Turner is full-court with NBA coverage


The TV Repairman:

Back in the first year of the NBA (1947), the playoffs consisted of 19 games total, the Philadelphia Warriors taking the title against the Chicago Stags. All hail, Max Zaslofsky!

By late Sunday night, the combined forces of NBC, TNT and TBS will have telecast 21 games coast to coast and the seven-week extravaganza will hardly be off the launching pad.

On the wings of two doubleheaders last night, cable is back with four more games tonight, beginning at 7 on TBS and 8 on TNT, which begs the question, is this a smart move by Turner Broadcasting, programming against itself?

"We don't see it as competing against ourselves," TNT spokesman Kevin O'Malley said, "but as being able to provide good games that in the past we had to forgo. Two networks give us the ability to put everything on and let the viewers choose.

"We are just about at our saturation point as far as ad sales is concerned, so what we and the NBA are doing is providing the most complete package in TV sports and letting the viewer be his own producer with his clicker [remote control]."

"And look at it this way," added Turner's executive sports producer Don McGuire, "when a guy's making a switch, he'll probably stick with the NBA as opposed to checking out a baseball game or something else."

And it's not as though the league had to be talked into anything, NBA commissioner David Stern favoring coverage of all playoff games almost from the instant he took over.

TBS has the Knicks taking on the Nets beginning at 7 p.m. followed by the Rockets and Trail Blazers at 9:30. TNT will have the Cavaliers and Bulls at 8 p.m., then the Warriors and Suns at 10:30.

NBC has two games tomorrow (at 1 and 3:30 p.m.), then buzzes back with three Sunday (at 12:30, 3 and 5:30 p.m.) with lots of Bob Costas-generated studio talk in between.

While commentator Hubie Brown is calling the Eastern Conference showdown "a tossup" between the Knicks, Hawks and Bulls, colleague Doug Collins describes the West as "a great race with no matter what happens between several of the teams not falling into the category of being called big upsets." All aboard.

* While Channel 9 (CBS) sends along the men's NCAA swimming and division championships tomorrow (3 p.m.) as part of the network's basketball deal, Channel 11 is feeding us a Rue McClanahan movie. . . . Channel 13's answer is to duck ABC's coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday at 1 p.m. with "Court TV," "Siskel & Ebert" and a made for cable flick, "Criminal Justice." Boo!

* Home Teams Sports kicks off its Single-A "Monday Night Game of the Week" package next week with the Frederick Keys taking on the Kinston Indians at 9 p.m. When fiber optics are in place and we're dealing with 500 channels, chances are neighborhood Little League games will be in the mix.

* ESPN not only garnered the most sports Emmy nominations among the networks and cable outfits (22), but ran away with the most awards (10). And they laughed when the idea for an all-sports network was proposed in the early '80s. Not surprisingly, ESPN2 drew a blank.

Strange, isn't it, the year John Madden goes trundling off to analyze pro football games on Fox Network for $7 million per annum he is unseated by Billy Packer as the best sports commentator (all sports)?

* ESPN's regular-season NHL coverage took a hit this season, dropping 20 percent off an average rating that was nearly microscopic (0.9) last year. Meanwhile, out in Chicago, the Blackhawks had been on pay-per-view in the playoffs until being eliminated last night, which further proves that the game is strictly regional in appeal.

Of course, it doesn't help that ABC runs a five-week package (at no expense to itself) dropped into the spring out of nowhere with no advance publicity, etc.

* Don't you just love Barry Bonds' explanation for supplementing his $43 million baseball stipend with an acting career? "I want to see if I can entertain people outside of baseball," he said of his part in the recent made-for-TV movie "Broken Pledges."

* With ads on radio and television spilling over into game action mainly because the break time between half innings isn't enforced, a home run was picked up in progress during a telecast the other day.

* ESPN had a nice two-hour slot mapped out for a live shot of action from this weekend's Penn Relays in Philadelphia. Only problem was it was on the books for last weekend when lacrosse players were assaulting each other on Franklin Field. As a result, an hour highlight package will be shown Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

* Remember Shell's "Wonderful World of Golf" series with the late Channel 2 newscaster George Rogers as host, a television staple back in the '50s and '60s? It's back, Jack Nicklaus and Arnie Palmer whacking the ball around for old time's sake tomorrow at 1 p.m. on ABC.

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