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Time Warner left scrambling


So far, the sound is silence from Time Warner officials, as they figure out what to do about Don King's Nov. 4 gambit, taking Mike Tyson's fight with Buster Mathis Jr. to Fox, rather than pay-per-view.

All that emerged from TW headquarters yesterday was a terse, one-sentence statement from Seth Greenberg, chairman and CEO of the corporation's sports division, saying that the company "would respond at the appropriate time."

King and Greenberg have tussled for weeks about the Nov. 4 date, which Time Warner, through its TVKO pay-per-view wing, has planned for a Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield heavyweight bout.

King and Matt Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, Tyson's usual telecaster, maintained yesterday at an afternoon news conference that they could not change the date because the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas would not let them.

The PPV market probably could not have sustained two fights on the same night, so, King, after hearing a voice from "heaven" two weeks ago on a Concorde flight back from Europe, called Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch to ask about his interest.

The network, looking for Big Event programming for the November sweeps, jumped at the chance, reportedly paying about $10 million, which could be recouped with what should be good ratings.

"We are confident that this will be one of the biggest events in television in some time," said Chase Carey, chairman and CEO of Fox Television.

The price is decidedly low, considering that Tyson's fight with Peter McNeeley last month broke PPV records. But King, Tyson and Blank will take the momentary loss, figuring that interest from Nov. 4 will set up Tyson's next scheduled pay-per-view fight in March.

King, who pronounced himself a "spiritual man," said the fight was moved to television because he and Tyson "suffered great frustration" at the end of the McNeeley fight and wanted to say "thanks to the American people, the greatest people in the world."

Indeed, only in America.

Weekend roundup

How do you present college football without actually televising a game? CBS will answer that riddle with tomorrow's premiere of "College Football Today," a segment of "The CBS Sports Show" (Channel 13, 4 p.m.).

During the rest of the season, CBS will present updates, highlights and features on the college gridiron season, along with a parade of guest analysts, with this week's guest du jour, Miami coach Butch Davis, who'll chat with Pat O'Brien.

By the way, this is not a case of network altruism; CBS is setting the stage for its coverage of the Orange and Fiesta bowls next January and of Big East and Southeastern Conference games next fall. Meanwhile, ABC should have the game of the day tomorrow as Florida hosts Tennessee (Channel 2, 4:30 p.m.)

WBAL (1090 AM) will delay this week's Maryland-West Virginia game until the conclusion of the Orioles-Yankees contest, though the impatient among us can pick it up live on both WITH (1230 AM) and Washington's WASH (97.1 FM).

On the pro scene, Fox's Pam Oliver, who last weekend got Deion Sanders to reveal that he will need arthroscopic surgery on his ankle before he joins the Cowboys, will sit down with Emmitt Smith on the pre-game show (Channel 45, noon.) Joe Montana returns to the NBC studios for the pre-game effort at 12:30 p.m.

Hail and farewell

Today marks the end of a glorious 85-year run for The Evening Sun, a paper for which I was privileged to work for seven years before the writing staffs of the morning and evening Suns were merged in 1992. The Evening Sun was a place of great journalism and strong bonds of friendship among colleagues that will continue, even though the paper itself will no longer exist.

Starting Monday, "On the Air," along with the rest of The Sun, will get a face-lift and a new name, "Media Watch," to reflect an increased focus on the sports publishing realm, as well as broadcasting.

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