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The reputation rehabilitation of former CBS golf broadcaster Ben Wright "is moving along nicely," according to "The Forecaddie" in GOLFWEEK. Wright signed a book deal with Sleeping Bear Press to write his autobiography, and "word is circulating that Wright," who was suspended by CBS in December '95 after "insensitive remarks about women golfers were attributed to him, is drawing interest from other TV entities." Wright's CBS contract is up at the end of the year, but no deals are "imminent" (GOLFWEEK, 5/9).
ESPN is "ready to try to get cable systems that don't carry ESPN2 to carry" three "disputed" MLB Sunday night games that conflict with its NFL coverage, according to sources of DAILY VARIETY's John Dempsey. ESPN would target "local-origination channels" to bring Sunday's MLB audience total "closer" to ESPN's 74 million subscribers. Currently, ESPN2 has 57 million subscribers and MLB has reportedly objected to games being aired on the Deuce due to lower viewership numbers. But an ESPN spokesperson said, "That's a misconception about the strength of ESPN2. We expect the network to be in 60-million homes by September, and ESPN2 has delivered a sizeable audience for big games." Dempsey writes that MLB "is holding out the possibility" of taking the three games to another cable network, with TNT a possibility (DAILY VARIETY, 5/12). ESPN VP/Communications Chris LaPlaca said ESPN "would frown on that concept, but we are open to discussions regarding additional distribution of our production of those three games," including being televised by home market stations (USA TODAY, 5/12). WHAT TO DO? NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay: "ESPN is in a bind. It can't afford to lose baseball, the only major live sport in June, July and August. There's nothing else but soccer and the WNBA." The "likeliest" scenario is that ESPN sub- leases the three MLB games to Turner Sports (NEWSDAY, 5/12).
ANALYSTS REVIEWS: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes that NBC's NBA analyst Isiah Thomas "believes his rookie problems are mostly in the past, and that being paired with [Doug] Collins has accelerated his progress." Sandomir also writes that it took until Saturday's Pacers-Knicks Game Three for Collins and Thomas "to sound effective as a team" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/12). Also in N.Y., Bob Raissman writes that NBC's Matt Guokas, who teamed with Mike Breen for Sunday's Pacers- Knicks Game Four, "excelled in a frenetic game in which his analytical skills were put to the test" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/12). In Baltimore, Milton Kent writes that Turner's Kenny Smith "has emerged in just a few weeks as the best NBA studio analyst working" (Baltimore SUN, 5/12). OTHER NOTES: With an October launch approaching, CTV Sports Net is profiled by Robert Macleod of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. CTV VP/Sports Doug Beeforth said that there's "still plenty of programming holes to be filled" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/12)....Home Team Sports' decision to air both the Orioles' game and the Capitals' playoff game last night "created confusion among area viewers who could not locate one of the two events on their cable system." Wednesday's Capitals and Orioles games are also scheduled to be aired by HTS, and the net will provide an updated list of the proper channels for each game (WASHINGTON POST, 5/12)....Hornets F Anthony Mason "took off his microphone and left" just before the scheduled taping of ESPN's "Up Close" on Monday. Mason, who had been asked by host Chris Myers about pending statutory rape charges: "People keep asking about stuff I've told them I can't talk about." Sources "familiar with ground rules" for the interview said that ESPN had "agreed not to bring up the issue" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/12)....Times Mirror Magazines "has green-lighted" a new men's magazine called Outdoor Explorer and has hired SI Senior Editor Steve Madden to serve as Editor of the title. In N.Y., Keith Kelly writes, "Insiders said the company ultimately plans to bring the magazine out eight times a year with a circulation of a half-million" (Keith Kelly, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/12).