Orioles TV rights may be channeled solely...


Orioles TV rights may be channeled solely to Home Team 0) Sports

Word is that an Orioles television deal is close, with a different twist than earlier indications.

Before, it seemed that Home Team Sports and Channel 13 (both owned by Westinghouse) and Channel 54 would combine to purchase the Orioles rights and divvy up the games among themselves. Now, broadcasting people are saying that HTS will be the rights holder, producing all of the games, maybe selling all of the advertising and buying time on channels 13 and 54 (though perhaps buying would be handled differently with 13).

How much would HTS pay for exclusive Orioles rights? Let's take a guess. Various sources have placed the current yearly fees at about $5.5 million for Channel 2 and $3.4 million for HTS. Combine the two, add another million and let's round it off to $10 million.

(Hey, Mr. Angelos, 17 years at that rate, and you've got your money back.)

Another question is, if HTS would be producing all Orioles telecasts next year, would viewers see just one announcing team, HTS' Mel Proctor, John Lowenstein and Jim Palmer? Where would this leave Brooks Robinson? And how about Jon Miller, whose contract with the Orioles expires after this season?

Even if a new deal were announced today, the matter of announcers might not be resolved immediately.

Regardless of who's announcing, one definite plus would be HTS' production, which provides viewers with as fine a look at baseball as any of the networks provides.

Doin' the announcer shuffle

Once upon a time, a critic wrote, "I have seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen."

Keep in mind, this was before Bruce sported those nifty earrings he wears now.

The Bullets and Channel 20, it seems, have seen the future of NBA telecasts, and its name is Charlie Slowes.

(Warning: Do not expect any more references to Bruce Springsteen. He was merely a device to launch into this item. In distance running, you have the rabbit, who sets a fast pace and then drops out of the race. In bad sportswriting, you have the straw-man lead, which starts the story and then is never heard from again.)

Channel 20's Bullets games will feature the play-by-play of Slowes, the Bullets' radio voice, simulcast on television and over the team's flagship, Washington's WTEM (570 AM), whose gerbil-powered signalmakes it more of a dinghy than a real flagship.

Bennett Zier, WTEM general manager, was quoted in a news release as saying: "I have seen the future of rock and roll, and . . ." Whoa, sorry. I just love that quote so much.

No, what Zier said was: "The simulcast is paving the way for the future of radio broadcasting."

Is this back to the future? Proctor, Orioles and Bullets play-by-play man for HTS, recalled suggesting a similar arrangement several years ago, when he was the Bullets' radio voice. Proctor said the team told him that such a deal wouldn't be fair to either the radio or television audience.

But if you had a station with WTEM's reach -- at night, it measures approximately three Montgomery County housing developments and several blocks of Washington, unless Chelsea Clinton is having a sleep-over and playing her Arrested Development tapes a little loud -- you might look to television for a boost, too.

This isn't unprecedented, nor is it necessarily a bad deal for viewers. A few other NBA teams -- including the Los Angeles Lakers with the venerable Chick Hearn -- simulcast their games. And Slowes is a sharp play-by-play man in the Marv Albert mold (though Slowes should have washed most of that mold off by now), and one would expect his skills would translate well to television.

Slowes is replacing Jim Karvellas on Channel 20's games, but WDCA isn't saying it was unhappy with Karvellas' work. Though Karvellas tended to dominate the telecasts, especially early in the season, he was working better with partner Phil Chenier as time went on.

"We just wanted to try something different," Channel 20 executive producer Marty Corwin said Wednesday.

That the something different is likely to cost Channel 20 less than using Karvellas might have a bit to do with the move, though WDCA isn't saying so.

Slowes is supposed to get a partner, but he won't be Chenier. Chenier, a former Bullets guard, will stay with Proctor on HTS telecasts. Last season, Chenier also worked with Karvellas on Channel 20.

But the way it is these days, if you're on HTS, you're not on Channel 20.

This started last year with Washington Capitals games and our old friend, Jeff "Let's Hear What Others Have to Say" Rimer. HTS bounced Rimer, whose regular gig is as a sports talker for WBAL Radio, from its Caps games and replaced him with Kenny Albert, also cut from that Marv Albert mold, though he can't help it, because Marv is his dad.

Next thing you know, Proctor is off Channel 20's Bullets telecasts, replaced by Karvellas.

HTS and WDCA talked about wanting their own identities, like this was some bad movie of the week about a homemaker who goes out and gets a job.

Now, the split extends to analysts. Not only will Chenier be heard exclusively on HTS, but Craig Laughlin, the former Capital with the Hanna-Barbera cartoon voice, also will work Caps games only on HTS. Rimer will be joined on Channel 20 by former Skipjacks goalie Shawn Simpson, who has done some well-received radio work.

So HTS has its identity, and Channel 20 has its identity. Meanwhile, fans have an identity crisis. For continuity's sake, for familiarity's sake -- for Pete's sake -- it's better to have a single set of announcers telecasting a team's games.

It would help if the Orioles didn't have different crews on Channel 2 and HTS. It was better when HTS and Channel 20 used the same announcers for the Bullets and Capitals.

"It's much more difficult to keep abreast of what's going on with the team," Proctor said. "Unfortunately, [different announcing teams] seem to be the trend."

Shift at the top

NBC Sports has a new executive producer, Tom Roy, a producer with the network for seven years. Roy replaces Terry O'Neil, who's leaving to join a group trying to buy a sports franchise, rumored to be either the Dolphins or Patriots, according to The Associated Press. Terry, do Baltimore a favor: Buy the Patriots and move them to Charlotte. . . . ESPN2, which debuts Oct. 1, has announced an outline of its schedule. On weekdays, look for replays of ESPN college football and NASCAR races during the afternoon, exercise shows at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. and game shows at 4 p.m.

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