Cable television's identity as a "narrowcast" medium, with the ability to target its programming to relatively specific audiences, gets a double demonstration this weekend.
From 4 p.m. to midnight today, seen live on the Nashville Network of basic cable, top country music figures perform in Ames, Iowa, in "Farm Aid VI." The benefit, co-founded by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, raises funds for U.S. farm families.
And at noon tomorrow, the ESPN all-sports service plans 6 1/2 hours of live coverage of the annual National Football League draft.
No broadcast network could afford to devote so many hours to such events. Cable not only can but should.
In the case of "Farm Aid VI," it can be argued that TNN, the all-country network currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, has been key to the event's survival. And television played a large part in the raising of $10.5 million since "Farm Aid I" in 1985 in Champaign, Ill.
TNN has telecast all but one of the country concerts, missing "Farm Aid II" in Austin, Texas. The network reaches 57 million households.
"Our viewers understand both the economic and social values of family farms. In addition, 'Farm Aid' concerts have attracted top entertainers who provide great music while raising consciousness about the farm industry," said David Hall, network vice president and general manager.
In addition to the three co-founders, today's bill includes: Lyle Lovett, Arlo Guthrie, Marty Stuart, Tammy Wynette, Ricky Van Shelton, Delbert McClinton, Dwight Yoakam, The Highwaymen (Willie Nelson with Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson) and Charlie Daniels. Roger Clinton, brother of President Clinton, is also on the bill.
Rotating hosts include Russian comic Yakoff Smirnoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Roseanne and Tom Arnold, and -- an obvious promotion for TNN's telecasting the event -- network regulars Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase.
As for ESPN's telecast of the NFL draft tomorrow, you have to be quite a fan to sit through the annual bidding on this spring's herd of college football players.
But for the first time, the network promises video pictures from a handful of team "war rooms," where officials monitor the progress of the draft and plot the strategy of their picks. Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Minnesota and Dallas are allowing the cameras inside.
Audio coverage will not be allowed, however, for fear that other teams will tune in to seek some strategic advantage.
Also on The Weekend Watch:
* For the second year, Baltimore School for the Arts alumna Jada Pinkett (of NBC's "A Different World") returned this spring to take part in producing a motivational TV special airing tonight on WJZ-Channel 13.
"Success Through Education: A Salute to Black Achievement" (at 7 p.m.) includes footage taped last month at Western High School. Also in the show are actors Darryl Bell ("A Different World") and D. J. Jazzy Jeff ("Fresh Prince of Bel Air").
* Remember the movie "Day of the Dolphin?" The 1973 picture starred George C. Scott as a scientist studying dolphins, whose suitability for nefarious activities comes under study.
Tonight's edition of the PBS series "The New Explorers" (at 9 p.m. on Maryland Public Television) offers a look at the nonfiction side of that plot.
In "Declassified: Navy Dolphins," the series goes inside Navy facilities, where, for 30 years, researchers have been exploring the abilities and intelligence of marine mammals.
* Gov. William Donald Schaefer presides tomorrow over the second annual "Governor's Crime Summit," and Maryland Public Television plans an hour of live coverage beginning at 8 p.m.