King-Fox partnership has look of a winner

ON THE AIR

September 14, 1995|By MILTON KENT

Assuming everything holds together -- and that's a big assumption when boxing and Don King are the subjects -- Fox's decision to televise Mike Tyson's Nov. 4 fight with Buster Mathis Jr. is a masterstroke for both the network and the promoter.

Prime-time over-the-air boxing has been virtually unheard of over the last 15-20 years since Muhammad Ali fought Jimmy Young and Leon Spinks in the 1970s, thanks to cable and pay-per-view. Not just any fighter could pull it off, but Tyson's larger-than-life persona should make Fox's gamble a winner.

There is one possible caveat for Fox: What advertiser, save for the traditional beer sponsors, is going to want to have its product associated with Tyson, whose rape conviction will drive away some hardy souls.

King has not only put HBO and its pay-per-view arm, TVKO -- which is to carry the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe fight on the same evening -- behind a serious eight ball, but has taken a populist move that will remove some of the stench from the Tyson-Peter McNeeley bomb, in which customers were charged up to $50 for a fight that didn't even last as long as "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Granted, the Holyfield-Bowe bout will be a better contest, but neither serious fight fans nor casual observers will have to pay a dime for Tyson-Mathis, making King look like a genius, assuming he gets the right price from Fox.

Ratings report returns

One of the three NFL games to air here locally Sunday scored a paltry 3.2 rating and 6 share of the audience and was the second least watched sporting event of the weekend. Which was it?

(A) Washington-Oakland.

(B) San Francisco-Atlanta.

(C) Denver-Dallas.

The correct answer is (B), according to Chris Mecchi, Channel 13's ratings researcher and this week's sole and official "On the Air" ratings provider.

That's right, Channel 45's late game, involving the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers, did worse than both a Saturday diving special on Channel 11 (3.9/10), and the U.S. Open on both Saturday and Sunday on Channel 13 (5.9/13; 5.5/11). Only Friday afternoon's tennis coverage (3.1/11) did worse.

By comparison, the Redskins-Raiders contest on Channel 11 did a whopping 14.0/34, while the Broncos-Cowboys did an even more impressive 15.2/31, also for Channel 11.

Last Friday's Orioles-Cleveland game was the big winner, thanks, no doubt, to some Cal Ripken fallout, getting a 16.8/28 for Channel 11. The next day's Orioles game got a 5.6/16 on Channel 54, and Tuesday's home game with Boston did a 12.0/19.

Women's schedule set

On the heels of Prime's announcement Tuesday of a women's basketball package, ESPN yesterday released a 64-game telecast schedule of regular-season, exhibition and tournament contests.

ESPN will air 22 games, beginning with a Nov. 5 exhibition between defending champion Connecticut and the U.S. national team and culminating with exclusive coverage of the women's Final Four next March 29 and 31 from Charlotte, N.C.

ESPN2, meanwhile, will carry 42 games, including a weekly prime-time game on Fridays, beginning in January, and seven conference tournament championships.

The two networks will televise 28 NCAA tournament games, from the first round through the Final Four, as well as eight exhibition games involving the national team.

Fox to announce SI sportsman

For the first time in its 41-year history, Sports Illustrated will unveil its "Sportsman of the Year" on television, in a one-hour prime time special to air in December on Fox.

Produced by Sports Illustrated Television, the special will not only reveal this year's winner, but look at past recipients, and profile all of this year's candidates.

By the way, and this is just a guess, but one would think that certain Baltimore shortstop looks like an early favorite for "Sportsman" honors, wouldn't one?

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