Strike leaves programming up in the air

August 14, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

The strike has understandably sent local and national radio JTC and television outlets for a loop, with hours of time to program and no baseball to fill it with.

Home Team Sports, which carries the bulk of Orioles games, will replace them with an amalgam of live and taped sporting events, including minor-league baseball, tennis, boxing, stock car racing, indoor soccer and replays of NBA games.

Marcellus Alexander, general manager of WJZ-13, said the station will fill its Orioles schedule with ABC programming or movies.

WBAL (1090 AM), the Orioles' flagship radio station, is carrying rebroadcasts of the 1971 American League Championship Series between the Orioles and the Oakland Athletics this weekend, and the 1966 World Series between the Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers next weekend, said station general manager Jeff Beauchamp.

During the week, Beauchamp said the station will continue to run its fall lineup -- a nightly two-hour sports talk show followed by general talk show host Ron Smith. The station will also run strike updates from Orioles broadcaster Fred Manfra that will air hourly in the mornings and during its noon news program, as well as at 4:50 p.m. and 5:50 p.m. and an update during the 10 p.m. news.

Nationally, the strike thwarts the newly minted Baseball Network, a partnership between Major League Baseball and ABC and NBC, which had just taken to the air with last month's All-Star Game.

"People were pleased," said Ray Stallone, a spokesman for The Baseball Network. "By the time we got to the postseason, we would really be running. We would have had some momentum."

The participating networks were to air six weeks each of games through the end of the regular season, with ABC carrying the new first round of the playoffs and the World Series, and NBC telecasting the League Championship Series.

Stallone said all sides remain ready to pick up if the strike is settled soon, but ABC, which was in its final two weeks of coverage, has scheduled the movie "Rain Man" for Saturday, after airing the movie "Earth Angel" and the documentary "What Really Happened to Adolf Hitler" last night.

NBC, which is to pick up coverage on Aug. 26, will air movies and entertainment programming in its Friday slot, a spokesperson said.

ESPN, which televises major-league games on Sundays and Wednesdays, will televise games of the Double-A Birmingham Barons tonight and next Sunday, with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, the usual Sunday night broadcast crew, on the call.

The reason for ESPN's sudden interest in the Barons, a fourth-place team in the Western Division of the Southern League? A certain Barons right fielder named Michael Jordan.

The fiscal impact of the strike on media outlets is not quite as clear as the programming impact.

In some cases, as with WJZ, the effect is minimal. Alexander said the station, an ABC affiliate until Jan. 2, when it joins CBS, will offer Orioles advertisers local "make-good" spots on "Monday Night Football," and college football, and will not lose money on the exchange.

Beauchamp said some WBAL radio advertisers are waiting to see how long the strike plays out before deciding to pull back their dollars while others have converted their money to other station programming.

Beauchamp would not disclose how much the strike could cost the station, which continues to pay Manfra, Miller and Chuck Thompson as well as rent out satellite time, but admitted that it "will have a financial impact."

Stallone would not comment on prospective Baseball Network losses, but The New York Times reported Thursday that the venture has sold $130 million in commercial time for the final months of the season.

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