Turner might hit ratings exacta with Magic-Michael showdown


Think the kids at Turner didn't catch lightning in a bottle with the return of Magic Johnson to the NBA and to the Los Angeles Lakers?

Think again. Tuesday night's Lakers-Golden State Warriors clash drew a 4.4 cable rating, making it not only the highest-rated regular-season NBA game of the season on TNT, but also the highest-rated late-night regular-season game ever on Turner cable in the 12 years it has been broadcasting the sport.

The Lakers game was seen in 2.9 million homes, eclipsing the audience for its lead-in, the Chicago-Houston contest, which was seen in 2.85 million homes.

And things can only get better for Turner, which has tomorrow night's Lakers-Bulls game, with the out-of-this-world matchup of Johnson and Michael Jordan.

Tomorrow's game, which starts at 10:30, should easily eclipse the all-time regular-season ratings champ, last March's Chicago-New York game, which got a 5.1 rating. That's the contest in which Jordan rang up the Knicks for 55 points in his fifth game back from retirement.

Were it not for the lateness of the hour of the telecast, there might be a chance that tomorrow's Magic-Michael clash could approach the 8.8 rating of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, the game in which Boston's Larry Bird stole that inbounds pass from Detroit's Isiah Thomas.

Orioles on the tube

The 1996 Orioles television schedule is out, and every one of the team's 162 games could appear on one outlet or another, whether it's Channel 13, 45, 54, Home Team Sports or ESPN.

The season opener against Kansas City on April 1 will be televised on Channel 13, the first of its 35-game package. Channel 54's 35-game deal begins with the April 18 Boston game. HTS will carry 81 regular-season games live, starting with the April 3 game with the Royals. In addition, ESPN will feature the June 16 game at Kansas City, and the July 7 home matchup with Boston.

The wild card in the schedule is Fox (Channel 45), which may select Saturday Orioles games, starting in June, for regional telecasts. An 11-game package of exhibition games will be televised, with two on Channel 13, beginning with the game against Florida on March 2, and nine on HTS, with the first on March 11, against Minnesota.

Mel Proctor, Mike Flanagan and Jim Palmer will do telecasts for channels 13, 54, and HTS.

Back to the links

USA Network kicks off its 1996 golf schedule today and tomorrow with coverage of the first two rounds of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at 4 p.m. each day.

In a related development, the network announced that Bill Macatee, 40, its host for USA's golf coverage and play-by-play man for its U.S and French Open tennis packages, has signed a contract extension to stay with USA through 1997.

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