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Volume 24 No. 156
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          ESPN kicks off coverage of its Winter X Games today
     from Crested Butte, CO, on ESPN and ESPN2.  ABC will carry
     an hour of coverage Saturday.  The Games end Sunday.
          THEY GO TO EXTREMES: USA TODAY's Sal Ruibal reported
     that the Summer and Winter X Games combined have a budget of
     "just" $15M, "yet they probably will turn a bigger profit
     for Disney than its NFL telecasts."  All available ad slots
     are purchased, and Nike, AT&T, Mountain Dew, Pringles, Taco
     Bell and Volkswagen "are locked in for future X Games." 
     ESPN Senior VP Jeff Ruhe: "After three years, we're in the
     black and turning blacker" (USA TODAY, 1/15).  ESPN
     Coordinating Producer Jamie Reynolds said the net's coverage
     -- costing $5M -- would not just be "eye candy":
     "Personality is a huge hook for us" (Colorado Spr GAZETTE
     TELEGRAPH, 1/16).  In Denver, Scott Willoughby reported that
     with 300 athletes, a temporary staff of more than 1,000 and
     another 400-plus volunteers, "the X Games are being touted
     as this winter's biggest sporting event next to the Nagano
     Olympics."  ESPN's broadcast is expected to reach 221
     million homes in 120 countries and will be aired in 20
     languages.  Crested Butte Special Events Dir Gina Kroft, on
     the Games' impact on the town: "The awareness we've gained
     just from the [X Games spokesperson] Evel Knievel
     commercials has already made it worthwhile" (POST, 1/11).