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N.Y. Daily News columnist and ESPN contributor Mike Lupica will host a weekly series, "The Mike Lupica Show," on ESPN2. The show will premiere May 4 at 5:30pm ET with NBA Commissioner David Stern as the first guest. Each 30-minute episode of the program, which is being produced by CT-based Valerio Productions, will begin with commentary from Lupica, followed by an interview with a sports personality. After the interview, both Lupica and his guest will field questions from a live studio audience. The show, taped in NYC, will be reaired twice each week on ESPN2 (ESPN2).
TV: Hall of Fame RB John Riggins will join WFAN's Chris Russo as co-host of "Riggins and Russo Live," an NFL pregame show which will air on N.Y.'s WCBS-TV Sundays at 11:00am this season. The duo will also contribute to the station's "Sports Rap" Sunday night highlights show during the season (N.Y. POST, 4/23)....In Boston, Bob Ryan, on NBC NBA analyst Doug Collins: "When he's done completing a thought, Isiah Thomas might just as well head to the men's room, because it's all been said" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/23)....In Las Vegas, Tim Graham rated sports broadcasters and called ESPN's Chris Berman the "most overrated sportscaster in the history of the profession." Graham cited NHL announcer Bill Clement as the "most underrated," and wrote that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann is "right where he belongs. ... Olbermann is finding out he needed 'SportsCenter' much more than it needed him" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 4/22)....In '99, the PGA Tour will broadcast 196 hours of early-round coverage of its events in int'l markets, an increase of 59% from this year. Weekend coverage will rise 14%, and total hours of int'l coverage will jump 32% (GOLFWEEK, 4/18 issue)....NHL Rangers F Kevin Stevens and Panthers F Bill Lindsey will serve as guest analysts on ESPN2's "NHL 2Night" throughout the first round of the NHL playoffs (ESPN2). NOTES: Traffic to ESPN SportsZone, NFL.com and a special NFL Draft site accessible from both sites generated more than 34 million page views and 4.7 million visits last weekend (ESPN)....In N.Y., Paul Tharp reports that magazine launches numbered 852 last year, down from a record 933 startups in '97. Experts say, however, that the "cooling- off" of the magazine boom "is only temporary." Sports titles were the second-most-popular category of startups last year, with 103 titles launched (N.Y. POST, 4/23).
The Penguins and Fox Sports Pittsburgh (FSP) execs "are bulking up for a postseason brawl over broadcasting rights," according to Jon Schmitz of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. In a court document filed this week, the Penguins "accused Fox of trying to defraud the team and the [NHL] of fees owed for TV rights." Fox officials contend the Penguins are trying to break a contract that gives FSP broadcast rights to Penguins games through the 2008-09 season in order to form their own network, Marino Sports Network. Fox Sports Senior VP/Media Relations Vince Wladika said that the net "felt betrayed" by the Penguins "after bailing the team out of financial binds on several occasions in recent years." Wladika said that FSP "lent" the Penguins $11M in '94, "helped arrange" a $31M loan from Bank of America to the team in '95, and guaranteed a $5M loan in '96 when the Penguins "lacked the credit-worthiness." Wladika said that the team's "financial situation was in such disarray that the network sent its payments for rights fees directly to the bank rather than to the Penguins." In the court document, the Penguins alleged Fox "intentionally" and "deceitfully" underreported the numbers of outer market subscribers to minimize fees it owed. Fox puts the amount in dispute at less than $600,000, but Penguins Dir of Business Development Bill Craig, a former FSP exec, said the fee owed by Fox "might be twice" that. Wladika: "Not even remotely true." As for the loans to the team, Craig said they were "cold, hard" business deals: "Fox is not noted for being in the social welfare business. To portray this as some benevolent act on their part is absurd" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/22). The case is scheduled for trial June 29 (David Brown, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/22).