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Volume 24 No. 156

Sports Media

          MLB and ESPN are "headed for a messy, in-season
     divorce," with Turner Sports possibly "assuming custody of
     ESPN's national cable TV baseball rights," according to
     Sherman & Mushnick in Saturday's N.Y. POST.  After ESPN
     acquired the entire NFL Sunday night schedule, it announced
     that it would move its September Sunday night MLB games to
     ESPN2.  But sources told Sherman & Mushnick that "if Sunday
     nights in September don't include baseball on ESPN, MLB will
     seek to immediately void" its six-year, $255M deal with
     ESPN, which is due to expire after the '99 season.  The same
     sources said that MLB "has inquired as to Turner's interests
     in the MLB package, an inquiry that was met with an
     enthusiastic response."  A Turner spokesperson declined
     comment, but said that Turner "has always held a high and
     active regard" for MLB (N.Y. POST, 5/9).  Mushnick writes
     today that an ESPN spokesperson said yesterday that the
     network "is committed to maintaining its contracted
     relationship with MLB in spite of a growing concern that
     baseball will seek to void its contract" (N.Y. POST, 5/11). 
          OLBERMANN'S TAKE: In his SportsFan Radio Network
     commentary, Keith Olbermann says that ESPN's "Baseball
     Tonight," the "only" sports newscast permitted to show MLB
     highlights of games in-progress, "is part of the network's
     deal with baseball and would presumably also go away" if the
     deal is voided.  Olbermann also says that the "disaster for
     ESPN shows how quickly one can go from buddies to enemies in
     baseball, or vice versa."  Olbermann: "Disney, which owns
     ESPN, was the fair-haired boy.  Fox, which owns the Dodgers,
     was the upstart.  Turner, which owns the Braves, used to be
     the pariah.  Now Disney and ESPN are bums, Fox, the
     veterans, and Turner, the savior" (SportsFan Radio, 5/11).

          As the Pacers' lead grew during the overtime period
     against the Knicks yesterday, Larry Stewart of the L.A.
     TIMES questions why NBC stayed until the conclusion of the
     game and didn't switch viewers in the L.A. and Seattle
     markets to the Sonics-Lakers game already in progress.  NBC
     Sports VP Ed Markey: "You can't have it both ways.  You
     can't please two masters.  We were committed to stay with
     the game that people across the country had already invested
     2 1/2 hours in."  Markey, when asked about using a split
     screen: "NBC never uses split screens on anything.  The
     problem is you're trying to please too many people and you
     end up not pleasing anyone" (L.A. TIMES, 5/11).

          MINOR COVERAGE: Celtics G Greg Minor, on his son,
     Khalid, featured on SI's cover to highlight a story on pro
     athletes having children out-of-wedlock: "It's horrifying. 
     What's he going to feel like 15 years from now?" (BOSTON
     GLOBE, 5/9).  Len Elmore, attorney/ESPN basketball analyst,
     was the Guest Columnist in Sunday's N.Y. DAILY NEWS and
     wrote on the paternity issue.  Elmore: "I am particularly
     frustrated with African-American male athletes who, despite
     their lives of privilege, fail to understand and heed the
     mistakes of the past while continuing to repeat them. ...
     They bear a greater responsibility to be role models, not to
     our children, but their own" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/10).
          NOTES: In L.A., Century Communications began carrying
     Fox Sports West 2 on most of its cable systems in the
     evenings and on weekends, leading to a full-scale launch on
     July 15.  The move leaves Comcast, which mainly serves
     Orange County, as the only "major holdout" not to carry FSW
     2 (L.A. TIMES, 5/8)....In Toronto, William Houston wrote
     that while "Hockey Night In Canada" relies heavily on
     tradition, the show "arguably, needs a new star."  Houston
     added that its declining ratings "may also be attributable
     to the show's predictability. ... To reach new viewers, the
     show needs fresh ideas" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/9)....ESPN has
     dropped the X-Venture outdoor event from its X Games. 
     Research showed that the X-Venture earned 20% lower ratings
     than other events (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/9)....In N.Y.,
     Maria Ricapito profiled SLAM magazine and called the title,
     with a circulation of 192,000, "the People magazine of
     basketball."  SLAM Dir of Advertising & Promotion Ronnie
     Zeidel: "We're not the hoop magazine for the 45-year-old
     couch potato.  The most important thing to these kids is
     basketball, fashion and girls -- in that order" (N.Y. TIMES,
     5/10)....With ESPN's "SportsCenter" approaching its 20,000th
     broadcast, Phil Mushnick questioned some of the network's
     recent research and statistics and wrote, "Too many
     SportsCenter staffers, past and current, in front of the
     camera and behind the scenes, don't know what the heck
     they're talking about. ... And these days, more time is
     spent writing one-liners and hunting for same-day clips of
     athletes who showed off for the TV cameras so they might be
     seen on SportsCenter" (N.Y. POST, 5/10)...."The SportsJerks
     NBA Tour," a six-part series on Comedy Central, premiered
     Saturday.  Co-Producer Danny DeVito said that "SportsJerks"
     could evolve into a regular series in which its two
     characters follow other sports (N.Y. POST, 5/9). 
   

          MSG "ignored the Knicks' radio flagship, WFAN, to sell
     ad space on in-arena give-away playoff towels to the new
     radio sports kid on the block, One on One Sports," according
     to Phil Mushnick of the N.Y. POST.  Sources say that MSG
     charged One on One $20,000 for the promo, which Mushnick
     called "hardly a lot of money to take in exchange for
     ticking off your radio partner, unless that was part of the
     plan."  The act "has exacerbated a poor relationship between
     MSG and WFAN," a relationship that "could be severed next
     spring when the station's Knick and Ranger rights expire." 
     While MSG is "already threatening" to launch a radio
     network," Mushnick wrote that this also "might be posturing
     to get an edge in negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 5/10).

          NASDAQ "has struck a multiyear deal with CBS" to
     sponsor its NFL halftime show, according to sources of
     Langdon Brockinton of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL.  NASDAQ has
     also renewed its title sponsorship of CBS's college football
     coverage.  The two deals together are valued at $15-20M per
     year.  Under the terms of each deal, NASDAQ will get
     category-exclusivity and will air multiple 30-second spots
     per telecast (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/11).
          MARKET SHARE: DAILY VARIETY's Rich Katz reports that
     the NFL's TV network partners "are trying a variety of new
     sales tactics" as they try to increase NFL ad prices by 20%,
     but media buyers "believe they'll be able to hold price
     hikes to single digits."  No deals have been signed since
     CBS inked Honda/Acura to be its first advertiser last month. 
     One media buyer: "It's pretty slow going."  Katz reports
     that buyers said that "one signal the networks are nervous
     they'll be stuck with unsold, high-priced NFL inventory is
     that the webs will likely try to package pro football with
     primetime upfront inventory."  Katz writes that while buyers
     expect Fox and CBS to package their NFL games with the
     primetime upfront, they "expect an even more strenuous push"
     from ABC for "Monday Night Football."  ABC is also trying to
     maximize ad time by packaging "MNF" with ESPN's Sunday night
     package, along with other NFL-related vehicles, including
     ESPN2 and Classic Sports Network programming, as well as
     ESPN Magazine and ESPN SportsZone (DAILY VARIETY, 5/11).

          The Blazers "are not reconsidering their decision" to
     remove Bill Schonely from its radio play-by-play, according
     to Steve Brandon of the Portland OREGONIAN.  Blazers
     President Bob Whitsitt: "I think that was pretty well
     decided last summer. ... I think the whole situation is
     unfortunate for everybody" (Portland OREGONIAN, 5/8).
          NHL RATINGS: The Sharks earned a 5.9 rating on Fox
     Sports Bay Area for their final first-round playoff game
     against the Stars.  Up until then, ratings had averaged
     around a 2.0 (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 5/9)....Fox Sports Southwest
     reported its top two ratings of the season for coverage of
     the Stars first round games against the Sharks.  Game Two
     earned a 3.9 total rating and 7.5 cable rating.  Game Six
     earned a 3.6 total overall, and a 6.9 cable rating. 
     Regular-season Stars games drew an average of 0.7, with a
     1.3 cable rating (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/9).