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Not so funny: ESPN suspends Olbermann after comedy gig

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Just like your humble media watcher, ESPN's Keith Olbermann has been taking some time off recently, but unlike your humble media watcher, Olbermann's time off was not by choice.

Olbermann got his break courtesy of a two-week suspension from the network for putting his mug where it didn't belong, or at least putting it there without permission, according to sources.

It seems that Olbermann was a guest on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" on April 16, firing off witty retorts and rejoinders. When asked during the "Five Questions" segment where the most godforsaken place on the East Coast was, Olbermann, with a big grin, answered "Bristol, Conn.," which astute observers will recognize as the headquarters of ESPN.

However, Olbermann, who is co-host of the 11 p.m. "SportsCenter" with Dan Patrick, had not cleared the "Daily Show" appearance with ESPN executives. Interestingly, the suspension comes as Patrick's and Olbermann's book, "The Big Show," an ESPN-approved look at "SportsCenter," is just hitting bookstores.

Now, showing up on another cable network without a note from home isn't the worst of offenses, but one suspects that Olbermann's punishment was made a bit harsher because of his partner in the crime, "Daily Show" host Craig Kilborn.

In case you've forgotten, Kilborn is an ESPN refugee, having split from the network last year to take the Comedy Central gig. His departure came just as ESPN was unveiling more "This is SportsCenter" promo spots, and the network was forced to redo some of the ads with Kilborn in them, leaving a slightly bitter and expensive taste in its mouth.

In fact, Kilborn still appears in the background of that hilarious "We Are The World" spoof in which ESPN anchors implore NBA players not to travel.

At any rate, Kilborn reported Olbermann's suspension last week on the "Daily Show."

A clip of Olbermann's April appearance along with Kilborn's joking request that the audience keep it secret aired last week, along with Kilborn's quip that the time away would give the audience "a two-week break from Olbermann's tired act on 'SportsCenter.' "

Olbermann could not be reached to comment yesterday, and a network spokeswoman said Olbermann was off, but she did not elaborate.

Stay tuned.

The numbers game

Since "Media Watch" last left you, Arbitron, the folks who report radio ratings, has issued its numbers for the winter of 1997, and the results are interesting.

Arbitron did not break out its findings by individual hours, so precise ratings were not available. But a look at the time periods in which the city's nightly sports talkers, Greg Sher, Nestor Aparicio and Stan Charles, operated shows a pattern, with Sher drawing the biggest audience, followed by Charles and then Aparicio.

Among the largest demographic group, people 12 and older, Sher's station, WBAL (1090 AM), placed second in the 7 p.m.-to-midnight slot, which covers most of the 6 p.m.-to-10 p.m. period that Sher, who took over for Josh Lewin in January, occupied during the winter.

Meanwhile, Charles, who had the 10 p.m.-to-1 a.m. shift at WCBM (680 AM) during that time, was 10th in 7 p.m-to-midnight ratings period. Charles has since moved to WJFK (1300 AM).

Aparicio, whose show aired mostly from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., then xTC from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on WWLG (1360 AM), finished 33rd in the 3 p.m.-to-7 p.m. time slot.

What's in a name?

ESPN has announced that its World Wide Web site, reportedly the most popular, has changed names, effective immediately.

The site is now called "ESPN SportsZone," rather than "ESPNET SportsZone," and its Internet address has changed to "espn.sportszone.com." Web browsers can reach the site at "espn.com."

Pub Date: 5/06/97

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