Baseball's low pitch doesn't change IOC's strike zone for Atlanta Games SPORTS ON TV


Obviously unmoved by the huge cut in salary baseball is taking from the networks, the folks negotiating the rights fee for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 are talking about a windfall approaching $500 million.

While the nets talk about submitting bare-bones bids come next week and the bartering, the IOC knows full well there are ways for TV to lay off the costs and make a few bucks.

For example, there's talk of front-runner ABC and its subsidiary ESPN taking in the Turner stations TNT and TBS and the Games being shown on all four.

Naturally, the question is, is there enough to go around? And as anyone who followed the TripleCast of 1992 knows, the interest of round-the-clock competition just wasn't there.

Similar to baseball, which is supposedly enhancing its product by adding a round of playoff games, the IOC seems receptive to adding another day to the package, pushing the Opening Ceremonies up to Friday night, so that the first Saturday is a full competition day.

After losing $500 million on baseball during the past four years and with the Winter Olympics six months ahead at a cost of $300 million, it's not likely CBS will come loaded for bear.

NBC spent $401 million for the 1992 Summer Olympics and did quite well, but lost heavily in the TripleCast experiment. It already has announced ads for next year's Super Bowl will be going for $900,000 per 30 seconds and, currently, prime-time sales are down 5 percent. It also just signed on with the NBA as well as a half-share with baseball.

No, it looks like ABC, long called "The Network of the Olympics" by itself, is the heavy favorite for 1996. And as far as most viewers are concerned, this is OK because it does such a masterful job and ESPN will probably be able to match it as the co-pilot.

Revenue-sharing, the deal ABC and NBC have with baseball, NBC has with the NBA to a certain extent and ABC has with college football, isn't expected to be part of the negotiations beginning Tuesday. Especially since every dime Atlanta gets, which amounts to 60 percent of the rights fee, is committed to construction of facilities.

* One peek at the U.S. Women's Open on ESPN yesterday told you that they "easied up" the Crooked Stick Golf Club for the gals, as opposed to the situation for them at Oakmont last year. Despite cutting about 1,000 yards in length, however, they can get about four strokes with nasty pin placements, which should happen tomorrow.

Four more hours today on the cable (12-2 and 4-6) will be followed by ABC telecasts tomorrow and Sunday beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Before the women, ABC will be transmitting from the other side of the pond again, sending along the Senior British Open at 2 p.m. both days from Royal Lytham and St. Annes-on-the-sea Golf Club. Doesn't quite have the ring of Crooked Stick in Indiana does it?

* At long last one of the networks is getting around to noticing the Tour de France, CBS moving in Sunday (4:30 p.m.) for tape-delay coverage of the conclusion. Bad show, fellas.

* It has been a while since we heard from our old buddy Mets' announcer Ralph Kiner, but maybe the wait was worth it. Ralphy explained recently that "Jackie Robinson actually wasn't the first black player in the major leagues, because he'd been preceded by two men who played in the 18th century."

* Well, pro football has to start somewhere . . . but with a lousy scrimmage between the Redskins and Steelers on Channel 7 tomorrow at 1 p.m.?

* Penn State, often accused in its days as an independent of playing a relatively soft schedule, has a date with Southern Cal on ABC Sept. 11 to go with its first year in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions' first road game against Minnesota also will be on ABC regionally.

* Unfortunately, ESPN is seeing fit to schedule 90 minutes of gab beginning at 7:30 p.m. before "Monday Night Football" on ABC this fall. Like, we don't get enough of Chris Berman, Joe Theismann et al talking grid, right? And, oh yes, "Downtown" Julie Brown will be aboard contributing "in-depth interviews" with players. Wiped out by this decision is a classy hour-long show NFL Films used to provide.

* The Bullets, with a flagship station (WTEM) that can't be heard north of the Washington Beltway unless the wind is right, is hoping to pick up a Baltimore audience via a 10-K FM station in Annapolis. Hey, Susan O'Malley (club president), why not use fax machines?

* It would be nice if the folks in TV used some common sense now and then when it comes to what they show, and show, and show. It hardly seemed necessary for shots of Mike Greenwell of the Red Sox taking a Randy Johnson heater in the head to be included on so many "highlight" shows.

* With nine holes to play in last Sunday's British Open, Greg Norman was at 10-under-par when Bernhard Langer dropped a 10-foot putt to remain 9-under. "And he's by no means out of it," quoth usually rock solid commentator Peter Alliss.

* They're obviously taking no chances with heavyweight Alex Stewart. Beaten by journeyman Mike Dixon the last time out, the "highly promising" Stewart has cruiserweight James Warring to beat on in USA's "Tuesday Night Fights".

* TNT is doing 10 hours of the U.S. Olympic Festival out of San Antonio beginning tomorrow (4 p.m.). As is the custom, basketball, figure skating, gymnastics and boxing will get most of the play.

* "Good Morning America -- Sunday" has Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King talking about fund-raising for AIDS and recent developments in the gay-rights movement this week (8-9 a.m.).

* The cut in basic cable fees, which could amount to as much as 10 percent, will go into effect Sept. 1. Which should help mightily with college tuitions.

* Home Team Sports, still popping its buttons over its four-Emmy haul at the Capital Region Emmy Awards Show, will have the semifinals of the Newsweek Tennis Classic at 1 and 7 p.m. tomorrow, then the final Sunday at 2 p.m.

* Good move by USA Network, hiring James Brown to host its 90 hours of mid-week coverage of the U.S. Open tennis. . . . NBC has its Christmas Day schedule already figured out: two NBA games around an NFL game. NBC sports president Dick Ebersol, not averse to uttering inanities, calls it "Dad's biggest present of all -- for nine hours." Not to mention possible divorce papers.

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