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Frank Deford is returning to Sports Illustrated as a special contributor beginning March 1. Deford, a six-time National Sportswriter of the Year, wrote for SI for 27 years before leaving in 1989. Deford will continue to serve as a commentator for HBO's "Real Sports" and NPR (SI). APOLOGY ACCEPTED: In N.Y., Keith Kelly reports that Deford's return to SI "ends a high-stakes bidding war" between SI, ESPN Magazine and Newsweek, where Deford finishes a two-year deal next month. Deford returns to SI after "a highly unusual move" in which Time Inc. Editor-in- Chief Norman Pearlstine "apologized to Deford for statements made by some company officials back" in '89 when Deford left SI for The National. Deford received the apology letter from Pearlstine in December. Deford: "I needed this kind of letter to consider going back." Kelly reports that Deford will do a minimum of three long-form stories per year and will also make speeches and promotional appearances for SI. Kelly's industry sources "estimated the deal at about $150,000 to $200,000 per year" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/9).
RATINGS: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley reports that Packers games in the area received an average rating of 49.8 per game -- more than four points higher than the 45.5 last season. The number means that 33,660 more households, on the average, watched games following the team's '96 Super Bowl win (JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/9)....In Houston, David Barron reports that the Rockets-Raptors game on Monday did a 6.7/9 -- the lowest Rockets rating since a January '95 game. Tuesday's Rockets-Cavs did an 8.6/12, which Barron called a "marked improvement," but still lower than "all but two Rockets games last season" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/9). NOTES: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "refused" to run an anti-Steelers ad in its Friday edition. The "aggressive, adult oriented 'Go Broncos' ad" was designed by KBPI-FM in Denver. The ad "invited Steeler fans to call" the morning show on KBPI "and admit they are losers." KBPI has agreed to let the Post-Gazette edit the ad and run "a more conservative" spot (KBPI)....ESPN and the distributors of the "ESPN Full Court" college basketball package are offering subscribers a free preview on January 31 and February 1, in conjunction with late-season suggested retail pricing of $49 for the rest of the season (ESPN).
MSG Radio Network "is launching its first non-event radio programming," as WABC-AM in N.Y. will air "Sunday Night Sports Talk With John Sterling and Michael Kay" from 6:00-9:00pm on Sundays, according to Phil Mushnick of the N.Y. POST. Sterling and Kay are the Yankees' radio voices. Mushnick adds that it "is becoming a foregone conclusion that after next season, when WFAN's deal to carry Knick and Ranger games expires, those broadcasts will be carried over the MSG Radio Network. Whether MSG continues to buy time from another station, or purchases a station for its own remains to be seen" (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 1/9).
During meetings of the NFL TV committee in the past few days, "each of the incumbents (ABC, Fox, NBC, ESPN and Turner) received proposals from the league seeking substantial increases in rights fees," according to sources of NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay. Zipay's "league source" said, "If they [the networks] meet the numbers -- and they're expected to -- (the negotiations are) over." One senior network exec, who requested anonymity, said that there was "more than a 50-50 chance of an announcement" before next Friday. Zipay writes that a deal could be announced "possibly as early as next Tuesday" (NEWSDAY, 1/9). USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke reports that a deal could be finalized "as early as Wednesday." He writes the league "is expected" to see "an increase of as much as 63%-64%," from $1.1B to $1.8B per year. He adds that ABC's "Monday Night Football" could see the largest increase, up 97%, to $450M per (USA TODAY, 1/9).
Earlier this week, THE DAILY listed the top ten most watched TV programs in prime time in '97, according to Nielsen Media. Today, we give you the top ten most watched programs of the year. NOTE: The DAL-CAR and PIT-NE telecasts were divisional playoff games (THE DAILY).
PROGRAM NET DATE RATPROGRAM NET DATE RAT Super Bowl XXXIFox1/2643.3 NFL:DAL-CARFox1/527.6 S. Bowl KickoffFox1/2633.8 Academy AwardsABC3/2427.4 NFC ChampionshipFox1/1230.1 Wo. Series Gm 7NBC10/2624.5 S. Bowl Post-GameFox1/2629.8 NFL: PIT-NENBC1/521.2 AFC ChampionshipNBC1/1228.5 NBA Finals Gm 5NBC6/1120.1