'Wide World' to expand horizons after 37 years of focus on unusual

Media Watch

September 11, 1997|By Milton Kent

One of sports television's most distinctive programs, ABC's "Wide World of Sports," will undergo an expansion and face lift in January, when the show will encompass all of the network's weekend sports programming, save for college and NFL football.

"Wide World," which for 37 years has been the home of some of the most unconventional of sports -- like barrel-jumping and lumberjack competitions -- and made sports like gymnastics and figure skating more conventional, will, in effect, become a fairly conventional sports show.

"Actually, it becomes a contemporary show," said Curt Gowdy Jr., "Wide World's" coordinating producer. "We want to put on the best marquee events, most of them live, that we can. We have to be current and stay on top of events, and this change gives us the flexibility to do that."

The new "Wide World" will have a live studio element, with scores, highlights and breaking news, to serve as an umbrella over the network's golf and racing events, as well as its college basketball games and any prime-time programming.

"Over the years, 'Wide World' has either gone through subtle changes or major changes. This is a major change and a very positive step. We're all taking a very, very bold step and we're all excited about it," Gowdy said.

Robin Roberts will remain the principal host of "Wide World," though there will be substitutes when her ABC and ESPN duties take her out of the studio.

Hey diddle, diddle

If you're a Colts fan from the early and mid-1970s, you know the next line of the above-referenced phrase, and the subject of that little ditty, running back Lydell Mitchell, will be the focus of the "Where Are They Now" segment of tonight's "Inside the NFL" airing at 11 on HBO.

The segment focuses on Mitchell's love for Baltimore and his co-ownership, with former Penn State teammate Franco Harris, of the Parks Sausage Co.

Down the road

Here are a few local and network acquisitions, bound together only by the timing of their announcements:

Our friends in the Washington area will be pleased to know that Orioles, Washington Wizards and Capitals games will be available for view on Channel 50 through 1999, thanks to a two-year agreement reached between the station and Home Team Sports, which holds local television rights to all three entities.

Once again, however, there is no local broadcast availability for Wizards and Capitals games, unless cable operators in the area wise up and add Channel 50 (hint, hint).

CBS has re-upped with the U.S. Tennis Association for the rights to the U.S. Open through the year 2004, continuing a relationship that has existed since 1967.

In addition to carrying the two-week tournament, the last of each year's Grand Slam events, the network has agreed to air four half-hour specials to air quarterly and to be aimed at children.

Meanwhile, ESPN and ESPN2 will serve up the inaugural season of Pro Beach Hockey next summer, with the two channels taking on 26 games from a 35-game tournament to be played next May in Huntington Beach, Calif.

The new game will take place on a specially designed in-line hockey rink that will have end-zone ramps to keep the fluorescent ball -- that's right, ball -- in play. ESPN2 will air approximately two games a week through August, when ESPN will carry games from the best-of-three championship series.

Staying put

ESPN's Dan Patrick has put to rest all those rumors about his possible departure to ABC's "Good Morning America" by signing a contract extension that will keep him in Bristol, Conn., through 2004.

Patrick, 40, who has been with ESPN since 1989 after leaving CNN, will not only continue to anchor the 11 p.m. "SportsCenter" but also will be host for ESPN's coverage of the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the NCAA men's basketball Final Four.

Chasing the Bull

It's official: ESPN's Stuart Scott has thrown down the gauntlet to NBC's Ahmad Rashad to see which national television reporter can do the most sucking up to Michael Jordan.

Rashad, of course, has a big head start on Scott, with all those years of lighter-than-air interviews with His Airness, not to mention hanging out with him before and after big games.

But Scott, who was a student at North Carolina around the same time as Jordan in the early 1980s, has been making an impressive charge in the last year or so, tossing in superfluous references to Jordan at seemingly every chance on "SportsCenter."

Scott took his fawning of Jordan to another level the other day with softball questions about whether the Bulls star would consider playing another season without Scottie Pippen.

The better question is what Rashad or Scott would do without Jordan.

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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