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Volume 24 No. 156

Sports Media

          Cable operators "are stepping up their battle" against
     ESPN's move to raise programming fees 20% to help pay for
     its NFL contract, according to Steve Donohue of ELECTRONIC
     MEDIA.  TCI, TCA Cable TV, Cable ONE, Charter Communications
     and Falcon Cable "have explored the feasibility of moving"
     ESPN from basic or expanded basic carriage to a new,
     separately-priced tier which would also include other sports
     programmers.  TCA Cable TV has had "preliminary internal
     discussions" about placing ESPN, Fox Sports Southwest, The
     Golf Channel and Speedvision in a sports tier.  While such a
     tier "would reduce" operators' ESPN programing costs, "many
     say that contractual and technical issues make it very
     difficult to make a new sports tier a reality."  In
     addition, some MSOs said that ESPN "has rejected ideas" to
     move off of basic service.  But ESPN VP/Affil Relations Sean
     Bratches said that ESPN "hasn't been approached by operators
     requesting a new sports tier," and that the network has
     reached agreements with "well over" 90% of its carriers on
     contract extensions, despite the cost of carrying ESPN
     increasing on August 1 from $.87 a subscriber per month to
     $1.07 per subscriber per month (ELECTRONIC MEDIA, 6/15). 

          Sunday night's Bulls-Jazz Game Six earned a 22.3/38
     final national rating, making it the highest rated NBA
     broadcast in history.  The game was watched by an estimated
     72 million viewers, which also establishes a new all-time
     record for an NBA telecast.  In addition, Sunday's rating
     means the '98 Finals averaged an 18.7/33 rating, making it
     the highest rated Finals ever, 4% better than the previous
     high of 17.9/33 for the Bulls-Suns Final in '93.  This year
     also saw an 11% jump from last year's 16.8/30 average (THE
     DAILY).  Friday night's Game Five earned a 19.8/37 final
     rating for NBC.  Its estimated audience of 60.9 million
     viewers makes it the third-most-viewed NBA telecast in
     history, behind Sunday night's game and last month's Pacers-
     Bulls Game Seven, which drew 61.4 million viewers (NBC).
          OTHER NUMBERS: In Chicago, Game Six earned a 52.1
     rating on the local NBC affil, "making it the most watched
     event in Chicago for the year" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/16).  
          CABLE READY: CNBC's "NBA Finals Post-Game Specials,"
     which aired after each Finals game broadcast, averaged a 1.0
     rating, a 30% increase from last year's .74 average (CNBC).
          GOOD MARKS FOR NBC: In Boston, Jim Baker called NBC's
     Game Six telecast "loaded," adding it "caught all the drama"
     of the game (BOSTON HERALD, 6/15). In N.Y., Bob Raissman
     writes that NBC's broadcast team "must be complimented for 
     -- especially down the stretch -- letting the game breathe. 
     [Isiah] Thomas, [Bob] Costas, and Doug Collins correctly
     kept their calls to a minimum late in the fourth quarter,
     allowing viewers to feel the moment" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS,
     6/16).  Also in N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes that Hannah
     Storm's work during the Finals "made it clear that [she] is
     one of sports' best studio hosts" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/16).
          ROBERTO PANNED: In Utah, Scott Pierce reviewed NBC's
     broadcast under the header, "NBC Ignored Its Own
     Observations, Analysis."  Concerning two apparent miscues by
     the refs involving the shot clock, Pierce wrote, "At the
     very least, shouldn't the events in Sunday's game have
     elicited a discussion about ... some sort of official review
     of the videotape?"  More Pierce: "Costas and the other
     members of the NBC broadcast team were left looking as if
     their special relationships with the Bulls and the NBA were
     more important to them than any sort of vague journalistic
     integrity they might have" (DESERET NEWS, 6/16).  In Boston,
     Howard Manly: "It might just be time to bring Marv Albert
     back ... because his replacement, 'I, Bob Costas,' has taken
     the simple game of basketball and made it his own pulpit"
     (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/16).  In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes that
     Costas "is not Albert.  His voice doesn't match the rhythms
     of basketball as faithfully as Albert's did."  While Costas
     is "prepared," and "rarely makes mistakes ... his style
     seems more suited to baseball" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/16).
          THE UGLY: Jazz F Karl Malone "blasted" the Jazz radio
     announcers on team-owned KFAN-AM yesterday and "threatened
     to get them fired for criticizing him during the NBA Finals. 
     Malone: "Either they shake that station up at KFAN with the
     two experts they got on that, or they've got to do something
     else with me.  So it's me or them."  The announcers, David
     Locke and former Jazz coach Tom Nissalke, declined comment
     (Michael Lewis, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 6/16).
          SOMEBODY STOP HIM! TIME looks at John Tesh's "NBA on
     NBC" theme song.  Tesh said that the melody, called
     "Roundball Rock," has the "same pace as a fast break -- 120
     feet a minute."  He added that he is "thinking of doing a
     rap version of the song next year" (TIME, 6/22 issue).

          The case concerning's Viacom's suit against the Red Sox
     and Bruins, its partners in NESN, over rights fees
     inequities and compensation if NESN goes from premium pay
     status to basic cable, goes to an arbitration hearing this
     week.  In Boston, Jim Baker wrote that the outcome, "in
     addition to addressing Viacom's dissatisfaction," may set
     the stage for more moves, including Fox Sports New England
     becoming a more aggressive bidder for local rights (BOSTON
     HERALD, 6/14)....The NHL Kings signed a new three-year radio
     deal with CBS-owned KRLA-AM, making it the team's new
     flagship.  KRLA will carry all Kings games beginning this
     season, and the deal marks the end of the Kings' eight-year
     relationship with San Diego-based XTRA (Kings)....N.Y.'s
     WCBS-TV sports anchor Warner Wolf "found himself at a loss
     for words" yesterday "when his dentures popped out on live
     TV."  Wolf eventually replaced the bridge and finished his
     report: "I've been on the air for 38 years and that's the
     worst thing that's ever happened to me" (N.Y. POST, 6/16).

          The Senators signed a 10-year broadcasting and play-by-
     play deal with the new Ottawa Sports Radio, OSR 1200, which
     will be the city's first all-sports radio station.  OSR will
     begin carrying Senators games next season (Senators). 
          YEAR-ROUND EXPOSURE: Although financial terms were not
     released, Senators President Roy Mlakar said that the deal
     ranks "among the top-10 in radio rights deals for NHL
     teams."  The Senators had been carried by CFRA radio, and
     although a year still remained on that deal, the team
     "negotiated to dissolve that contract" in order to sign with
     OSR (David Naylor, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 6/16).  In Ottawa,
     Ken Warren writes that the new pact "makes the Senators the
     major player on OSR and in position to control how much
     Senators coverage is on the air" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 6/16). 
     OSR, which will be owned by Calgary-based Rawlco
     Communications, will debut in early September and will "also
     be known as Ottawa Senators Radio" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 6/16).
          MAJOR LEAF DEAL: The Maple Leafs "are on the verge" of
     announcing a new five-year deal with Molson worth about
     C$23M a season.  In Toronto, Rob Longley reports the deal,
     which would give Molson the rights to 50-55 mid-week Leafs
     games, "is expected" to be for a minimum of five years, with
     the brewery holding an option to extend.  Molson would sell
     the broadcast rights to TSN "and retain a promotional
     presence."  Longley adds that if the deal is completed, TSN,
     which recently lost the rights to "HNIC," will be "back into
     NHL hockey in a big way" (TORONTO SUN, 6/16).