WASHINGTON — The World Series, Super Bowl and professional and college basketball championships will remain on broadcast network television for the rest of this century, sports commissioners promised today.
"It's inconceivable to me that the World Series would not be on free television," Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent said at a House subcommittee hearing when asked if the championship might shift to cable networks or pay-per-view television.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NBA Commissioner David Stern and NCAA Director Richard Schultz made similar comments about their championship events.
Tagliabue said he could guarantee the NFL Super Bowl championship game would stay on network TV through the year 2000 but could not make a commitment beyond that.
Stern and Schultz said they had long-term network contracts for their championships and wanted as wide viewing as possible.
"All sports fans are concerned about the looming specter of pay-per-view for sporting events," subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said. Other members said they were concerned that a growing number of regular-season games were moving from broadcast to cable TV.
"Increasingly, we have no choice but to subscribe to cable if we want to watch major sports events," Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said. Other members said fans in rural areas where cable was not available would be left out, as would those who could not afford cable television.
New York area members complained because all of the regular Knicks basketball and Islanders and Rangers hockey games are now on cable and the Yankee baseball games next season also might shift entirely to a cable system.
Major league baseball, the NFL and the NBA are seen on broadcast networks, local stations and cable networks for regular-season games. The National Hockey League has no U.S. network contract but is on cable TV and local stations.
CBS will carry only 16 regular-season baseball games for each of the next four years as well as the league playoffs and World Series. The ESPN cable network will have 175 games shown four nights a week.
NFL games are on CBS, NBC and ABC and two cable networks. The NBA is moving from CBS to NBC next season and will also be on the Turner cable network.