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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

Timing Hurts ESPN and Helps Albert

July 17, 1998|LARRY STEWART

It has been a week in which ESPN West went away and Marv Albert came back.

With both cases, it was a matter of timing.

This wasn't a good time for ESPN to be pushing a new network on cable operators since it is in the process of seeking a substantial per-subscriber per-month rate increase because of its new $600-million a year deal with the NFL.

However, ESPN's Chris LaPlaca said that wasn't the primary problem.

"Regardless of any other issue, the overriding obstacle in gaining the immediate distribution the teams wanted was channel capacity," he said.

With no cable systems agreeing to carry ESPN West, the Angels and Mighty Ducks were backed into a corner and had to do a deal with rival Fox.

It just shows, when it's business, nothing else matters.

As for Albert, his stock went up during the NBA playoffs. Bob Costas didn't make viewers forget Albert. It was quite the opposite.

Also, Albert appears to be repentant. He deserves another chance, and starting out on a local basis in New York seems the way to go.

Will he eventually end up back at NBC?

It's doubtful. All NBC spokesman Ed Markey said was, "We wish Marv well."

ROME HAS 'LAST WORD'

Fox Sports Net has overhauled "The Last Word" in recent weeks with positive results. One change was going from two hosts to one. Another was the air times.

The show used to be on weekdays at midnight, with a repeat at 6 p.m. the next day. Now it airs at 6 p.m. the same day it is taped and repeated that night at midnight.

When Jim Rome and New York Post columnist Wallace Matthews were co-hosting, what we had were two guys yelling at each other, which made for bad television. Pete Rose and Tom Tolbert were also tried with Rome before it was decided that Rome alone worked best.

Fox Sports Net executive producer John Terenzio says the idea is to take advantage of Rome's interviewing skills and create sort of a "Nightline" for sports.

Like him or not, Rome is an excellent interviewer. He's always prepared and gets the most out of his interviewees. He showed that on "The Last Word" with recent interviews with Bud Selig and Donald Fehr and on his radio show with boxer Jesse James Leija.

'MONDAY NIGHT' UPDATE

"Monday Night Football," with its new start time of 5 p.m., will open with a 20-minute pregame show hosted by Frank Gifford.

And in a blatant case of cross-promotion, Disney-owned ABC announced this week that it will do the pregame shows from Baltimore because that's where the new Disney-owned ESPN Zone, a massive restaurant-entertainment center, is located.

Something else new about "Monday Night Football" is that, as first reported by Variety, the announcers will have to downgrade and stay in the same hotels as the rest of the crew.

Some corporate pencil pusher found a way for his company, paying $550 million a year for NFL rights, to save a few bucks.

Al Michaels declined comment, but ABC insiders say he'll probably continue to stay at Four Season hotels in cities where there is one because his contract gives him that option.

Said Dan Dierdorf: "This thing has been overblown. I don't care where I sleep, as long as I get a ride to and from the hotel."

Newcomer Boomer Esiason is just glad to be part of the crew.

Esiason got another plumb assignment this week when he learned that he will be one of the hosts of the Miss America Pageant on ABC Sept. 19.

SHORT WAVES

TBS's coverage of the Goodwill Games begins Saturday at 5 p.m. with the opening ceremony and continues with night-time coverage through Aug. 2. CBS has weekend daytime coverage and HBO will televise the semifinals and finals of boxing July 29-Aug. 1. . . . HBO, which has an attractive boxing card featuring Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday night at 7, will have a feature before the fights that revisits Jones being robbed of an Olympic gold medal in Seoul 10 years ago. . . . Sunday's main event at the speedway, the Busch Grand National Kenwood 300, will also be televised by ESPN.

Figure skating gold medalist Tara Lipinski has entered into an exclusive agreement with CBS to star in a series of prime-time specials. . . . Because of Sunday's Swaps Stakes, Channel 2 will televise its entire two-hour "Sports Central" show from Hollywood Park and will show a Swaps special beginning at 4:20 p.m.

Whatever the Dodgers are paying Ross Porter, it isn't enough. At times, he's on the radio dealing with callers for more than an hour before games, then does as many as nine innings of play-by-play on radio and television, then does another hour or so with callers on radio after games. Talk about yeoman's work.

XTRA 690, former flagship station for the Kings, this week became the new flagship for the Ducks. . . . XTRA 1150 will use Steve Mason with Matt Stevens on its UCLA pregame shows this fall. One thing for sure, Mason is more suited for football than he is horse racing. He is often out of his element on the Sunday Hollywood Park shows on Fox Sports West.

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