Michael Jordan's retirement from the NBA "will have
sizable ramifications for the league, NBC and cable partner
Turner," according to USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke. The timing
of Jordan's retirement "could not have come at a more
inopportune time," as league officials "hoped" Jordan's
participation "could soften fans' bitterness" over the six-
month NBA lockout. Nielsen ratings for Bulls games have
rated 71% higher than other NBA telecasts. Media buyer Paul
Schulman: "The NBA's ratings will be down 10%, a huge hit.
They've not only lost Jordan but (also) the Chicago Bulls as
their biggest draws." Grey Advertising's Jon Mandel: "The
worst job in the business now is (NBC Sports President of
Sales) Keith Turner's. How do you sell a 3 rating for
$100,000 (a commercial)?" But Martzke writes that NBA
ratings on NBC "don't figure to dip as low" as 3.0 after
last year's 4.8 (USA TODAY, 1/13). NBC Sports Chair Dick
Ebersol said he will be "surprised" if the Bulls are on NBC
more than 5 or six times, "none of them nationally" (N.Y.
TIMES, 1/13). Ebersol: "While no single player can replace
the transcendent athlete of this decade, it will be exciting
to see what players and what 'super teams' step into the
stoplight for the fans to embrace" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/13).
DAILY VARIETY's John Dempsey writes that NBC and Turner
"could suffer dramatic erosion in viewership." A source
said "the only way" the two networks could "approximate"
last year's ratings is if free agents Scottie Pippen and
Dennis Rodman re-sign with the Bulls (VARIETY, 1/13).
MONEY MAN: In Toronto, Bulls games on TSN were "double
the average" of other NBA games, and Game 6 of last season's
NBA Eastern Conference Finals gave CTV a "record" 1 million
viewers. CTV Sports VP Scott Moore, on Jordan: "He's helped
make us a lot of money over the years" (TORONTO STAR, 1/13).
ESPN unveiled plans for its "SportsCentury" program
yesterday in N.Y., including its list of the 51-100 greatest
North American athletes of the past century. The top 50
will be counted down through weekly "SportsCentury"
programs, airing on Fridays, beginning January 22 at 8:00pm
ET, with a special hour-long culmination episode on the top
two athletes airing on ABC December 26 (ESPN). USA TODAY's
Michael Hiestand calls it ESPN's "biggest project ever."
The program will consist of 60 hours of footage and draw on
about 1,000 interviews, 150,000 photos, "and rarely seen old
footage." Hiestand adds that ESPN will "send its own
announcers into the past" as some "SportsCenter" anchors
will "temporarily" alter their on-air look to "suggest" how
"SportsCenter" might have looked (USA TODAY, 1/13).
In N.Y., WWOR-XX's Russ Salzberg was "forced" to cut
short an interview with Mike Tyson when Tyson "launched into
a series of X-rated answers that had to be bleeped out."
When asked why he insisted on swearing, Tyson told Salzberg,
"I'm talking to you the way I want to talk to you." Tyson
then cursed Salzberg for ending the interview (N.Y. POST,
1/13)....In Toronto, Josh Rubin writes that NBA.com "will be
coming under increased scrutiny" as a bridge to bring fans
back after the lockout. The site plans to offer more stat
categories and an expanded history section. NBA.com Dir
Stefanie Scheer says there are no plans to make online radio
coverage of NBA games available for free. But there are
plans to make a free game accessible every night, while last
year there were three free games a week (TOR. STAR, 1/13).
...Sport Magazine said it has increased its rate base 33% to
1 million for the first quarter of '99. New advertisers in
the title are Absolut, Gillete, And 1, Reebok, Coca-Cola,
Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix (Sport).
In England, the Office of Fair Trading Dir General John
Bridgeman is "insisting" that Premier League soccer teams
negotiate TV deals individually rather than collectively as
a league, according to John Mason of the FINANCIAL TIMES.
The Premiere League, along with the BBC and Sky TV, are
opposing any changes to the regulations and has taken the
issue before the Restrictive Practices Court. The league,
whose teams receive US$1.2B from the BBC and Sky for TV
rights, argue that the rule would "damage the commercial
prospects of all but the top football clubs" and would put
broadcasting companies in "an unacceptably powerful
position." The OFT believes the rule would "give more
broadcasters" the right to "buy soccer rights and increase
consumer choice" with more soccer on TV. The hearing is
expected to last about three months (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/13)