Ward loves being in middle of everything at ESPNEWS

Media Watch

March 25, 1997|By MILTON KENT

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It has been five months since Pam Ward left the safety and security of Baltimore morning radio for the uncertainty of the new ESPNEWS all-sports news, all-the-time network.

So far, the gamble of leaving WBAL (1090 AM) last November for the fledgling channel has paid off handsomely for Ward.

"You feel like you're in the center of everything because, basically, you are, as far as sports television is concerned. You can come in at any time and see a basketball game or football game or anything and report on them," said Ward, here at Purdue University for last night's women's Mideast Regional final. "And once you get in there, you want to be perfect, and we strive for that. We have as high a level of expectation as they do on 'SportsCenter.' "

While Ward and her ESPNEWS mates have all the professionalism of "SportsCenter," they don't quite have the audience. While ESPN is seen in more than 70 million homes, ESPNEWS is available in fewer than 2 million homes, and none in this area. For most people, the new channel's chief exposure comes on simulcasts on ESPN2 on Saturday and ESPN on Sunday.

"It's frustrating because we as a group put of a lot of work into our product. There's a sense that you're talking to a small audience, but that will change," Ward said.

The other drawback to her ESPN gig, said Ward, is where it's located. Nestled in Bristol, Conn., which isn't exactly one of your booming metropolises, the giant cable complex is far enough away from New York and Boston to keep the cost of living relatively low, but also to make life away from the office move slowly.

"I really miss Maryland. The big adjustment is that I'm living in a very remote area, and I miss all that major metropolitan areas have to offer," Ward said.

One of the advantages of going to ESPN, Ward said, was the opportunity to do things like last night's game, one of four she did this year. She said she wouldn't have left WBAL without the guarantee that she could do play-by-play.

"I love doing this, and I'm hoping that as the years roll by, I'll get more chances," Ward said. "This is my first love and this is what I want to get good at, and the only way you do that is to get out and do it."

Tournament roundup

Through last weekend, CBS' NCAA tournament ratings are up slightly from last year.

The tournament, to date, is averaging a 6.1 national overnight rating and 14 share of the audience, according to Nielsen. That reflects a 3 percent rise from the 1996 tournament.

Five of the eight regional semifinal and final telecasts last weekend were down from the year before, but significant rises from Saturday's Midwest game and Sunday's Southeast final helped boost the overall numbers.

It's too late to do anything about it for this year, but let's hope that next year, when CBS goes to those split screens to show us action from one or more games, that the network will post the scores of the games, as well as the seeds of the teams involved.

Pigskin warm-up

With the first pitch of the baseball season scheduled for next week, it's certainly time to think about football.

FX, for instance, has announced that it will carry all 30 World League football games this spring, beginning with a doubleheader April 12. The network also will produce a weekly studio show, whose host is Fox football sideline reporter Eric Clemons.

Fox, FX's parent company, will carry a three-game slate of preseason NFL games that begins with a July 27 telecast of the Chicago-Pittsburgh clash from Dublin, Ireland. The network also will carry the St. Louis-Dallas game on Aug. 15, and the San Francisco-Denver contest Aug. 23.

ESPN begins its three-game preseason schedule with the Super Bowl combatants, Green Bay and New England, meeting July 31. ESPN also will air the Carolina-Kansas City game Aug. 14, and the Redskins-Miami game Aug. 21.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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