NBC's flirtation with baseball forces Ebersol to dine on crow

Media Watch

November 01, 1995|By Milton Kent

There are only a few logical explanations for NBC's entry into the baseball television negotiations after chieftain Dick Ebersol declared it out of the game for the rest of the century.

Among them:

* A really big mind cloud.

* Mass hypnosis.

* Or perhaps we really have partied like it's 1999, and we just lost track of time.

At any rate, it seems all that stuff Ebersol was saying in June was, well, just stuff. That's when he railed about how the owners had treated his network and ABC, equal partners in the Baseball Network debacle, as "scum" and said, "Neither of us will be involved in the bidding."

Lo and behold, word leaked through New York on Monday that NBC is looking to pay anywhere from $400 to 500 million over five years for a piece of a new pact that would give the Peacock the rights to telecast two World Series, three All-Star Games, shares of the playoffs and a possible Friday night package.

The other part of the deal would see Fox, the heavy favorite, get three World Series, two All-Star Games, the other part of the playoffs and a Saturday afternoon schedule for $550 to 600 million.

Spokesmen for both networks declined to comment on whether they were negotiating with baseball, but the report that NBC is involved caught a lot of people by surprise.

Before anyone concedes the deal to Fox and NBC, remember that two weeks ago the word was that Fox and CBS were locks to get their mitts on baseball, so the lineup still could change before a deal is finally announced.

The owners will again harden their labor position with the players if a TV deal gets done quickly, knowing they'll have cash once a collective bargaining agreement gets done.

However, the Baseball Network experience -- where the owners reportedly reneged on a verbal commitment to protect ABC and NBC in the case of a strike -- has made it certain that both networks will get specific strike and replacement-player language in their contracts, so that the owners couldn't pawn off phony baseball on the viewing audience.

Rasheed: Caution advised

TNT's Hubie Brown has some words of wisdom for Washington Bullets rookie big man Rasheed Wallace.

Specifically, Brown thinks Wallace, who left North Carolina for the NBA, should chill out.

"Do not question his talent. He has incredible talent, and once he has bulked up his body in the next 2-5 years, he will be a monster player," said Brown on a national conference call yesterday.

"Unfortunately for him, he has a behavior problem. He has a short fuse and he doesn't adhere to physical pounding. That's what people who were trying to get him to stay in school were trying to get him to recognize, that he has to build up his strength so that he could take the pounding without flying off the handle.

"That's only going to escalate as people recognize that. They are going to lean on him and pound on him. We have 70 guys [in the league] over 7 feet and he has never played against this many good players."

Fox grabs NFL lead

Just over halfway through the NFL season, Fox has taken a considerable lead in the year-to-date ratings race over NBC, although both networks are down from last year's final numbers.

After nine weeks, Fox has posted an 11.9/29 to NBC's 10.2/24, and with some potentially attractive NFC matchups to come this month, including the San Francisco-Dallas showdown on Nov. 12, Fox may be uncatchable.

A Fox win would be a reverse of last year, when NBC barely captured the regular season with a 12.5/29 to Fox's 12.1/28. With upgraded affiliations in big-market cities like Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit, Fox is in a stronger position than it was last year.

Then, too, NBC hasn't been helped by the dreadful play of teams in Boston, New York and Houston, its three biggest AFC markets.

NBC may have one last big card to play on Thanksgiving Day, when the Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, the teams with the best records in the NFL, meet. A big rating that afternoon may draw the Peacock network close enough to make the last four weeks a horse race.

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