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).