same day ABC covers the Indianapolis 500. ESPN will provide 3 1/2 hours of live coverage beginning at 2:00pm ET. The Indy 500 will start at 12:00pm ET, meaning the races in part will go head to head (IndyCar). CART teams and drivers who make up the IndyCar Series have chosen to run a 500-mile race at Michigan on the dame day of the Indy 500 because of a dispute with Tony George, President of the Indianapolis track and founder of the Indy Racing League (THE DAILY). REACTION: ABC Sports spokesperson Mark Mandel said their plans won't change in the face of competition from the U.S. 500 and ESPN. Mandel said ABC has "one race [Indy 500], ESPN has the other." He said ABC was not surprised by the announcement, adding only, "The Indy 500 has got the tradition and is on a network and will have a much better rating. There is no question about that." IRL spokesperson Bob Walters said that "obviously" Cap Cities/ABC, (owners of ESPN) "weren't that interested in covering the race since they didn't make the announcement earlier." Walters said that Cap Cities/ABC might have felt "compelled" to show the race "since they couldn't sell it" to any other network. Walters didn't wish to criticize the deal, adding "we are trying to focus on what we are doing. The Indy 500 is a tremendous promotional avenue." There will be close to 80 hours of Indy 500 programming in the month of May on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. ABC will broadcast all five IRL events. All IndyCar teams and drivers are still invited to compete in the Indy 500. ESPN was unavailable for comment (THE DAILY). ALL IN THE FAMILY: While both ESPN and ABC are owned by Cap Cities-ABC, itself soon to be owned by Disney, the rights to all CART races are held by OCC, Ohlmeyer Communications. OCC is, in turn, owned by ESPN, which buys the time for CART races to get on air. INDY CAR RACING MAGAZINE: "When efforts to place the race on a broadcast network failed, ESPN was the logical choice" (ICR, 1/18).