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Stallions' Speros optimistic about CFL-ESPN contract


Baltimore Stallions owner Jim Speros said he believes the CFL will "move forward" with and eventually ratify a new contract with ESPN, which would include telecasts on ESPN2.

Speros, a member of the league's television and marketing committee, said he expects that the league's board of governors, which meets in Toronto on July 31, will approve a contract with the network.

"All the owners will get a chance to look at the contract at the end of the month. I think we need ESPN, and I'm one guy who's looking to continue with them," said Speros.

ESPN has carried CFL games for the past two seasons, and reportedly offered the league a three-year deal worth $1.5 million for 22 telecasts per season, with the bulk of those games to be aired on its companion network, ESPN2.

However, in a story in the Toronto Globe and Mail earlier this week, Shreveport owner Bernie Glieberman expressed concern that the CFL's credibility could be damaged if its games aired on ESPN2, which caters to a younger audience.

Speros said Glieberman's comments were "self-serving to himself and his marketing position," and indicated that other league owners seem to be happy with the way the league has been presented by ESPN and ESPN2.

"Sure, we'd like to have more games on ESPN1 and we'd like to get more money, but ESPN has done a tremendous job with our league," said Speros. "They have spent over $1 million on production and their graphics have been excellent. It would be a mistake if our league didn't have ESPN involved with us."

Speros also discounted notions that Baltimore co-owner and alternate governor Michael Gelfand, who was described in the Toronto story as being sympathetic to Glieberman's remarks, was not on board with ESPN, saying that he and Gelfand were "on the same page."

Speros said any potential deal with ESPN would give the league an ability to seek an over-the-air American carrier. The key to such a deal, he believes, is for the CFL to find American sponsors.

"This year is critical for us," said Speros. "What we need is for advertisers to see our product and see how marketable it is."

All-Star reckoning

The ratings are in from Tuesday night's All-Star Game, and they indicate that baseball's return to the nation's favor may be more difficult than imagined, if that's possible.

The game, on ABC, drew a 14.6 rating and 24 share of the audience in the national Nielsen overnight ratings in a survey of the nation's 33 largest markets, including Baltimore.

However, Nielsen later yesterday released a rating of 13.9/25, which would make Tuesday's game the least watched All-Star Game in prime time.

That figure, which may change when the composite from all of the nation's markets are released later today, is down more than a full rating point from last year's game, which drew a 15.7/28 for NBC. It continues a trend of decreasing All-Star ratings, from a recent high of 20.5/36 for the 1988 game, also telecast on ABC.

Since each national rating point equals approximately 954,000 homes, the lower '95 number means that 1 million fewer American households watched this year's All-Star Game than last.

ABC probably took an especially painful hit, since it wiped out its Tuesday night lineup, the strongest evening of all in prime-time network programming.

This year's ratings were lower than 1994 in 23 of the 32 markets, including Baltimore, which got a 19.3/30, one of the higher figures in the pack, but still five rating points lower than last year and a whopping 17 points off from 1993, when the game was played here.

In an ominous note, the two lowest overnight figures came from Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. (7.7) and Phoenix (8.0), the two cities that will field the next expansion franchises in 1998.

League-leading Orioles

The standings say otherwise, but the Orioles are leading in a semi-important statistic: ratings.

Ratings for their May games on Channel 13 were tied with Cleveland's for tops among the 26 U.S. teams. Both teams averaged an 11 rating, just edging out Seattle, Colorado, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Atlanta, which all averaged 10 ratings.

Games on Channel 54 ranked eighth with an average 9 rating. The Yankees and Mets tied for last with a 3 rating. Guess those New Yorkers are smarter than we give them credit for.

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