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Volume 24 No. 133

Sports Media

          The Football Network, a 24-hour-a-day cable channel,
     will kickoff on September 5, according to Tom Hoffarth of
     the L.A. DAILY NEWS.  The channel's creator, 30-year-old TV
     producer Jantonio Turner, has been working on its
     development for two years and says, "I could see us maybe
     making a splash from the start."  The channel's slogan is
     "Enough is NEVER Enough."  Turner has established relations
     with a nationwide distribution cable co-op called NCTC,
     which reps more than 5,300 local cable systems with 8.5
     million subscribers.  Hoffarth also notes that DirecTV or
     EchoStar "should have no problem providing room" for the
     station.  Programming will "likely be limited to anything
     below NCAA Division I, but not excluding semipro, high
     school and youth leagues" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/17).

          Tara Lipinski has signed with CBS to star in a series
     of primetime specials during the '98-99 season.  Among the
     CBS Entertainment programs are a new edition of CBS Sports'
     "Ice Wars" and "The Great Eight," a new competition.  "Ice
     Wars" will pit American skaters against skaters from the
     rest of the world, while "The Great Eight" will be a round-
     robin elimination competition.  As part of her CBS deal,
     Lipinski will also tape a series of network IDs spots, on-
     air promos and anti-drug PSAs (CBS Sports).

          HE'S GOT THE EYE OF THE IGER: USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke
     reports that ESPN/ABC Sports President Steve Bornstein "is
     among those considered successors" to Bob Iger as ABC
     President.  Martzke adds that ESPN's ratings improved 18%
     for the second quarter of '98 to 1.27, with "SportsCenter"
     up 13%.  Both numbers are still down from '97.  Martzke
     notes that ESPN spokesperson Mike Soltys cited "increasing
     competition" from other nets, but did not mention FSN's "Fox
     Sports News" which was also up 13% this quarter.  Fox Senior
     VP/Media Relations Vince Wladika: "They (ESPN) have an
     unhealthy preoccupation with us.  ESPN should worry about
     the menu for Monday Night Football" (USA TODAY, 7/17). 
          OLBERMANN'S FOX HUNT? In Tom Hoffarth asks, "Why was
     Keith Olbermann touring the Fox Sports Net studios in
     Century City earlier this week?  Is he already beyond
     miserable with his career in purgatory at MSNBC, even though
     it gets him an occasional appearance on NBC's occasional
     baseball coverage?" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/17). 
          OTHER NOTES: Former Browns and Steelers Personnel Dir
     Mike Lombardi will be the off-air information man for CBS's
     "NFL Today" (USA TODAY, 7/17)....In Detroit, the Red Wings'
     Stanley Cup video "Return to Hockeytown" produced by NHL
     Productions, premiered last night at Detroit's Fox Theatre. 
     In Detroit, Helene St. James writes "perhaps the most
     glaring omission" from the video is the "annual bloodfest"
     with the Avalanche (FREE PRESS, 7/17)....TSN anchor Mike
     Toth is leaving at the end of July (TORONTO STAR, 7/17).

          After yesterday's L.A. TIMES report that said GE was in
     talks with Barry Diller about merging his USA Networks with
     NBC, Kyle Pope writes in today's WALL STREET JOURNAL that
     NBC's "search for a cable network has intensified," as the
     net "is stepping up its efforts to expand its cable holdings
     as the economics of the broadcast-television business
     continue to sour" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/17).  
          VIACOM A TARGET? In N.Y., Jon Elsen notes the failed
     talks between NBC and USA Networks, and floats Viacom as a
     potential partner with NBC, writing, "many media industry
     observers like the idea of such a combination" (N.Y. POST,
     7/17).  In DAILY VARIETY, Jenny Hontz reports that "several
     senior industry execs believe that a new round of mergers
     among broadcast networks is coming up, involving either NBC
     or CBS, if not both. ... Viacom is the ideal partner ...
     given its ownership of Paramount and the absence of
     regulatory constraints" (DAILY VARIETY, 7/17).

          The "people most interested" in giving Marv Albert an
     opportunity to return to national TV "are those at Turner
     Sports," according to Phil Mushnick of the N.Y. POST. 
     Mushnick writes that "in the coming weeks," Turner Sports
     execs "will closely monitor public and advertiser response"
     to Albert's return to MSG.  Mushnick: "If the negative
     reactions blow over -- and they should -- and if Albert
     stays clean, expect him to be named TNT's lead NBA voice
     early this fall" (Phil Mushnick, N.Y. POST, 7/17).
          CHECKETTS TALKS STRAIGHT? In N.Y., Mark Kriegel writes
     that the "single moment of high candor" at the MSG press
     conference announcing Albert's return was when MSG President
     Dave Checketts admitted that Albert's presence may boost
     ratings and said, "I won't deny we made a business decision,
     too" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/17).  Phil Mushnick writes that
     Checketts' candor "wins our admiration" (N.Y. POST, 7/17). 
     In Milwaukee, Michael Bauman gives Checketts "points for
     honesty, although no points for anything else" (JOURNAL
     SENTINEL, 7/17).  But in Hartford, Jeff Goldberg writes that
     if MSG brought Albert back for ratings, "then MSG is clearly
     sending the wrong message" (HARTFORD COURANT, 7/17).
          MORE REAX: In Denver, Bob Kravitz offers a point/
     counterpoint on Albert's return, and writes that Albert has
     "every right to return to work, and [MSG] has every right to
     employ him" (DENVER POST, 7/17).  In L.A., Tom Hoffarth
     writes that MSG "was right to take him back" (L.A. DAILY
     NEWS, 7/17).  In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley: "The lesson of the
     Marv Albert case?  If you are a celebrity in the field of
     sports, have talent, have at least one powerful friend and
     you screw up, don't worry.  You'll get another chance"
     (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/17).  In L.A., Larry Stewart
     writes that Albert's "stock went up during the NBA
     playoffs," as NBC's Bob Costas "didn't make viewers forget
     Albert."  Stewart: "He deserves another chance, and starting
     out on a local basis in New York seems the way to go" (L.A.
     TIMES, 7/17).  In San Antonio, Kevin O'Keefe writes under
     the header "Albert Hiring Another Affront To Women"
     (EXPRESS-NEWS, 7/17).  In N.J., Adrian Wojnarowski: "Thirty
     years of sparkling work as a New York sportscaster should
     give him the right to a second chance here."  But he added,
     "The national networks aren't going to touch him" (RECORD,
     7/16).  TV Guide's Greg Fagan, on Albert's reputation: "His
     name has been dragged through the mud, but a lot of people's
     names have been dragged through the mud in this modern media
     environment.  I think that he'll have to face that music
     every night every time he goes on" ("Extra," 7/16).  

          The following lists final national ratings from last     weekend's network sporting events.  All times are EDT.  The     numbers are from the networks (THE DAILY).
Sr. PGA: Players Championship
World Cup: Croatia-Netherlands
Sr. PGA: Players Championship
Shell World of Golf: Hogan-Snead
CBS Sports Spect: NASCAR Special
Fox MLB Saturday: Regional Games
"WNBA on NBC": Shock-Mystics
Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championship
CART: Cleveland Grand Prix
World Cup: Brazil-France
Sr. PGA: Players Championship
NASCAR Trucks: NAPA 200
Isuzu Celebrity Golf Championship

RATINGS NOTES: Fox's MLB coverage is averaging a 2.7/10, which is even with its ratings from the same period in '97....NBC's coverage of the WNBA is averaging a 1.7/5 through 5 games, down 32% from the same time last year, when the net was averaging a 2.5/8 through 4 games (THE DAILY).

          On the next episode of HBO's "Arli$$" (Sunday, 9:30pm
     ET), AMM client Amadou M'Bow is in love.  And the NBA center
     from Senegal plans to marry his beloved Miss Lisa Klein of
     Long Island.  When Arliss insists that Amadou sign a pre-
     nup, Lisa balks, wedding bells are put on hold and Amadou
     plans to hang up the high-tops.  Cameos: Kenny Anderson,
     Jerry Colangelo, Mia Hamm and John Randle (THE DAILY).
          SENIOR PROJECT: Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin, exec
     producers of "Arli$$," are currently in post-production on
     an "unusual sports movie" called "Varsity Blues," according
     to James Sterngold of the N.Y. TIMES, who writes that the
     film could indicate whether the MTV generation can "learn to
     take sports seriously as a moral guide?"  "Varsity Blues"
     stars Jon Voight as "an overbearing football coach" and
     "Dawson Creek" star James Van Der Beek as a second-string QB
     "suddenly thrust into the limelight."  The film is due in
     theatres this fall (N.Y. TIMES, 7/17).