ABC beats telecast field to wire for Triple Crown

ON THE AIR

September 23, 1994|By MILTON KENT

ABC yesterday fended off CBS, NBC and Fox at the clubhouse turn and won the race to keep telecasts of the Triple Crown on the network through the end of the century going away.

In completing the deal before its exclusive negotiating period ran out at the end of the month, ABC managed to bring all three races -- the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont -- under one roof for the purpose of selling ads and to obtain the rights to control and market corporate signage at each event.

The contract, which extends through the year 2000, marks the first time that the rights to all three races have been sold together, signaling the latest "partnership" between a network and a rights holder.

"It illustrates the interdependence of the races. This is the premier series in horse racing. We felt it was in the best interest of all of the races to be packaged," said Joe De Francis, president of Pimlico Race Course, the site of the Preakness, the middle jewel in the crown.

Though specific figures were not made available by either ABC or De Francis, the deal reportedly pays out a slightly higher fee than the network paid in 1984.

A source at ABC said Fox and CBS officials would be "very, very surprised" at yesterday's developments, since both were believed to be eager to bid.

Making a splash?

CBS begins the first of two weeks of taped coverage of the recent World Swimming and Diving Championships from Rome tomorrow at 4 p.m., where the Chinese female team captured 12 of 16 available gold medals.

The remarkable performance of the Chinese team rekindled talk that its achievements were tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs and blood doping.

"It got to the point where when the Chinese women would win, there would be no discernible reaction from the fans. It was just polite applause, because I think they all thought there was something going on," said announcer Verne Lundquist, who will call the action with commentators Summer Sanders, Cynthia Potter and Rowdy Gaines.

CBS News correspondent James Hattori and sports producer Draggan Milhailovich spent time with the Chinese team before it left for Rome, and a seven-minute feature will air tomorrow.

Alas, Baltimore viewers will need a strong antenna to pull the event off Washington's WUSA (Channel 9), since the local affiliate, Channel 11, has opted out this week and next for its own programming in the latest affiliation-change salvo.

A suggestion to Channel 11: Find a way to settle your differences with Channel 13 in this network affiliation-change war, or more than a few disaffected viewers will look for NBC programming in Washington on Channel 4 in January in retaliation for the shoddy treatment they're getting now.

The sweet science

Plenty of fisticuffs are available this weekend, starting tonight when ESPN's Top Rank boxing rolls into unsuspecting Upper Marlboro and the Show Place Arena for an 8:30 telecast. The main event will be a 12-round World Boxing Council intercontinental middleweight title match between Frank Savannah and Dana Rosenblatt.

Tomorrow night at 8, Lennox Lewis defends his WBC heavyweight crown against Oliver McCall in a 12-rounder from London on HBO.

A worthy cause

Cheers to HTS, which will carry its second annual "Sports-A-Thon," a live on-air sports memorabilia auction Sunday at 4 p.m. Among the items that will be available for purchase: Super Bowl tickets, balls and jerseys autographed by Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Boomer Esiason, Cal Ripken, Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen and others.

HTS' usually scrambled signal will be cleared all day (Don't you wish that were always the case?) and the toll-free number to call to place a bid is (800) 988-0070.

The channel announced yesterday that it will add three Washington Capitals games and four Washington Bullets games to its 1994-95 schedule. All but one of the new broadcasts are road games, and HTS will carry 33 Capitals games (lockout permitting) and 34 Bullets games.

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