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Volume 24 No. 156

Sports Media

          Marv Albert's agent Evan Bell said that his client "is
     in 'serious' negotiations for at least four play-by-play and
     sports-anchor jobs," according to Laura Italiano of the N.Y.
     POST.  One of those jobs is an anchor position on MSG
     Network's "SportsDesk," while the other three involved
     basketball play-by-play.  Bell: "We're concentrating on
     basketball right now and talking to three separate entities. 
     It could be working for a team.  It could be a cable or
     over-the-air network.  But nothing will be finalized until
     after the [NBA] playoffs."  MSG execs declined comment. 
     Italiano added that "insiders" said MSG is "conducting
     market surveys to prove to advertisers that Albert's return
     would be welcomed by audiences" (N.Y. POST, 4/12).

          CBS's coverage of Sunday's final round of The Masters
     earned a 9.9/26 rating, making it the fourth-highest final
     round ever, and the second-highest this decade.  Saturday's
     third round coverage scored a 6.9/19, the second-highest
     Saturday rating ever for the event.  CBS's coverage of The
     Masters won every half-hour on both days (CBS).  Sunday's
     rating was down 37% from last year's 15.8/32, which was the
     highest ever (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/14).  CBS's two-day average
     of 8.6, although down 33% from '97, was the second-highest
     rating for The Masters since '86 (USA TODAY, 4/14).
          REVIEWS & REAX: CBS is receiving generally positive
     reviews for its coverage.  In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes that
     the tournament "provided incredible drama.  And CBS coverage
     captured every ounce of it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/14).  In
     Toronto, Rob Longley called CBS's new strategy of "having
     [Ken] Venturi carry most of the analysis, interacting with
     the respective announcers on each hole ... a stroke of
     genius."  Longley: "Mercifully, CBS eased up on its tendency
     to over-hype Tiger Woods" (TORONTO SUN, 4/13).  In Detroit,
     Steve Crowe wrote on the coverage under the header, "CBS
     Makes The Right Call Staying Out Of The Woods" (DETROIT FREE
     PRESS, 4/13).  But in N.Y., Richard Sandomir cites CBS's
     sparse coverage of Woods on Sunday and writes, "No wonder
     Sunday's ... rating fell" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14).
          ACROSS THE USA: USA Network's second round coverage of
     The Masters on Friday got a 3.9 rating, which USA states
     makes it the most watched live golf event in the history of
     cable TV.  The net broke its own record of 3.6, set for last
     year's second round coverage of The Masters.  Thursday's
     coverage earned a 3.1, the highest first round rating ever.
     The two-day average of 3.5 was up 17% over '97 (USA).

          In an effort to offset its new $4.8B NFL deal, ESPN is
     "pushing cable operators to pay up to 20% more money in
     license fees" starting August 1, according to John Dempsey
     of DAILY VARIETY.  Cable system execs say they're being
     asked to pay increases that "could funnel as much as" $156M
     in additional revenues to ESPN, which would "go on top of"
     the $536.9M that ESPN "harvested" from cable-operator
     license fees in '97.  Also, according to sources, ESPN has
     told cable operators that "if they sign new contracts by
     June 1, they'll get a break in pricing," and that the break
     will be "extended if the cable system gets" ESPN into more
     than 95% of its households.  However, one cable operator
     said that "even with those price breaks," the fee increase
     "will propel his total bill to ESPN to more than $1 a month,
     making it by far the most expensive nationally distributed
     service for most cable operators" (DAILY VARIETY, 4/14).
          E-SPIN: ESPN announced late last week that it will
     provide 46 additional local 30-second spots to its affils in
     its 18-game NFL Sunday night package.  The total number of
     ads will increase 10% from 459 in '97 to 505 in '98.  ESPN
     will also increase local spots by 26% on all studio and NFL-
     related programming, including "NFL Primetime" (ESPN).

          ESPN will air a two-hour "SportsCenter" special, "Race
     & Sports: Running In Place?," tonight beginning at 7:30pm
     ET.  The special will begin with a 30-minute "Outside The
     Lines" segment focusing on race and sports, which will be
     followed by a 90-minute Town Meeting discussion on the
     issue, hosted by Bob Ley (ESPN).  ESPN SportsZone will offer
     its first live video Webcast for the Town Meeting tonight at
     8:00pm ET.  The two-day package will link off the SportsZone
     front page and offer related feature stories, user polls and
     an opportunity for users to send in questions to panelists
     during the broadcast (ESPN SportsZone).
          THE FULL ROSTER: President Clinton will be a member of
     the panel at the Town Meeting, to be held in Houston's
     Cullen Theater.  Clinton will be joined by Padres Owner John
     Moores, former Browns RB Jim Brown, Georgetown Univ.
     basketball coach John Thompson, Olympic gold medalist
     Jackie-Joyner Kersee, Vikings coach Dennis Green, Univ. of
     GA AD Vince Dooley, 49ers President Carmen Policy, and ESPN
     baseball analyst Joe Morgan.  In Houston, David Barron wrote
     that ESPN is distributing the tickets to the event, and is
     also "in charge of screening the 14 to 16 audience members
     who will be allowed to ask questions."  Ley, on a possible
     White House influence at the forum: "This is our show. 
     While the White House is providing the President, and we are
     grateful for that, this is an ESPN show from start to
     finish" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/9).  In Baltimore, Milton Kent
     writes that Clinton's presence "is a bit of an X factor for
     the program, because no one knows what he will bring to the
     discussion."  Kent also reports that Jets WR Keyshawn
     Johnson and NBA prospect Felipe Lopez have been added to the
     panel "as the only current athletes" (Baltimore SUN, 4/14).
          LEFT OUT? In N.Y., Kathy Kiely reports that Latino
     activists said tonight's event "slights Latin Americans"
     because Lopez is the only Hispanic on the panel.  Deputy
     White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said that ESPN "had
     sent out invitations to about two dozen Hispanic athletes,
     who declined for various reasons" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/14).

          NOTES: Former 49ers coach George Seifert "is expected
     to land a job at CBS, perhaps as early as tomorrow." 
     Seifert said that he "isn't sure" whether he is being
     considered for a studio position or as a game analyst (S.F.
     CHRONICLE, 4/14)....NBC Sports VP/Communications Ed Markey
     said that the net "erred" by leaving Sunday's Knicks-Heat
     game without showing a replay of its controversial ending. 
     Markey: "It was probably a mistake" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/14).
     ...THE DAILY RACING FORM's Steve Haskin, on Fox's April 4
     broadcast of the Santa Anita Derby, its first foray into
     racing coverage: "This was a flawless telecast that left us
     yearning for more" (DAILY RACING FORM, 4/7)....Turner Sports
     has re-signed Bob Neal to a new multiyear contract.  Neal
     will continue to call NBA games on TBS and TNT through the
     2001-2002 season (Turner Sports).  USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke
     wrote Neal's new deal is worth "close to" $500,000 annually
     (USA TODAY, 4/10)....N.Y. Times Magazines took out a full
     page ad in Monday's N.Y. Times touting its three golf
     titles, GolfWorld, Golf Digest and Golf Shop Operations. 
     The ad text noted that the three won 14 Golf Writers
     Association of America Awards (THE DAILY)....Mets announcer
     Ralph Kiner is taking an extended leave of absence due to
     his wife's battle with cancer and his recent health
     problems.  Kiner said his return date is "wide open" and
     that the Mets said he could take the entire season off, if
     necessary (Bergen RECORD, 4/10).
          RATINGS: See (#32) for a full listing of overnights
     from this weekend's network sports events.  In S.D., Fritz
     Quindt wrote that the Padres' March 31 season opener on
     Padres/Channel 4 got a 3.4 rating, while last Tuesday's home
     opener earned a 6.9.  Wednesday's first prime-time game did
     a 9.3, which placed second locally during its time slot
     (UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/10)....In Boston, Howard Manly writes that
     WABU's coverage of Friday's Red Sox opener received a 6.9/17
     rating, while Saturday's Sox game got a "whopping" 9.2/31,
     and Sunday's an 8.1/31 (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/14). 
          NHL: In N.Y. Richard Sandomir notes that Saturday's Fox
     NHL coverage pulled a "wee" 1.5 overnight, including a
     "microscopic" 0.8 rating in the New York market.  Through
     nine dates this season, Fox's NHL coverage is averaging a
     1.5.  Fox Sports President David Hill: "We don't know what's
     wrong, but we still believe in hockey" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14).
     The NHL wants Fox to move its telecasts to Sunday afternoons
     next season, the final year of the net's five-year, $155M
     deal.  Fox's Dan Bell said that "nothing has been decided,"
     but talks "are ongoing" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/11).