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Volume 24 No. 155

Sports Media

          N.Y. Daily News columnist and ESPN contributor Mike
     Lupica will host a weekly series, "The Mike Lupica Show," on
     ESPN2.  The show will premiere May 4 at 5:30pm ET with NBA
     Commissioner David Stern as the first guest.  Each 30-minute
     episode of the program, which is being produced by CT-based
     Valerio Productions, will begin with commentary from Lupica,
     followed by an interview with a sports personality.  After
     the interview, both Lupica and his guest will field
     questions from a live studio audience.  The show, taped in
     NYC, will be reaired twice each week on ESPN2 (ESPN2).

          TV: Hall of Fame RB John Riggins will join WFAN's Chris
     Russo as co-host of "Riggins and Russo Live," an NFL pregame
     show which will air on N.Y.'s WCBS-TV Sundays at 11:00am
     this season.  The duo will also contribute to the station's
     "Sports Rap" Sunday night highlights show during the season
     (N.Y. POST, 4/23)....In Boston, Bob Ryan, on NBC NBA 
     analyst Doug Collins: "When he's done completing a thought,
     Isiah Thomas might just as well head to the men's room,
     because it's all been said" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/23)....In Las
     Vegas, Tim Graham rated sports broadcasters and called
     ESPN's Chris Berman the "most overrated sportscaster in the
     history of the profession." Graham cited NHL announcer Bill
     Clement as the "most underrated," and wrote that MSNBC's
     Keith Olbermann is "right where he belongs. ... Olbermann is
     finding out he needed 'SportsCenter' much more than it
     needed him" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 4/22)....In '99, the PGA Tour
     will broadcast 196 hours of early-round coverage of its
     events in int'l markets, an increase of 59% from this year. 
     Weekend coverage will rise 14%, and total hours of int'l
     coverage will jump 32% (GOLFWEEK, 4/18 issue)....NHL Rangers
     F Kevin Stevens and Panthers F Bill Lindsey will serve as
     guest analysts on ESPN2's "NHL 2Night" throughout the first
     round of the NHL playoffs (ESPN2).      
          NOTES: Traffic to ESPN SportsZone, NFL.com and a
     special NFL Draft site accessible from both sites generated
     more than 34 million page views and 4.7 million visits last
     weekend (ESPN)....In N.Y., Paul Tharp reports that magazine
     launches numbered 852 last year, down from a record 933
     startups in '97.  Experts say, however, that the "cooling-
     off" of the magazine boom "is only temporary."  Sports
     titles were the second-most-popular category of startups
     last year, with 103 titles launched (N.Y. POST, 4/23).

          The Penguins and Fox Sports Pittsburgh (FSP) execs "are
     bulking up for a postseason brawl over broadcasting rights,"
     according to Jon Schmitz of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE.  In
     a court document filed this week, the Penguins "accused Fox
     of trying to defraud the team and the [NHL] of fees owed for
     TV rights."  Fox officials contend the Penguins are trying
     to break a contract that gives FSP broadcast rights to
     Penguins games through the 2008-09 season in order to form
     their own network, Marino Sports Network.  Fox Sports Senior
     VP/Media Relations Vince Wladika said that the net "felt
     betrayed" by the Penguins "after bailing the team out of
     financial binds on several occasions in recent years." 
     Wladika said that FSP "lent" the Penguins $11M in '94,
     "helped arrange" a $31M loan from Bank of America to the
     team in '95, and guaranteed a $5M loan in '96 when the
     Penguins "lacked the credit-worthiness."  Wladika said that
     the team's "financial situation was in such disarray that
     the network sent its payments for rights fees directly to
     the bank rather than to the Penguins."  In the court
     document, the Penguins alleged Fox "intentionally" and
     "deceitfully" underreported the numbers of outer market
     subscribers to minimize fees it owed.  Fox puts the amount
     in dispute at less than $600,000, but Penguins Dir of
     Business Development Bill Craig, a former FSP exec, said the
     fee owed by Fox "might be twice" that.  Wladika: "Not even
     remotely true."  As for the loans to the team, Craig said
     they were "cold, hard" business deals: "Fox is not noted for
     being in the social welfare business.  To portray this as
     some benevolent act on their part is absurd" (PITTSBURGH
     POST-GAZETTE, 4/22).  The case is scheduled for trial June
     29 (David Brown, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/22).