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Volume 24 No. 116

Sports Media

           While ESPN's "SportsCenter" airs highlights every
     night, the producers and hosts of the show "are concerned
     about the effect on their audience -- particularly younger
     viewers -- of replays showing professional athletes
     celebrating victories by making throat-slitting gestures or
     choke signs," according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON
     POST.  ESPN's Dan Patrick, during a panel discussion
     sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates, on whether athletes
     are becoming more demonstrative to get on "SportsCenter":
     "We are guilty of showing gratuitous celebration, and I'm
     sure it leads to high school kids wanting to do it, too. 
     The whole thing of slitting your throat, that's
     embarrassing, and we shouldn't do that. ... If there's an
     honest, spontaneous celebration, great."  ESPN's Chris
     Berman: "I hate that.  I don't know if that's our problem. 
     If it is, we need to do something about it.  To me, that's
     an NBA thing.  It's one of the reasons I don't watch it very
     much."  ESPN Exec Editor John Walsh said that there "is
     increasing pressure" to include more sports on the show, but
     that the "obligation [is] to show to a large audience the
     sports that are most popular.  We have people from leagues
     petitioning us all the time for more coverage.  That's one
     of the big changes in the last five or six years.  We give a
     lot more time now to auto racing and golf because the
     interest is there" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).
          MORE ON HIGHLIGHTS: USA TODAY's "In Focus" section
     examined the culture of sports news networks.  FSN Exec
     Producer John Terenzio: "Hockey fights, car crashes,
     backboard-shattering dunks -- we show them all and make no
     bones about it.  There's viewer interest, and we're not
     ashamed of it."  ESPN News Dir Vince Doria said that the
     "top priority in highlights is their relevance" to a game
     story, "but there's room for interesting video -- and a
     backboard breaking is interesting video" (USA TODAY, 5/20). 
     In Baltimore, Milton Kent: "So all that talk out of last
     November's ESPN town meeting on sportsmanship must have been
     just that -- talk.  How else does one explain the judgement
     of 'SportsCenter' producers to lead yesterday's overnight
     show with the Orioles-Yankees melee over NBA and NHL playoff
     highlights and a three-homer performance from  
     St. Louis' Mark McGwire?" (Baltimore SUN, 5/21).   

          The Canadiens and Canadian junior hockey each "wrapped
     up significant" TV deals yesterday, but the Maple Leafs'
     regional TV picture "isn't cleared up yet," according to
     Lance Hornby of the TORONTO SUN.  The Canadiens agreed to a
     four-year deal with TSN to carry a minimum of 20 games a
     season, marking the Habs' first appearance on an English
     language network in midweek since '75-76.  CTV Sports Net
     (CTVSN) and the Canadian Hockey League agreed to a four-year
     deal to show a minimum of 65 games per season.  Hornby
     reports that both TSN and CTVSN "continue their battle" to
     control the regional midweek Leafs package."  A decision "is
     said to be about 10 days away" (TORONTO SUN, 5/21).  In
     Montreal, Pat Hickey writes that the Canadiens deal allows
     TSN "to maintain a presence in the NHL," after being outbid
     for the national package by CTVSN (GAZETTE, 5/21).  CTVSN
     was expected to announce that it had added the Expos to its
     program lineup yesterday, but CTV VP Doug Beeforth said that
     the deal "hasn't been signed yet" (FINANCIAL POST, 5/21).

          PERSONALITIES: In Toronto, veteran Canadian announcer
     Don Chevrier ranked the best hockey "play-callers," and
     named Fox's Mike Emrick "in a class by himself," with ESPN's
     Gary Thorne at No. 2 and Rangers play-by-play man Sam Rosen
     third (William Houston, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/21).
     ...Flyers G Ron Hextall will work as a studio analyst for
     ESPN2's "NHL 2Night" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/21)....A
     cable outage in parts of Utah cut Insight Cable's service 20
     minutes into the Lakers-Jazz Game Two (DESERET NEWS, 5/20).
     ...CBS Sales President Joe Abruzzese told 1,000 onlookers at
     yesterday's CBS's fall network sales meeting, "No more
     Sunday afternoon movies, no more Sunday afternoon figure
     skating.  The AFC, .. is on the rise, and so is CBS."  CBS
     TV President Les Moonves: "The NFL will add male viewers and
     make us younger."  Abruzzese also said CBS is "on target"
     with ad projections of "breaking even this year," and has
     $25M in new advertisers for its AFC package (Rudy Martzke,
     USA TODAY, 5/21)....SportsLine USA shares fell 13% to 26 5/8
     on news "that it may have lost the competition for the
     production contract" for NFL.com (HOLLY. REPORTER, 5/21). 

          After ABC added "Sports Night," a sitcom starring
     Robert Guillaume loosely based on ESPN's "SportsCenter" to
     its fall lineup, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, a former ESPN
     anchor, said, "I suppose you could do a half-hour
     entertainment show based on 'SportsCenter.'"  While the
     sitcom "might work," Olbermann said the "problem is the
     name.  There's an awfully short corporate memory over there
     at ABC. ... Back when I worked at ESPN, we started something
     called ESPN2, and they made me go and do the flagship show
     of the new network.  Flagship.  Flagship like 'Titanic' was
     a flagship.  The show was so bad it was selected as the
     seventh-worst thing to happen in sports in the year 1993, by
     Sports Illustrated. ... The name of this abomination?
     'Sports Night.'  Good luck, boys" (MSNBC, 5/20).