Poll shows replacements won't be totally tuned out

ON THE AIR

March 02, 1995|By MILTON KENT

One shouldn't be terribly surprised to learn that the public is not interested in paying money to see replacement baseball players suit up and play. It only makes sense that an intelligent fandom wouldn't pay top prices for an inferior product.

But would that same fandom be interested in watching those games on television? If a new opinion poll is correct, the answer is a surprising yes.

A CBS News/New York Times survey of 1,190 adults released this week indicated that while 57 percent of the respondents would not pay to see a replacement player game, 63 percent would watch a game on television.

One might wonder what the entertainment threshold is for those folks. Will the antics of Bob the barber, or Wally the welder or even 48-year-old Pedro Borbon, the ever-so-slightly over-the-hill Cincinnati Reds hurler be enough comic relief for these fans, or will they need comedian Gallagher to smash a few watermelons between innings to reach their yuk quotient?

In that spirit, perhaps, TBS has announced that it will carry every exciting inning of Atlanta Braves baseball, strikebreakers or not. No big surprise there, since Ted Turner owns the whole shooting match, team and network.

Perhaps, we should be thankful for TBS' decision, for without baseball, we'd likely get more "Brady Bunch" reruns, and who needs that?

Going to the hoop

The NBA and USA Basketball are hoping to sell ABC and ESPN on a plan to televise as many nine games involving a national women's team that would compete in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

A source familiar with the discussions said the two parties are reportedly discussing a plan to get two to three games of a 30- to 40-game series on a broadcast network, probably ABC, and four to six other games on ESPN or ESPN2, which are 80 percent owned by Capital Cities/ABC.

Mark Mandel, an ABC spokesman, declined to comment on whether the NBA and USA Basketball have talked with the network.

On the Firestone line

ESPN's Roy Firestone, whose "Up Close" interview program took a decided light turn toward the end of his run, certainly didn't shy away from the tough question during last night's "SportsCenter" interview with Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis.

Firestone's first two questions out of the chute were about whether Louganis, who revealed last week that he is HIV-positive, wasn't using his illness to help sell his new book during a series of appearances on interview shows.

Louganis, who wiped away tears during the discussion, deftly deflected the questions, but you can't fault Firestone for asking what many people have wondered over the last week.

Ratings race

College basketball took a nasty fall here last week in the local ratings, according to Peter Leimbach, Channel 2's ratings researcher and this week's official "On the Air" ratings supplier.

Only one game, Maryland-Clemson, which aired last Saturday on Channel 54, drew a superior audience, garnering a 6.8 rating and 16 share. Even that number is off what the Terps have drawn in recent weeks, which is surprising since they continue to win.

Three of four CBS games aired by Channel 13 last weekend drew ratings below 2, and the Georgetown-Syracuse match, which was actually entertaining, even by Big East standards, only got a 2.4/5. By contrast, Channel 11's Sunday pair of NBA games, Chicago-Orlando and Charlotte-Phoenix each drew a 4.1/9.

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