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The NHL's partnership with IBM led CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" to scuttle plans for a playoff-based Web site. The problem, according to CBC's Tom Curzon, was not the NHL, but rather CBC partner Microsoft, which withdrew upon learning of the NHL's IBM ties (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/25).... ESPN and ESPN2 begin their coverage of the U.S. Olympic trials this Saturday (ESPN)....In Atlanta, Charles Haddad examines the transition of TNT to a channel aimed at younger viewers. Haddad notes live sports programming has become TNT's "most popular offering" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/25). ....The Dodgers launch their official Web site, "Dodgers On-Line," at Dodger Stadium today. The site was designed by the team in conjunction with Only Multimedia Network. In addition to standard team Web site fare (info, press releases, scoreboard, etc.), the Dodgers mirror the international feel of their ballclub with areas in five languages: Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and English. Address: http://www.dodgers.com (Dodgers).... Indianapolis station WNDY-TV, owned by the same people who run the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, namely IMS and IRL President Tony George, will only report on the Indy 500 over the next month, ignoring CART's rival U.S. 500 to be held in MI on the same day. WNDY Sports Dir Vince Welch: "To us, that's the only race going on that day. That was not an edict, it was just a choice we made." Other local stations will cover both (INDIANAPOLIS NEWS-STAR, 4/25).... Westinghouse Chair & CEO Michael Jordan said he expects CBS to be "solidly on track" financially by the time of the '98 Nagano Winter Games (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 4/25).
The NBA's national cable outlets, TNT and TBS, head into the playoffs with average season ratings up 22% (2.0, the highest average since '89-90), and NBC says when it releases its ratings today, it will "equal or better" last year's 5.2 average (Tim Tyers, ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/25). NBC will carry at least 22 NBA playoff games, and as many as 35 (NBC Sports). In Atlanta, Prentis Rogers writes that, despite the recent "rash" of referee- baiting incidents in the NBA, both Turner and NBC "seemed assured of having another great playoff run" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/24). JAZZ-OUT: In Salt Lake, Scott Pierce notes the Jazz will not be on national TV: "It's all about ratings. And it's the reason the Jazz made no regular-season appearances on NBC at all" (DESERET NEWS, 4/24). MICHAEL'S DAY OFF: In Baltimore, Milton Kent notes that Michael Jordan was excused from a scheduled pre-playoff telephone news conference, "citing an unspecified emergency." Kent notes past Jordan snubs and Bulls Coach Phil Jackson's observation -- "The emergency is the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day in Chicago." He writes, "Jordan has repeatedly shown disdain for any media-related function that doesn't directly lead to feathering his already bloated financial nest" (Baltimore SUN, 4/25).
The NFL released its '96 schedule yesterday, typically of more interest to network execs than fans at this time of the year. Fox immediately began hyping its October 27 match-up between Jimmy Johnson's Dolphins and the Cowboys. Also, for the third straight year, Fox will have a Cowboys-49ers matchup in November (Fox Sports). USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke notes Fox "won out" over ABC's "Monday Night Football" in getting the Jimmy- Jerry rematch. The only "frowns and shrugs" came from Turner, where they will show a nine-game Sunday night schedule. TNT's teams combined for a .472 winning percentage last year, compared to ESPN's teams, which averaged a .503. Turner Exec Producer Mike Pearl, on their draw: "It's not pleasant to look at." ESPN's Chris LaPlaca accused TNT execs of having "too much time on their hands." NFL broadcast head/schedule-maker Val Pinchbeck said of the networks' overall reactions: "You'd like to go 5-0. I'll take 4-1" (USA TODAY, 4/25).