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Time Warner to make splash with free sports Web site

Not content to let CBS and ESPN have all the on-line fun, Time Warner today launches a massive new World Wide Web site that combines the resources of its empire into a rather impressive, and free, area.

CNNSI.com, with contributions from CNN/SI, the company's new all-sports news channel, CNN, Sports Illustrated and Turner Sports, opens for business today, with more than 100,000 pages of content off the bat, and will be the sports site for CNN Interactive and the Pathfinder network.

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The new site pledges to offer a number of interesting features for browsers, including:

Access to current and archival editions of Sports Illustrated.

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Up-to-the-minute scores, news and stats.

A fantasy sports area, places for off-the-beaten track sports like, well, track, cricket, rugby, Formula One racing and the like, with options to select either domestic or foreign coverage.

Customized areas that permit users to grab scores of their favorite teams or personalize links to favorite pages.

In addition, the new site will have a local sports section for more than 150 cities and a women's sports section, with contributions from the new SI Women/Sport, and chat areas with athletes, writers, reporters and anchors.

The best news of all is that all of this information, not to mention the fantasy football, is free. While significant parts of ESPN's Sports- Zone and SportsLine, recently purchased by CBS, are free, some of the most interesting areas are available only to subscribers who pony up a monthly fee for "behind the scenes" access.

Of course, users will have to wade through ads to get to stuff on CNNSI.com, but that, in a certain sense, isn't much different than getting through a newspaper or magazine.

With the wide variety of content that will be up for grabs and without having to pay extra for it, CNNSI.com has the sound and probably the look of a winner.

Making the move

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The Baltimore Spirit indoor soccer team is expected to announce today that radio broadcasts of its games will move this coming season to WCBM (680 AM), sources said.

Spirit games had aired on WWLG (1360 AM) for the past four years, but its broadcasts should benefit from WCBM's stronger signal and a longer pre-game show.

Sheridan booted by CBS

CBS Sports president Sean McManus has shown Danny Sheridan, a point-spread "expert," the door from the network's college football telecasts this fall, and bluntly said so to a group of television critics in Los Angeles this week.

"In my opinion, his [Sheridan's] on-air performance was sub-par, his information spotty and the perception that he was an oddsmaker made him someone we at CBS didn't want any part of," McManus told the Television Critics Association press tour.

Other than that, what did you think of the play, Mr. McManus?

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McManus' predecessor, David Kenin, took some heat for hiring Sheridan, who isn't an oddsmaker by trade, but came close to playing one on TV, while writing extensively about point spreads and the like. Sheridan wasn't likely to get a lot of air time on the new CBS pre-game show anyway, what with Jim Nantz, Craig James and Lou Holtz manning the fort.

Bigger slice of pie

In one of the biggest "gets" in the escalating battle for new subscribers, CNN/SI has grabbed spots on cable systems in Milwaukee and Honolulu as well as in Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina.

In its biggest move, the new network has signed an affiliation agreement with SportsChannel Florida, which will air CNN/SI at any time of the day that it is not producing its own programming, which includes the Florida Marlins, the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, when they begin play next season.

The additions bring CNN/SI's total number of subscribers to more than 10 million, between cable and satellite homes, while ESPNEWS, their chief competitor, claims only 2.5 million subscribers. ESPN officials, however, contend that CNN/SI, which was launched last December, one month after ESPNEWS, has inflated their satellite subscriber totals.

There's no word on when either channel will be available locally, though both are listed as potential additions on a service survey sent out this month to Comcast subscribers.

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Milton Kent can be reached via E-mail at MDKENT2ol.com.

Pub Date: 7/17/97


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