Hey, Baltimore, you're going to the dogs . . . and the current budgetary problems and economic woes have nothing to do with it.
Come next April 7, the Baltimore Arena will host the American Kennel Club National Invitational Championship, a unique event that is being packaged and sold privately and will be shown on CBS three weeks later.
Among the groundbreaking characteristics of the show, being put together by Trans World International, the television arm of International Management Group, are that the event will be the first dog show ever shown on network TV, prize money is involved and participation is by invitation only with special judging involved.
IMG spokesman Barry Frank said, "We believe the time has arrived for a national dog championship since there are championship competitions involved in every other sporting endeavor, why not for dogs?" Indeed.
IMG is buying the time from CBS and figures it will spend in excess of $400,000 producing the show. The AKC will run the competition, its chairman of the board, Lou Auslander, saying six heats will be staged in seven categories. At least 350 dogs are expected to show here. "The prize money," he added, "will help defray expenses. I don't see prize money becoming a part of other shows."
About now and considering the sorry state of the sports advertising market at present, you might be asking why?
Sean McManus, an event coordinator and producer at TWI, said, "We're the ones taking the risk, not CBS. But the fact is the Westminster Dog Show has been getting good ratings on cable [ESPN and USA] for years, and the demographics of the targeted viewing audience are strong."
The kennel club, which has hosted just two previous shows in its 108-year history, registers more than 1.2 million dogs each year and, annually, 2 million dogs are entered in shows.