Orioles get the picture, now just need a voice


January 14, 1994|By RAY FRAGER

Stop me if you've heard this one: It appears that the Orioles have a new television deal.

The long-awaited, much-debated, leaving-us-jaded contract apparently is for three years. As previously indicated, games will be split among Home Team Sports and channels 13 and 54.

There has been no announcement of the deal, but people in and around broadcasting are saying that a TV schedule is out, being shown to potential advertisers. According to the schedule, Channel 13 carries 32 games, Channel 54 gets 40 and HTS telecasts 78. Under the terms of the major leagues' new national TV contract, that total of 150 is the maximum allowed local broadcasters.

Channel 13 likely will have mostly weekend games, so as not to disrupt its ABC prime-time schedule, and Channel 54, with no network ties, would do weeknight telecasts. HTS would control the rights to the games, produce the telecasts and probably sell the advertising.

Meanwhile, behind the mike

Now that the Orioles TV deal seems done, perhaps a resolution is near on the team's radio and television voice, Jon Miller.

Ron Shapiro, Miller's representative, said yesterday: "Jon's situation is still unresolved," though talks are continuing with the Orioles.

"There are two other teams that have talked to us, but the only negotiations are with the Orioles," Shapiro said. "If it's going to be done here, it's going to be done quickly."

It also seems likely that Miller will return as play-by-play man on ESPN's Sunday night games.

"They have expressed strong interest in his coming back," Shapiro said.

Miller apparently won't be involved with either ABC or NBC, other than possibly working regional telecasts.

Shapiro also represents Jim Palmer, and said of him: "There are talks going on with ABC, and they are productive, and there are talks going on with HTS."

At least one person who's talking, ABC's Al Michaels, has expressed his desire to see the network reunite the winning trio of Michaels, Palmer and Tim McCarver.

Call in the right-hander

It's hard to tell which Curt Smith likes more -- Republican presidents or baseball. And it plainly pains him to see what has happened to each.

Smith, a speech writer in the Bush White House, still seems in credulous that his man lost the election to Bill Clinton. When it comes to baseball, Smith, author of an encyclopedic history of the game's broadcasting, continues to seethe over the incredible shrinking network television presence of baseball.

"What baseball did is obliterate its base nationally," said Smith, who wrote "Voices of the Game" and has been this week's guest conservative filling in for WBAL Radio's Ron Smith (no relation, but then neither is Patti). "They [baseball officials] have managed to devise the worst possible contract.

"Paul Tagliabue [let's pause here for boos] could not have concocted a better contract" to benefit the NFL at baseball's expense.

The Baseball Network deal keeps major-league games off national network TV until after the All-Star Game. Then ABC and NBC begin their schedule of six games each. Meanwhile, ESPN will carry its season-long schedule of Sunday night single games and Tuesday night doubleheaders.

"The optimum is to have a balance," Smith said. "You make extra games available to the die-hards on cable, but baseball has tipped in favor of cable."

Stay tuned for tractor pull

CBS's decision to continue broadcasting "The NFL Today" with no NFL games on the network will test the Theory of NFL Pre-Game Shows, first put forward by Sir Norman Greenbaum during his groundbreaking work at the Nielsen Academy earlier this century.

Sir Norman theorized that one could determine which network's pre-game program would win in the ratings by using Avogadro's number. You see, he'd call Avogadro on that number and ask him which show he was watching.

Hey, nothing like a little chemistry and physics humor on a Friday.

Anyway, the relatively close ratings between the CBS and NBC pre-games usually have been won by CBS (CBS is ahead this year, 5.2-4.3). The explanation has been that viewers generally tune in the pre-game show on the network carrying the game they intend to watch. CBS, with the stronger NFC package, thus benefited from this proclivity.

However, ESPN's excellent "NFL GameDay" has siphoned off a small but significant part of the audience -- about the equivalent of a 2.2 rating -- with its hourlong presentation. And out of habit, many viewers may continue to watch the new, one-hour "NFL Today" next season. It would help CBS to retain the popular team of Greg Gumbel and Terry Bradshaw. If the network loses the two to a pre-game show on the NFC's new home, Fox, viewers might be less inclined to continue watching "The NFL Today."

And who knows what Avogadro will be watching?

We interrupt this game . . .

A CBS spokesman said the network would have alternate programming available if one of its college basketball games is wiped out by a strike of coaches and players over NCAA policies. . . . ESPN2 had somebody trying to whip up the crowd's enthusiasm during last week's Thunder game at the Baltimore Arena. Watch ESPN2's Major Indoor Lacrosse League Game of the Week debut on Monday at 7 p.m. to judge what kind of job he did. . . .

Rotisserians, note: On March 29 at 10 p.m., ESPN and Time Warner Sports will offer a program to pick your baseball team by: "ESPN Baseball Tonight's Great Rotisserie Pay-Per-View Special." The host will be ESPN2's Keith Olbermann. Just $19.95. Operators are standing by.

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