ABC, ESPN and Lifetime "reached a five-year contract
Thursday with the International Skating Union [ISU] to
televise major figure and speed skating events run by the
sports' governing body," according to Stephen Battaglio of
the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. ABC, ESPN, and Lifetime will carry
60 hours of original programming per year beginning next
fall. Included are "all ISU Olympic-eligible figure skating
events, such as the world championships and Grand Prix
competitions." The three nets, which will share 11 figure
skating, five speed skating and four short-track events,
will be able to "cross-promote events throughout the skating
season." Live, same-day turnaround and post-produced events
will all be featured (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 9/18). ESPN2 will
also carry some events (Milton Kent, Baltimore SUN, 9/18).
ESPN has added games to its MLB schedule surrounding
the HR and playoff races. The Reds-Cubs game Sunday will
air on ESPN at 2:00pm ET, with updates on the Cards-Brewers.
On Tuesday, ESPN will air either the Cubs-Brewers or Astros-
Cards, with updates from the other. Wednesday doubleheader
lineups on ESPN and ESPN2 have yet to be determined. Next
Friday, ESPN will show either Cubs-Astros or Expos-Cards at
8:00pm ET in a primetime special. On September 27, the
final day of the regular-season, ESPN2 will air either a
playoff-determining game or a Cubs or Cards game (ESPN).
FIRST RATE: WGN-TV earned a 15.3/31 in Chicago for
Monday's game in which Sammy Sosa hit his 61st and 62nd HRs
of the season (THE DAILY). Fox Sports Ohio's Indians-Twins
game on Wednesday, in which the Indians clinched the AL
Central title, was the second-highest-rated Indians game of
the season, earning a 13 rating (Fox Sports Ohio).
Sunday marks the 100th NFL game at Fox for the net's
No. 1 broadcast team of Pat Summerall and John Madden, but
USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke reports the pair will announce the
Lions-Vikings game, which will be seen by only 15% of the
U.S. That is Fox's No. 3 game, behind Packers-Bengals
(going to 44% of the U.S.) and Redskins-Seahawks (24%).
Summerall: "I guess I ought to be mad. If our milestone
game is seen by only 15% of the country, this isn't much of
a milestone." Madden: "If we're not on the 49ers-Packers
game [November 1], then that'll be a story." Martzke notes
this is the second time in three weeks that the pair hasn't
had the top audience, but next week, the two are set to do
the Packers-Panthers, going to 73%. Fox Exec Producer Ed
Goren dismissed the "conspiracy" theory, adding, "This is
the most ridiculous thing I've heard outside of Washington
in the last five years" (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 9/18).
DC's WRC-NBC made "its own Redskins quarterback switch
this week, dropping Gus Frerotte" in favor of new starter
Trent Green in the day-after-game slot on the Tuesday 6:00pm
news, according to Leonard Shapiro of the WASHINGTON POST.
Though Frerotte is under contract with WRC for the season to
appear with station Sports Dir George Michael and former
'Skins QB Sonny Jurgensen, Shapiro reports that WRC "does
have the option of inserting another guest in his place" if
he is not the starter. While the station pays Frerotte for
his weekly appearances, if Green keeps the starting job,
Michael said, "I would certainly expect we are not required
to pay (Frerotte). It's something we'll be talking about."
Michael wouldn't say what Frerotte was being paid, only that
it "was much less than the $50,000-a-season figure reported
last year." Green appeared on the show Tuesday for free,
but if he remains as the starter, Michael said he "would try
to work out a financial arrangement with him to guarantee
his appearance" (Leonard Shapiro, WASHINGTON POST, 9/18).
NO RATINGS: Final network ratings for last weekend's
sports events were not available at press time (THE DAILY).
NAMES: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes that "there's
still movement within Turner Sports to hire Marv Albert as
an NBA play-by-play man" (N.Y. POST, 9/18)....PGA Tour
golfer Tom Lehman and his wife, Melissa, are in the British
Virgin Islands this week "being photographed" for SI's
swimsuit issue. SI won't show Lehman "bare-chested," as he
"insisted on wearing a loose-fitted shirt" (Charley Walters,
ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/18)....On the 25th anniversary of
the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs tennis match, Destiny
Productions' David Krieff "says he's arranged" for a Jimmy
Connors-Steffi Graf match on December 12, which will air
live on USA Network (Rudy Martzke, USA TODAY, 9/18).
NFL: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes on ESPN's
branding and ABC/ESPN's NFL cross-promos. Wolfley: "This
branding idea was a bad one. It's kind of creepy, really.
It takes away the independent personalities of these shows
and forces them into lockstep. ... Cross-promotion, branding
obsession, has not made ESPN's and ABC's pro football shows
any better. In fact, there's evidence to suggest they have
been made worse. Or at least, they feel worse" (MILWAUKEE
JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/18)....In S.F., Susan Slusser calls
ABC's "Monday Night Blast" a "lame attempt to jump into the
frenzied pregame fray." Slusser: "'MNF' has adopted Fox
tactics. Loudness. Tackiness. Football for short
attention spans. Hey, that works for Fox. On ABC, it's
just dumb and annoying" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/18).
Rupert Murdoch "is poised to team with" Telecom Italia,
a private telecommunications group, to bid $2.2B for a six-
year pay-TV contract for Italian soccer, according to Paul
Betts of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Although Telecom "is ready to
sign the agreement," Betts writes that the deal "hinges on
negotiations with RAI, the Italian state broadcasting
network." Telecom and RAI were in talks last night "to try
to agree to a partnership to launch a pay-television
platform" to compete against Italian pay-TV network Telepiu,
which is controlled by France's Canal Plus. The proposal
includes the "creation of a joint holdings company" between
Telecom and RAI, "which in turn would control a series of
pay-TV networks." Murdoch "would then invest in the planned
soccer network" and bid for the rights (FIN. TIMES, 9/18).