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Volume 24 No. 157

Sports Media

          The Trail Blazers are "ready to pull the plug" on its
     BlazerVision PPV system, but "still won't say where the
     telecasts might turn up next season," according to John Hunt
     of the Portland OREGONIAN.  The team could "retain
     BlazerVision but reduce prices further, work out a deal with
     an existing cable company such as Fox Sports Net Northwest
     (FSNNW), or start its own cable network."  Hunt wrote that
     the Blazers "would be wise" to drop BlazerVision because the
     service "has gained a stigma among many fans who resent
     having to pay to watch their own team."  The option of
     striking a deal with FSNNW is "still on ice."  Meanwhile,
     Hunt called the task of starting its own cable net an
     "ambitious" choice, as the team would "have a hard time
     matching the distribution" of FSNNW, which reaches 98% of
     cable homes in the Northwest (OREGONIAN, 5/7).  
          BARGAIN VIEWING? In Houston, David Barron wrote that
     the Rockets "continue to be one of just three NBA teams,"
     along with the Blazers and the Spurs, which offer local
     playoff games on PPV, but the Rockets' $19.95 cost is the
     lowest of the three (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/9).     

          NBC Sports announcer Bob Costas was a guest on "Larry
     King Live" Saturday, and told King that as far as cable
     outlets go, HBO "is a place where I think every broadcaster
     or performer would like to be, because they do stuff of just
     incredibly high quality."  On HBO's "Real Sports" program:
     "I think everyone with journalistic bent in sports would
     love to be a part of that program."  King asked Costas his
     thoughts on the state of sports broadcasting today and if
     anchors tried to be too funny.  Costas: "Sports doesn't have
     to be somber. ... I used to be referred to ... as
     'irreverent.'  I think the reason for that was that I was
     willing, occasionally, to jab at the prevailing tone, to
     counterpunch.  Well, how do you counterpunch if the whole
     tone is one of frat house frivolity?"  Costas: "When I watch
     ESPN or CNN, I see a lot of talented and likable men and
     women on the air.  But you can overplay any hand."  On the
     injections of humor: "I just wish that it was the spice
     instead of the main course. ... What I do think is done too
     much is these 30 or 45 second lead-ins to the Cavalier-Pacer
     highlights, which is just an excuse for a guy to do his
     sixth rate stand-up act, even though he's sitting down."  On
     Fox: "I don't even understand 'same game, Fox attitude.'  Am
     I supposed to think I didn't like baseball until the Fox
     attitude came on?  I don't get it" ("Larry King Live," 5/8). 

          For complete overnight ratings of the opening weekend
     of the NBA playoffs on NBC, see (#29).  MEDIAWEEK's John
     Consoli reports that heading into the first round, NBC was
     about 85% sold out of its playoff ad inventory, which
     accounts for about 80% of the network's annual NBA ad
     revenue.  Turner Sports has sold about 90% of its NBA post-
     season inventory.  NBA is "slightly behind" last year's
     sales effort, while Turner is "at about the same level as
     last year."  NBC's playoff inventory "is said to be
     generating" 10% increases over last year (MEDIAWEEK, 5/10).
     wrote that a Pacers-Jazz NBA Final would be "a prime-time
     nightmare" for NBC, as the two "small-market, veteran teams"
     would "seem to point to fewer viewers."  However, NBC
     "contends that it is not playing favorites."  NBC Sports
     Chair Dick Ebersol: "I'm a big believer that for the finals
     to work, you have to have stories.  With Reggie Miller and
     Larry Bird, you have ready-made stars."  NBC Sports
     VP/Information Ed Markey: "The two most important factors  
     -- in order -- are story line and length of series.  Market
     size is gravy" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/9).  In Atlanta, Prentis
     Rogers wrote that NBC and Turner "finally can loosen their
     ties" because, "despite the lockout, the shortened season"
     and the "underachieving" Lakers, the NBA's TV partners "have
     arrived at the postseason with their core viewership
     intact."  But "both know the postseason is where success or
     failure ultimately will lie" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/8).
     Michael Hiestand writes that NBC "deserves credit for
     avoiding too much hype" during its telecasts of this past
     weekend's first round NBA playoff games.  Hiestand: "NBC
     could have gone overboard in frantically trying to hook
     viewers.  Instead, it was credible" (USA TODAY, 5/10).    

          NEWSDAY's Harry Berkowitz examined the "soaring" value
     of cable networks and wrote that Cablevision "is one of a
     number of major players reaping the rewards of the booming
     cable network business" with a total worth currently
     estimated at $3B.  The "most valuable cable network" is
     ESPN, with its total worth estimated at $9B (NEWSDAY, 5/9).
     ...In DC, Ken Denlinger profiled John Thompson and his role
     as host of a weekly talk radio show on WTEM-AM.  Thompson,
     who "has shown his witty and relaxed side" as host, has
     delivered "twice the audience" of men 25-54 that tuned in
     during the fall and the Arbitron rating for men 18-34 "is
     even better" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/8)....In N.Y., Keith Kelly
     wrote that SI "retracted" its original statement last week
     that its book on the coaching techniques of former UNC
     basketball coach Dean Smith was written by Smith with David
     Chadwick.  The book was instead written "solely by
     Chadwick."  SI Publicity Manager Robin Shallow: "It was
     human error.  It certainly wasn't intentional" (N.Y. POST,
     5/9)....CBS SportsLine presents a week-long special starting
     today examining the "advancement and inequities provided for
     African-Americans in sports" (CBS SportsLine, 5/9)....FSN's
     Keith Olbermann, previewing upcoming highlights during a
     lead-in to a commercial break last night: "We promise we
     will not try to sell you a magazine" (FSN, 5/9).

          ABC Sports announced its plans to air "just four days
     of NHL coverage next season -- the minimum required under
     its agreement with the league."  The "NHL on Fox" had 11
     broadcasts this past season.  NHL Exec VP Steve Solomon said
     the league understood the network's decision: "Frankly, it's
     been very, very difficult for regular season games to
     demonstrate their importance on over-the-air network
     television, week in and week out" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 5/8).  In
     St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote that ABC's decision means
     Disney spent $600M "to beef up hockey on ESPN and ESPN2." 
     Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson: "Disney did
     this deal for ESPN and mostly ESPN2.  Not for the good of
     the NHL."  Jones: "Good news for the league: more money for
     its TV deal.  Bad news: less exposure.  And the bad news is
     worse than the good news is good" (ST. PETE TIMES, 5/9).    

          CNBC Sports and Atlanta-based Beverly Hills Ltd. have
     launched the Internet golf portal,  The site
     will feature golf apparel, merchandising, tee time
     reservations, travel and hospitality, publishing, golf
     information and other product links. will be
     an independent company initially owned by the two companies
     and operated by the management of Beverly Hills Ltd.  CNBC
     will provide promotion for the site, while Beverly Hills
     Ltd. will provide content and related services that may be
     purchased on the site (Beverly Hills Ltd.)