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The following lists final ratings from selected events from the past weekend. All times are EDT. Numbers are from the networks. CBS's ratings were unavailable (THE DAILY).
EVENT DATE NET TIME RAT/SHR Road to the Visa Triple Crown5/9ABC4:00-4:30pm1.2/4 European Gymnastics5/9ABC4:30-6:00pm1.5/5 "NBA on NBC": Pacers-Knicks5/9NBC1:00-3:30pm4.8/16 "NBA on NBC": Jazz-Spurs5/9NBC3:30-6:00pm5.3/16 Indy 500 Time Trials5/10ABC2:30-3:30pm0.9/3 CART: Rio 4005/10ABC3:30-6:00pm1.5/4 "NHL on Fox": STL-DET/MON-BUF5/10FOX2:00-5:00pm1.6/5 "NBA on NBC": Pacers-Knicks5/10NBC12:30-3:00pm6.2/20 "NBA on NBC": Sonics-Lakers5/10NBC3:00-5:30pm6.5/19 "NBA on NBC": Bulls-Hornets5/10NBC5:30-8:00pm8.3/21
RATINGS NOTES: Through 14 games of the NBA Playoffs, NBC's average rating of 6.0/17 is down 2% from last year's 6.1/17....Through the first three weeks of the NHL Playoffs, Fox's 1.8/5 is down 10% from last year's 2.0/5 (THE DAILY). ...In L.A., Larry Stewart reports that KCAL received a 16.1/22 for the Lakers-Sonics Game Five, compared to TNT's 3.5/5 local rating. That equals 2.4 million viewers on KCAL and 525,000 on TNT. Stewart notes that the preceding Jazz- Spurs game on TNT got a 4.0, "so L.A. viewers made a conscious effort to switch. This tells us that L.A. must love [Lakers broadcasters] Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz" (L.A. TIMES, 5/15). In related news, Tom Hoffarth reports that the WNBA Sparks "could have" Hearn for six telecasts on Fox Sports West. Details haven't been finalized (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/15)....Fox Sports Midwest's coverage of Game Three of the Blues-Red Wings series drew an 8.5 rating, the highest rating for any event in FSMW history. An average of 94,000 viewers watched the entire game (FSM)....In Toronto, Rob Longley reports that TSN's first round coverage of the NHL Playoffs was down 25% while CBC's ratings were down "slightly" from last year. CBC featured the Oilers and Senators, the "upstart Canadian teams," while TSN had Flyers-Sabres and Penguins-Canadiens, "matchups that looked good on paper, but fizzled" (TORONTO SUN, 5/15).
Former CBS golf analyst Ben Wright has admitted that he made disparaging remarks about lesbianism on the LPGA Tour, and said he was "stupid, naive and weak" for following CBS's advice in the incident's aftermath, according to Jaime Diaz in SI's "Golf Plus" section. Wright: "I was so bloody stupid; stupid, naive and weak. A day doesn't go by that I don't regret how I reacted." Wright "admits to suffering from bouts of deep depression and a lingering sense of shame" resulting from the three-year-old incident, which resulted in his suspension from CBS. After telling Wilmington News-Journal reporter Valerie Helmbreck, who was covering the '95 LPGA Championship in May of '95, that, "among other things, 'lesbians in the sport hurt women's golf,'" Wright was "summoned" to CBS's offices in New York, where he says the net's lawyers and execs "hammered out a cynical damage-control strategy in which Wright was to deny having made the statement and to discredit Helmbreck." Wright, on his on-air denial of the statements: "Those were not my words; they were written to reflect the strategy of the network. The most stupid thing I did was remain silent. I should have come out and said, 'Hey, I said all these dumb things, and they were wrong.' I think people would have forgiven me for that" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 5/18 issue). CBS RECALLS DIFFERENTLY: While CBS had no comment on Wright's statements in SI, Diaz points out that much of its hierarchy has changed since the incident. However, Douglas Jacobs, who was CBS's General Counsel at the time, said Wright's description of the events surrounding the incident "is completely untrue." Helmbreck, whom Wright recently called to apologize, said she "never imagined CBS would go to those lengths to destroy me. ... I was shocked by the CBS strategy, especially saying that they had done a thorough investigation even though they had never even talked to me." Helmbreck left the newspaper in January '97. Wright, who is under contract with CBS at $400,000 a year through November '99, said that he "wants another shot" at doing TV work (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 5/18 issue). CBS Dir of Communications LeslieAnne Wade, on Wright's comments: "Ben Wright's version of the truth is as distorted as it was in 1995." David Kenin, who was CBS Sports President at the time of the incident: "We never told (Wright) to lie or alter any truth. When we found out he had not told the truth, we had to act on that" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 5/15). REAX: In Chicago, Michael Hirsley writes that Wright has "put the network and himself under scrutiny." Hirsley: "If substantiated, his charge's impact would reach to executive-level positions. ... If his accusation is not substantiated, Wright has surely jeopardized his professed desire to work on TV again" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/15)....In Fort Lauderdale, Michael Mayo, under the header "Wright's Cover-Up Charges Taint CBS," writes that the "only redeeming thing" for CBS is that "most" of the department's top execs have left since the incident (SUN-SENTINEL, 5/15).
DA DA DA: ESPN's Chris Berman, Dan Patrick and Bob Ley will host the 90-minute, 20,000th edition of "SportsCenter," Sunday at 11:00pm ET (THE DAILY). In Hartford, Dom Amore writes that the 20,000th show "smacks of self-congratulatory journalism," but "we must cut 'SportsCenter' some slack, even as ESPN's hype machine grinds into overdrive. The Big Show is that big, that good, and we owe it that much" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/15). In St. Petersburg, Ernest Hooper writes that life without "SportsCenter" "is almost unimaginable" (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/15). The AP's Josh Dubow notes that ratings for "SportsCenter" are down 17% for the first quarter of '98, which can be "partially attributed" to competition from FSN and CNN (AP/DETROIT NEWS, 5/15). NOTES: Turner Sports has reached an agreement with NBC Sports to televise cable-exclusive early round coverage of The Presidents Cup golf tournaments in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006 (Turner Sports)....ABC will not use the Jockey Cam during its Preakness coverage. ABC Sports Producer Curt Gowdy: "The majority of trainers and owners have not supported our efforts to use it" (USA TODAY, 5/15)....In Chicago, Jim O'Donnell writes that the "[p]ros and cons of a major investigative book on the ways and means of Jerry Reinsdorf are being discussed by one extremely capable Chicago-based writer" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/15)....GOLF WORLD reports that The Golf Channel "has decided to slightly reduce the responsibilities of its most visible face, Peter Kessler," saying that it "hopes to develop other talent and ease his heavy workload" (GOLF WORLD, 5/15)....TSN VP/ Programming Phil King, on why TSN picked up an ESPN feed of the U.S. National Spelling Bee Finals: "Is it a sport, no, but it is a competition" (TORONTO SUN, 5/15)....SFX Entertainment's PACE Motor Sports, an event producer, and Petersen Cos. are join to produce auto/motorcycle special events plus other co-partnership opportunities (AD AGE, 5/12)....Univision signed Oscar de la Hoya as its "prime communicator to the Hispanic community," and he will appear in Univision programming, promos and PSAs (VARIETY, 5/11).
Sports Illustrated's recent cover story on pro athletes fathering out-of-wedlock children was the subject of an op- ed by NY-based writer Barbara Walder in NEWSDAY. Walder wrote that the "behavior of the SI editors who published the article, and editorial writers at The New York Times and elsewhere who praised it ... should be in question, not the private behavior of the athletes." Walder called the story "shoddy, exploitative and in some ways, ridiculous" and "written in a combination National Enquirer, Ladies' Home Journal and Harvard Lampoon style." She called the story a "cheap, easy way to make news and to seem important." Walder: "But all that phony high-mindedness is just an excuse to take the low road, examining the sex and personal lives of some professional athletes in a way those editors -- if it was done to them -- would surely see as unfair, racially insensitive and dishonest. ... Is this any of our business?" Walder concluded by noting that "almost all" of the athletes "financially support their out-of-wedlock children." Walder: "It's easy to take shots at pro athletes. But it's sports journalism like this SI story that should be in everyone's sights" (NEWSDAY, 5/14).