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Volume 24 No. 117

Sports Media

     Time Warner Sports President Seth Abraham confirmed a report
that the George Foreman-Michael Moorer fight for February 29 at
Madison Square Garden if off, according to Greg Logan of NEWSDAY.
 The dispute is over the language of the contract between the two
sides (NEWSDAY, 1/19).  Bob Arum, promoter for Foreman's so-
called "retirement bout," said provisions inserted by Time Warner
made it "impossible" to go ahead with the event (PHILADELPHIA
INQUIRER, 1/19).  ESPN's Charley Steiner:  "In the end, the
demands of Foreman and his promoter Bob Arum could not or would
not be satisfied by Time Warner, which would have televised the
fight on pay-per-view.  And while Time Warner says it is hopeful
of rescheduling the rematch, the reality is Foreman turned 47
last week and the sands through his hour glass have dwindled to a
precious few grains" ("SportsCenter," 1/18).  Logan calls losing
the fight a "blow" to MSG's bid to rebuild its boxing business
(NEWSDAY, 1/19).

     In a demonstration yesterday at Boston's FleetCenter, site
of the 46th NHL All-Star Game, Fox Sports unveiled "FoxTrax," a
new system that will allow the puck to "appear graphically
enhanced" on NHL broadcasts.  Fox Sports President David Hill
said the innovation "will help us keep our commitment to the
league to attract new and young fans alike."  NHL Senior VP & COO
Stephen Solomon calls it a "technological breakthrough" that is
"not only a visual bonus but also an informational bonanza" (Fox
Sports).
     HOW DOES IT WORK?  Special pucks are prepared, with
miniature computer hardware inserted inside the puck.  Working
with sensors placed around the rink, special camera and mobile
production equipment (the "Puck Truck"), and an in-arena PC, the
visual effects to the TV viewer are a "translucent glow" around
the puck and a "comet trail" that appears when the puck is shot
at certain speeds.  In addition, speeds can be translated to an
on-screen graphic.  During the All-Star broadcast, the "comet
tail" will appear on all shots traveling over 75 mph.  The pucks
run on a battery that is good for 10 minutes of "on time."  They
are no good when the battery runs out (Fox Sports).
     "WORK IN PROGRESS":  At the Boston news conference
yesterday, all sides stressed the developmental nature of the
technology.  Hill:  "If this works, it is going to be a
demonstration.  If it doesn't, it is an experiment.  We are in
the very early stages of this idea. ... It is a work in
progress."  Solomon:  "This is the first phase of what I suspect
will be a couple more years of development."  The puck will be
employed during the rest of the regular-season in one regional
Fox game per week.  There was no mention about the playoffs.
Fifty of the pucks will be used on Saturday night, with changes
made during TV timeouts if needed and retrieval necessary for
those that go in the stands.  Experiments with both a blue dot
and a subtle white overlay will be conducted during the game (THE
DAILY).
          LOVE IT OR HATE IT?  Fox won't reveal the cost of the
puck, but the Silicon Graphics computers alone cost $120,000
(Kevin Maney, USA TODAY, 1/19). NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay estimates
the cost at about $2M.  He writes hockey "purists will mock it.
The kids will think it is fun" (NEWSDAY, 1/19).  Richard Sandomir
calls the comet "fun" and writes while the "effects are not the
greatest technological advance in TV history ... they should
improve" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19).  Phil Mushnick calls the puck "wild"
and "pretty cool" (N.Y. POST, 1/19).  In Boston, Jim Baker writes
his first reaction was "laughter. ... Purists and veteran viewers
don't need this" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/19).  The BOSTON GLOBE's Dan
Shaughnessy says to "give Fox credit for trying. ...
Unfortunately, Fox is only contributing to the dumbing down of
America" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/19).  In Detroit, Tim Kiska writes that
the NHL and Fox "have turned hockey into something out of Sega.
But whether the sport that calls itself the coolest game on Earth
is getting any cooler is open to debate" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/19).
In Toronto, self-described purist Bob McKenzie says the puck
"sucks.  It doesn't enhance the game.  It alters it. ... If you
love video games, you'll love this new puck."  He does write that
"many came away impressed" from the demonstration (TORONTO STAR,
1/19).  TORONTO SUN's Rob Longley:  "Can you say Sega?
Predictably the NHL ... is defensive of the new technology"
(TORONTO STAR, 1/19).   Alan Adams of the CANADIAN PRESS writes
that the puck "is not easy to get used to," and believes it will
divert viewers' attention from the play away from the puck
(CP/MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/19).

     Fox's aggressive foray into sports TV is profiled in a
lengthy feature by Sam Donnellon in today's PHILADELPHIA DAILY
NEWS.  Fox Sports President David Hill, asked if Fox would ever
try to alter a sports league's structure:   "I've always felt
that television should commentate on the game and show it in its
best possible way and work in a partnership with the league.  But
I believe our business is broadcasting and the league's business
is running the sports" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/19)....Sean
McDonough will not return as the Red Sox's TV announcer next
season because the team's new broadcast outlet has asked him to
take a 60% salary cut.  McDonough earned around $300,000 for his
work on WSBK games last year.  McDonough also works for CBS
Sports in a contract that pays him $600,000 (Jack Craig, BOSTON
GLOBE, 1/18)....Former A's broadcaster Lon Simmons will announce
25 to 30 games on KTVU next season for the Giants.  The A's
didn't renew the 72-year-old Simmons' contract at the end of last
season (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 1/19)....Veteran CBS producer
Frank Chirkinian's golf schedule has been "pared down to eight
tournaments this year," while his '97 schedule is "undetermined."
CBS Sports President David Kenin said Chirkinian fought it, "but
we needed to do a planned sharing of his responsibilities"
(Richard Sandomir, N.Y. TIMES, 1/19)....NBC Sports has signed
golf analyst Johnny Miller to a five-year extension (USA TODAY,
1/19)....CNBC President Roger Ailes resigned yesterday from the
NBC-owned network.  He will be succeeded by William Bolster,
President and GM of NBC-owned WNBC-TV (WALL STREET JOURNAL,
1/19)....The Tribune Co. completed its $95M purchase of Houston
station KHTV from Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment.  KHTV is
an affiliate of Time Warner's WB Network, of which Tribune holds
a minority stake (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/19)....For the first time,
Super Bowl play-by-play will be broadcast in the Navajo language.
KTTN-AM in Arizona is expected to broadcast the game to 250,000
or more people (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 1/19)....TNT will premiere
"The Super Bowl at 30:  Big Game America," an hour-long special
from NFL Films and the Turner Network, on Monday at 8pm ET
(PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 1/18).

     ESPN will carry live coverage of the first running of the
U.S. 500 at the Michigan International Speedway on May 26, the
same day ABC covers the Indianapolis 500.  ESPN will provide 3
1/2 hours of live coverage beginning at 2:00pm ET. The Indy 500
will start at 12:00pm ET, meaning the races in part will go head
to head (IndyCar).  CART teams and drivers who make up the
IndyCar Series have chosen to run a 500-mile race at Michigan on
the dame day of the Indy 500 because of a dispute with Tony
George, President of the Indianapolis track and founder of the
Indy Racing League (THE DAILY).
     REACTION:  ABC Sports spokesperson Mark Mandel said their
plans won't change in the face of competition from the U.S. 500
and ESPN.  Mandel said ABC has "one race [Indy 500], ESPN has the
other."  He said ABC was not surprised by the announcement,
adding only, "The Indy 500 has got the tradition and is on a
network and will have a much better rating.  There is no question
about that."  IRL spokesperson Bob Walters said that "obviously"
Cap Cities/ABC, (owners of ESPN) "weren't that interested in
covering the race since they didn't make the announcement
earlier."   Walters said that Cap Cities/ABC might have felt
"compelled" to show the race "since they couldn't sell it" to any
other network.  Walters didn't wish to criticize the deal, adding
"we are trying to focus on what we are doing.  The Indy 500 is a
tremendous promotional avenue."  There will be close to 80 hours
of Indy 500 programming in the month of May on ESPN, ESPN2 and
ABC.  ABC will broadcast all five IRL events. All IndyCar teams
and drivers are still invited to compete in the Indy 500.  ESPN
was unavailable for comment (THE DAILY).
     ALL IN THE FAMILY:  While both ESPN and ABC are owned by Cap
Cities-ABC, itself soon to be owned by Disney, the rights to all
CART races are held by OCC, Ohlmeyer Communications.  OCC is, in
turn, owned by ESPN, which buys the time for CART races to get on
air.  INDY CAR RACING MAGAZINE:  "When efforts to place the race
on a broadcast network failed, ESPN was the logical choice" (ICR,
1/18).