New page turns in magazine competition

Media Watch

March 03, 1998|By Milton Kent

While the public focuses on the expected battle among Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Arizona for the men's college basketball crown this month, media observers will be watching the war between the magazines that will cover the tournament.

With the heavily promoted and much ballyhooed premiere of the biweekly ESPN Magazine on tap for next week, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News aren't exactly waiting patiently for the ESPN juggernaut to overwhelm them.

In the last few months, TSN and SI, both weeklies, have undergone changes, some subtle and some drastic, in anticipation of what ESPN is expected to offer.

The Sporting News, the oldest national sports magazine in the country, has changed itself most, switching from newspaper-style print to a glossy, more conventional magazine style format.

Inside the covers, TSN, which, like The Sun is owned by Times Mirror, has virtually eliminated all coverage of any sport outside what it calls the "Big Six" -- the NFL, NBA, NHL, major-league baseball, college football and men's college basketball -- and is dubbing itself the "serious sports" publication, poking fun at both SI's swimsuit issue and ESPN's ads.

So far, the changes at The Sporting News have been interesting and poured life into what had been a moribund publication. One wonders, however, about the long-term wisdom of excluding women's athletics, a booming part of the sports scene, from coverage.

Sports Illustrated, meanwhile, the acknowledged leader, has tinkered more subtly with its book, quietly changing its body type and adding more and bigger photos in recent weeks. In addition, the magazine has compartmentalized its coverage of college basketball, the NBA and NFL as well as giving senior writer Rick Reilly, a five-time winner of national sportswriter of the year honors, a weekly column.

Most magazines struggle at launch, but few publications come with the pedigree and resources of the new ESPN book, which has raided some of the top editors at SI and will use former Sports Illustrated senior writer Rick Telander as a regular contributor. The magazine will be promoted endlessly on the ESPN channels, which, like the magazine, are co-owned by Disney and Hearst, one of the nation's leading magazine publishers.

Let the battle begin!

First pitch

The 1998 Orioles television schedule finds 156 of the team's 162 regular-season games available locally, with 91 on Home Team Sports, 37 on Channel 13 and 28 on Channel 54.

Channel 13's telecast slate kicks off with the Opening Day game against the Kansas City Royals. Other highlights include five New York Yankees games and a June 5 broadcast of the Orioles-Atlanta Braves game from Camden Yards. Channel 54's first game airs April 5, also from Camden Yards, when the Detroit Tigers visit Baltimore.

HTS, which will produce all local telecasts, will air its first regular-season game on April 1 against the Royals, although five exhibition games also will be carried on the regional sports channel, the first coming March 20 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Eye on the tournament

CBS has announced its talent pairings for the NCAA men's basketball tournament, headed by Jim Nantz and Billy Packer, who will call their eighth Final Four together on March 28-30.

The other announcer teams are Sean McDonough-Bill Raftery, Gus Johnson-Jon Sunvold, Tim Brando-Al McGuire, Ted Robinson-Rolando Blackman, Jim Durham-Greg Kelser, Tim Ryan-Dan Bonner and Ian Eagle-Jim Spanarkel. Newly re-acquired Greg Gumbel will man the studio, and will be joined by former North Carolina coach Dean Smith and analyst Clark Kellogg.

Pub Date: 3/03/98

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