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L.A. Sports Anchors Have Had a Tough Time Staying Afloat

June 20, 1986|LARRY STEWART

The revolving door: Channel 5 weekend sports anchor Steve Roah, after learning this week that his contract would not be renewed, said: "That's life in the big city."

What Roah meant was, "That's sportscasting in L.A."

It isn't exactly a stable profession.

Less than a year ago, Channel 5 gave Joe Buttitta his walking papers.

More recently, Channel 4 fired weekend anchor Andy Liscano, replacing him with Mike Smith, who came from San Diego, and Channel 7 dropped weekend sports anchor Ed Arnold.

Although Liscano has not been heard from since his departure, Arnold is close to a deal that would put him at Channel 5 as Roah's replacement, and Buttitta has done some fill-in work at Channel 13. He might end up there permanently if the station decides to expand its weeknight news show to the weekends later this year.

Meanwhile, Stu Nahan's status at Channel 4 remains tenuous, although the station reportedly is hoping to re-sign Nahan before his contract expires in August. So maybe the question is, will Nahan accept the terms?

Arnold, in shopping around for work, said he was told by Channel 4's management that there were no openings because they were hopeful of re-signing Nahan.

Arnold said he also talked to Channel 2 management about work there, but was told that workaholic Jim Hill and weekend sports anchor Tony Hernandez had all the bases covered.

That left Channel 5. "I've signed nothing, but things should work out," Arnold said.

As Roah's replacement, Arnold would have to play a backup role to Keith Olbermann, the weeknight anchor who replaced Buttitta last September.

"No problem," Arnold said. "I'm a team player."

Also, Arnold figures to make a smaller salary at Channel 5 than he did at Channel 7. "Money is not a big issue with me," he said.

Roah said his problems at Channel 5 started when Olbermann came aboard. "He came in as the fair-haired boy," Roah said. "I'd do features and he wouldn't use them. I'd complain and get nowhere.

"I don't know whether Keith didn't like my work, or he didn't want to share the spotlight."

Roah also said that Olbermann, who became the station's sports director about a month after his arrival from Boston, frequently complained about Roah's work, usually in the form of memos. Roah said that one memo concerned the mispronunciation of hockey names. Another, addressed to Roah and several other people, concerned not giving the death of Roger Maris better play. Roah said he did not have a role in how the Maris story was played.

"I find it somewhat paradoxical that on the air he takes sports so light-heartedly, yet off the air he takes everything so seriously. He was always writing memos. He complained I was hurting the integrity of the sports department and the entire station."

Said Olbermann: "I'm sorry Steve has chosen to go public with things that shouldn't go beyond the confines of this station.

"Yes, I did send Steve a memo about his mispronunciation of some French hockey names. All I did was suggest he check the hockey guide. It was such a minor thing it's hardly worth mentioning.

"As for my not using his features, it was my understanding that since I was the new guy, the station wanted me to get the exposure. It had nothing to do with Steve or the work he did."

Looking ahead: Michael Eskridge, NBC-TV's executive vice president in charge of the 1988 Olympics, was in town this week to talk to television reporters about the coverage at Seoul, South Korea, where the Games will run from Sept. 15 through Oct. 4.

Because of those dates, NBC will have only four days after the Olympics to get ready for the 1988 World Series.

Eskridge said that there would be 179 1/2 hours of Olympic programming, which is close to the amount ABC carried in '84.

Somewhat surprisingly, 130 hours will be live, according to Eskridge. However, some of that live programming will be delayed two hours in the morning on the West Coast. That's because NBC's weekday coverage will begin at 7 a.m. in the East, which is 4 a.m. in the West.

Prime-time coverage will be from 4:30 to 9 p.m. PDT, with late-night coverage beginning at 9:30 and continuing until 11:30.

Add Olympics: Eskridge said that NBC made a $50-million payment toward its $300-million rights fee late last month and will make three payments of only $15 million each before the Games. The remaining $205 million will be paid after the Games.

When the rights fee was announced, Olympic and network officials said that the fee might go over $300 million--to as high as $500 million--if sales went well for NBC.

But Eskridge said there is only about a 1-in-10 chance that NBC will end up paying more than $300 million. He said the sliding scale was announced to save face for the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee.

"They had said American TV rights might bring as much as $750 million and at least $500 million," Eskridge said. "The way the deal was announced, their estimates didn't look so far off."

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