NBA fans again sure to feel double-dribbled by Orioles 0...


April 30, 1993|By RAY FRAGER

NBA fans again sure to feel double-dribbled by Orioles 0) coverage

It's spring, and you should be experiencing those sprightly feelings of the season. But not even the warming sunshine, blossoming flowers and evocative whine of the Sunday lawn mowers have you in thrall.

You're an NBA fan, and you're angry.

You might recall that "It Happens Every Spring" was a baseball movie. In Baltimore, it happens every spring is a baseball event, much to the consternation of those who want to follow all the televised dribbles of the NBA playoffs.

Once again, Orioles telecasts will pre-empt some of NBC's playoff coverage on Channel 2. But look at it this way: It could be worse. (Or look at it this way: Turn the newspaper upside down, stand on your head and hum the theme from "The Dick Van Dyke Show.")

Conflicts will occur on three Sundays -- May 9, May 16 and May 30. On the first date, NBC plans a tripleheader, so viewers likely will miss one entire game and a large part of another. The same holds on May 16, though the schedule could leave NBC with two games that day. The last date is a single NBA game that won't be seen at all on Channel 2.

If you don't understand Channel 2's logic, just check out the ratings: Sunday's top-rated NBA game got a 5.5 rating and 16 share nationally, but Sunday's Orioles game received a 9.2/24 here.

And if you still don't understand, remember that ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where television is in use. (You still might not like Channel 2's decision, but typing those two sentences makes me feel so good.)

Take heart, though. At least WMAR's Orioles schedule is clear during the NBA Finals.

Such a deal

Again, the NBA has put itself ahead of the curve in professional sports. Its deal with NBC for another four years, announced Wednesday, could provide a solution to the problem of burgeoning rights fees in sports television.

NBC is paying the NBA a 6 percent increase over the four-year, $600 million deal that expires after next season. The network and the league also have agreed on a minimum level of advertising dollars that will go solely to NBC. Once the network has passed that minimum, NBC and the NBA will split the remaining advertising revenue 50-50.

This reduces the network's risk while assuring the league of a continued rise in television income. According to NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol, the network soon expects to have advertiser commitments that guarantee NBC will make a profit on pro basketball telecasts.

"Unlike any other sports deal in existence, this is guaranteed to be profitable already," Ebersol said. "Hopefully, this will be a model for other leagues.

"[The Barcelona Olympics and major-league baseball deals] set the tone from which the industry never recovered. . . . [The NBA contract] is an example that, hopefully, machoism is dead."

The NBA deal appears most applicable to baseball. CBS and ESPN have lost money on baseball like Leonard Tose at a blackjack table, and no network is going to overpay -- the current deal, which expires after this season, is $1.06 billion for four years -- like that next time.

"The dollars are not there to support baseball at the current level," Ebersol said. "Any deal we contemplate making over the next six months, be it baseball, football or Atlanta [Olympics], will be predicated on our making a profit."

Peacock news

As part of the NBA/NBC deal, "NBA Inside Stuff" will become a year-round program starting next summer. . . . Those busy folks at NBC also announced the addition of Mike Ditka. He will be an analyst on "NFL Live" and join the network's PGA coverage.

On golf telecasts, Ditka will play the role of the common golfer in a tips segment and conduct interviews with the pros. Ditka also denied reports that he has a contract with his former team, the Bears, limiting his comments on the club.

"I have no contract with the Bears right now," he said yesterday. "I have an agreement, but it has no stipulation about that at all."

Radio, radio

The Arbitron ratings for the winter had good news for two sports talks shows, not so good for another. WBAL (1090 AM) received a 5.3 share of listeners 12 and older during the 6-7 p.m. hour, when "Sports Line" with Jeff Rimer generally was aired. During the same time period, WITH, then the home of Nestor Aparicio's show, drew a 1.3 share, after a 1.2 share from 5 to 6. (Aparicio since has moved down the dial to WHLP at 1360 AM.) Stan "The Fan" Charles on WCBM (680 AM) posted strong hourly numbers during his 10 p.m.-1 a.m. program -- 5.6, 6.9, 8.7. Though WBAL generally didn't have sports on during those hours (except maybe a Maryland basketball game in the first hour), Charles' numbers were just a bit below WBAL's.

Speaking of Charles, his "Dead or Alive" game -- callers can win prizes if they correctly answer whether a sports figure is living -- is not the most tasteful bit to begin with, and it was even worse Wednesday night. Charles just had finished speaking about the death of Jim Valvano, and shortly thereafter announced it was time to play "Dead or Alive."

Speaking of Rimer (it was a few sentences back; go ahead, check), he popped up on ESPN last weekend when the cable network picked up the end of a Capitals-Islanders game. To Rimer's credit, a viewer unfamiliar with his affiliation wouldn't have been able to tell whether he worked Capitals or Islanders telecasts. . . . Before ESPN joined the game heading into the second overtime, studio analyst Al Morganti said defensemen would be going deep into the offensive ends. Rimer's partner, Craig Laughlin, then said defensemen would be careful not to get caught out of position. Sure, and throw strikes but don't give him anything good to hit.

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