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Hartford gets its first 24-hour, all-sports, radio station at WPOP-AM. The network will feature syndicated talk shows and commentary provided primarily by ESPN Radio and One-on-One radio network (HARTFORD COURANT, 1/11)....ESPN2 will televise the CBA All-Star game twice on a tape-delayed basis, Thursday, January 23, and Saturday, February 1 (CBA)....TV Guide will relaunch its World Wide Web site at www.tvguide.com. The site has four "main channels" for TV, movies, music and sports (N.Y. POST, 1/12).
The "crowded" sports TV marketplace is examined by Bruce Orwall of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Orwall: "Is anybody watching this stuff? Niche markets they may be, but fans' hunger for a wealth of sports programming shows no sign of abating. Certainly, big money is betting it won't." While some "critics may complain about the surfeit of sports, veteran TV sports programmers say they've heard it all before." ABC Sports President/ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein: "Everyone's concerned that we're slicing the pie thinner. Our experience has been that we have expanded the pie." The JOURNAL's Orwall notes "the actual viewership of cable sports programs isn't reliably tracked. But some see the audience expanding in surprising ways." ITT Corp. President Robert Bowman, who is introducing WBIS+ in New York, a sports and business network, said they are "finding more and more women watching and talking to their children about sports" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/13). ITT BETS ON WBIS: ITT's "forays into entertainment" are profiled in BUSINESS WEEK under the header, "Is Showbiz No Biz for ITT?" Lesly & Grover write that "even before it hits the air, WBIS+'s future is cloudy." Although it "seems like a winner," ITT's CEO Rand Araskog is "counting on cable distribution for the broadcast station under 'must carry' rules. But the U.S. Supreme Court may soon revoke must- carry. ... That would leave Araskog to duke it out" with the likes of News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch "to win space for WBIS+ on crowded cable systems" (BUSINESS WEEK, 1/20).
Fox Sports will cover Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans, LA, on Sunday, January 26. Kickoff is set for 6:18pm ET. Preliminary overnights from yesterday's games: Fox's NFC Championship game earned a 30.7/56 overnight. NBC's AFC title game earned a 28.3/46 (THE DAILY). In Atlanta, Prentis Rogers notes Fox "breathed a sigh of relief" when Green Bay beat Carolina. On possible low ratings due to the lack of the Cowboys or 49ers in the Super Bowl, Fox's Lou D'Ermilio notes the highest-rated Super Bowl was a 49.1 in '82 and "that was San Francisco's first Super Bowl and before Joe Montana became a legend" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 1/13). In Houston, Mike McDaniel notes Fox's coverage of the NFC title game yesterday was "prepared to prove beyond any doubt the network is ready to host a Super Bowl," but "on the eve of reaching that Super Bowl ... Fox fumbled" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/13). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley notes Fox "warmed to the task" of the title game (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/13). In New York, Phil Mushnick calls Fox's replays "superb" (N.Y. POST, 1/13). FOX HONORED AT LUNCHEON: The Int'l Radio and TV Society Sports Foundation will honor Fox Sports' coverage of the Super Bowl with a luncheon at N.Y.'s Waldorf Astoria Hotel on January 16. The event will feature Pat Summerall, James Brown, Fox Sports Exec Producer Ed Goren and Fox NFL Sunday Coordinating Producer Scott Ackerson (The Marquee Group).