Hickman, Charles head for 3,000th anniversary

ON THE AIR

November 10, 1994|By MILTON KENT

So, maybe likening what CNN's Fred Hickman and Nick Charles do each day on "Sports Tonight" to a marriage is a hoary cliche, except that, as they approach their 3,000th show together tomorrow night, they do think fondly of each other, enough so that the partnership still feels fresh.

"We really care for each other as people, before and after the show," said Charles. "Our last half-hour together each day is our show, but it's a continuation of what we've been talking about all day. Fred's a guy who brings out the best in me, and I think he would say the same."

Would he? But of course.

"My wife and I have been married six years, and we feel like we're still on our honeymoon," said Hickman. "Nick and I are like that. We hit it off, and we have a really good rapport. It's a very natural thing, and it's never forced."

When CNN went on the air on June 1, 1980, Hickman and Charles, a former WJZ sports anchor, were there for the second hour of programming, and save for a brief sojourn by Hickman back to his native Detroit, they have been together all along, a kinship that has lasted longer than many marriages.

What is even more remarkable about the success that "Sports Tonight" has attracted is that it appears on a network devoted to news, has no natural lead-in or similar program and often goes head-to-head against ESPN's "SportsCenter."

Yet, the viewers keep watching in solid numbers what Hickman calls "this little-bitty sports show in this great big news machine."

"My favorite vacation spot in the world is off the coast of Hawaii. It's hard to find, but it's worth it when you get there," said Hickman. "I think our viewers feel that way. We wouldn't have 3,000 shows if they didn't. There may not be a lot of viewers, but they are nice people who want something different. I hope we give them that."

Ho-hum

No reflection on Channel 11's Sharon Walz, this week's official "On the Air" ratings supplier, but last week's numbers were frankly, well, pretty blah.

Once again, a Miami Dolphins game on Channel 2, specifically against the Colts at 1 p.m., beat a Washington Redskins contest against San Francisco on Channel 45.

The Dolphins' game attracted an 8.2 rating and 19 share, and the Redskins did a 5.5/13 before Fox pulled the plug at 3:15 p.m., shifting the Baltimore audience to New Orleans-Minnesota, which did a 5.0/11. Meanwhile, the 4 p.m. New England-Cleveland game on Channel 2 got an 11.1/20.

WMAR's experiment of running the CFLs' final regular-season game from Sacramento Saturday had mixed results, garnering a 6.2/11, a number roughly equivalent to prime-time games this summer, but generally second or third in the 9 p.m.-midnight slot.

Home Team Sports is trumpeting the fact that Friday's Washington Bullets season opener against the Orlando Magic got a 2.9 average rating for the Washington market -- an all-time high for Bullets basketball.

Armageddon not televised

Fox will carry the biggest regular-season NFL game of the year -- Dallas at San Francisco -- this Sunday, and it will be available to 80 percent of the country.

However, the game will not be seen in four of the nation's top 10 markets -- New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Boston -- because the individual teams in each city sold their games out, thus lifting the local blackouts. The Los Angeles case is especially noteworthy, because the Rams, who are host to the Raiders, hadn't had a home sellout in almost two years before this one.

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