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Published June 8, 1998
NBA COVERAGE/RATINGS: NBC's overnight ratings for Game Two of the NBA Finals was a 17.7, up 7% from last year. In Chicago, Michael Hirsley writes that the national rating "should be the second-highest NBA Finals Game 2 rating, and could surpass the current highest, Bulls-Lakers Game 2 in 1991" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/8)....In Salt Lake, John Youngren wrote that NBC's Isiah Thomas "all but disappeared during the crucial fourth quarter of Game 2 -- deferring to NBC colleague Doug Collins." But "overall, NBC offered an objective and dramatic look at the Jazz and Bulls" for Friday's game (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 6/6)....NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol predicts that a Michael Jordan-less NBA on NBC would see little decline in its regular-season ratings "because it makes the regular season, in many ways, more competitive." Ebersol: "The Finals, obviously, it will have an impact. Michael, probably more than any athlete in any sport, is a draw for the casual fan" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/8)....For more on select weekend ratings, see (#27). BELMONT REVIEWS: ABC's Belmont telecast earned a 6.5/17 rating, up 5% from last year's 6.2/16 (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke gives ABC's Belmont Stakes coverage an "A-" (USA TODAY, 6/8)....On Long Island, Steve Zipay writes that ABC "handled the wild finish and post-race questions with aplomb" (NEWSDAY, 6/7)....But in Houston, David Barron writes, "ABC, to be kind, struggled Saturday" and noted Lesley Visser's microphone going out in a post-race interview with trainer Bob Baffert (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/8). For more on the Belmont Stakes, see (#21). NOTES: USA TODAY's Lieberman & Wells report that WB and Fox "appear to be the big winners as the advertising sales rush for television's upcoming prime-time season wraps up." Ad rates are up "at least" 12% at the WB and about 8% at Fox. Meanwhile, Grey Advertising's Jon Mandel said, "The whole sports market is squishy right now" (USA TODAY, 6/8). ...In Miami, Barry Diller's WAMI-TV, which will broadcast 40 Heat games next season, switches formats today, from Home Shopping Network to news, talk and entertainment. WAMI will air a live, 30-minute weeknight sports show called "Sportstown" at 10:00pm and plans other sports programming as well (MIAMI HERALD, 6/7). BUSINESS WEEK notes the re- launch of Diller's WAMI and notes that when viewers watch Heat games Diller also "intends to pitch them team merchandise." Other possible deals for Diller "could include one" with the NBA to run its new league store in New York City, which "could lead" to NBA product sales over his shopping channels, as well (BUSINESS WEEK, 6/15 issue).