Olympic pay-per-view flame dyingThis week, reports say...


Olympic pay-per-view flame dying

This week, reports say that ABC could be getting back into the Olympics business for the 1996 Summer Games.

What a fortuitous circumstance. The '96 Olympics will mark the 100th anniversary of the modern Games, and, as we all know, ABC practically invented the Olympics. Didn't the network carry the original Games in ancient Greece?

ABC reportedly might enter into a partnership with Turner Broadcasting to bid on the U.S. television rights to the Atlanta Olympics, which, despite NBC's $100 million loss on the 1992 Summer Games, could go for more than $500 million.

According to this plan, first reported by The Wall Street Journal (I read it for the comics myself), Olympics events could be aired on ABC and ESPN, which is mostly owned by ABC, and Turner's TNT and TBS.

What's the best part of this news? No, not that it would knock out colorized versions of "Casablanca" for a couple of weeks in the summer. The best part is that no one is talking about reviving that dreaded pay-per-view monster. And, for that, all of you out there should take a bow. (Oh, look out for the coffee cup. Too late. Hope it wasn't still hot.)

What the U.S. television audience did last summer was reject NBC's Olympics TripleCast like Shaquille O'Neal swatting away a layup attempt by Muggsy Bogues.

If the television networks learned anything from the Barcelona Games -- other than not to let John Tesh describe gymnastics again in our lifetime -- it was that pay-per-view is fine for big boxing events, but the public isn't ready to pay for wall-to-wall Olympics.

Under the four-pronged deal being bandied about ("Bandy, you're a fine girl/what a good wife you'd be . . ." -- whoa, Casey Kasem-Top 40 flashback, sorry), television viewers could get extensive coverage of the sort NBC wanted them to pay for last time around.

However, the Olympic bidding has far to go. ABC, which played Chance the gardener ("I like to watch") while others, principally CBS, kept adding zeros to sports rights fees in the late 1980s, hasn't telecast an Olympics since the 1988 Winter Games.

Dennis Swanson, president of ABC Sports, told The New York Times (I love their comics, too) this week: "There's no pressure to get an Olympics here. You have to make deals on what makes the most amount of sense. We would rather have our bottom-line circumstances than our competitors.' "

And Turner apparently isn't going steady with ABC at this point.

Terence McGuirk, Turner executive vice president, told USA Today (comics, shmomics, I read it just for Larry King's column): "I've talked with all three networks -- talked to anyone who might be involved in the 1996 Games."

Turner has had network sports partnerships before -- with ABC on the Pan American Games, with CBS on the Winter Olympics. This possible joint venture, with its potential for a broader view of the Olympics than we've ever had before, without any extra cost other than basic cable, sounds like one sports fans should be rooting for.

Just as long as we don't get shots of Ted and Jane smooching in the box seats.

Starry, starry night

TNT's coverage of the NBA All-Star weekend begins tonight at 10 with "All-Star Friday." The program will be anchored by Ernie Johnson Jr. and will include interviews with Shaquille O'Neal and commissioner David Stern.

Tomorrow at 7 p.m., TNT carries "All-Star Saturday," which includes the Gatorade Slam Dunk competition, the AT&T; Long Distance Shootout and the Schick Legends Game. Bob Neal, who has yet to get a sponsor attached to his name, will be host, joined by Hubie Brown, Doug Collins and Craig Sager.

NBC (channels 2, 4) telecasts the actual All-Star Game on Sunday at 6 p.m. Dick Enberg calls the play-by-play, assisted by Mike Fratello and Magic Johnson.

What Ned said

Normally, you want objectivity in the broadcast booth. But that went out of the window at the end of the Daytona 500 Sunday.

CBS analyst Ned Jarrett, urged on by producer Bob Stenner, rooted his son, Dale Jarrett, to victory.

"When he started [when Jarrett passed Dale Earnhardt heading into the last lap], I hit everybody's key and said, 'Lay out,' " the producer told The Associated Press. "Then I said, 'Ned, root your son home.' "

This made for some terrific television, mostly because it was unusual. But it's not something that we need to see a lot. Let's just hope nobody decides CBS has started a trend.

The score at halftime

With the All-Star break coming up, Washington Bullets announcer Jim Karvellas has had more than a half-season to settle into his new/old job on Channel 20 telecasts.

At first, Karvellas and analyst Phil Chenier didn't mix well. Karvellas stepped on Chenier's lines too much. But, in recent games, the two are meshing better. Karvellas apparently has adjusted to his partner, who doesn't speak at anything near the rapid-fire pace of the veteran play-by-play man.

Chenier still seems more comfortable with Mel Proctor on Home Team Sports games, but that's to be expected; they've worked together for eight years.

As for Karvellas, he's every bit the pro one would expect, but he's not entertaining enough to keep viewers tuned in when the Bullets get blown out early instead of waiting to stumble in the final moments.

Spanning the dial

CBS has added three analysts for NCAA basketball tournament coverage -- Clark Kellogg, Larry Farmer and Derrek Dickey. Farmer you might remember as head coach coach at UCLA. Dickey you might remember as a player on the Golden State Warriors' NBA championship team. Kellogg you might remember as a guy who makes you want to turn off the volume on ESPN games. . . . ESPN's Jimmy Roberts is traveling with heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe on his trip to Africa and Rome. Tonight on "SportsCenter," Roberts will report on Bowe's meeting with Nelson Mandela. . . . From the I'm Not Making This Up File: ESPN will carry 33 games this summer from the newly formed World Roller Hockey League, starting June 21.

Things my boss wants to know

At this weekend's Buick Invitational, will caddies try to dissuade players from using irons off the tee by saying, "Wouldn't you really rather drive at the Buick?" . . . At the Comcast U.S. Indoor tennis tournament, are players charged for basic serves? . . . Given his infield argument at the Daytona 500, will Kyle Petty's sponsor change the logo on his car to read "Not-So-Mello Yello"?

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