Horse racing's rally underlined with Fox's deal to cover series

Media Watch

August 18, 1998|By MILTON KENT

For a sport that was supposed to be moribund, at least in nTC terms of its national appeal, horse racing is making a nice little comeback.

Fox and its cable component, Fox Sports Net, announced yesterday that it will provide exclusive coverage of a new series of races for horses 4 and older, starting next year, through the auspices of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The package of races, to be called the NTRA Championship Racing Series, will consist of eight to 10 middle-distance dirt races at various tracks and will take place from January through August.

The schedule commences Jan. 30 with live coverage of the Donn Handicap from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., which is not far from Miami, the site of this year's Super Bowl, which, not so coincidentally, Fox will be carrying.

Fox Sports Net also will offer up at least four races in the series to its affiliated outlets, which, in this area, includes Home Team Sports.

Movin' on up

Speaking of HTS, the Bethesda-based regional sports channel has announced that Chris Grain will be lead producer of its Washington Wizards coverage, whenever the NBA and its players make nice and come to some agreement in their labor squabble.

Grain, a 1991 Howard University graduate, joined HTS eight years ago on a free-lance basis and had been an associate producer working on the channel's studio programs as well as on Orioles, Bullets/Wizards and college basketball telecasts.

Meanwhile, ESPN has given Solomon Wilcots' career a big-time boost, making him the sideline reporter for its Sunday night NFL telecasts.

Wilcots, who joined ESPN in June as a Cincinnati-based bureau reporter, is a former free safety for the Bengals, seeing playing time in the 1989 Super Bowl before moving on to the Minnesota Vikings and, finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers, where his playing career ended in 1993.

After retiring, Wilcots, an all-Big Eight defensive back at Colorado, joined Cincinnati's NBC affiliate as a reporter, weekend sports anchor and football analyst, and he also produced shows.

PGA on target

CBS' PGA Championship ratings rose slightly over last year's figures.

The two days of broadcast tournament coverage did a 5.5 rating and 13 share in the overnight Nielsen survey, a 4 percent rise from last year's 5.3/13. That was the highest rise in 12 years.

Sunday's final round did a 6.1/14 and was the most-watched PGA Championship final round since 1993, while Saturday's third round did a 4.9/13, the best rating since 1986.

Blown coverage

Frankly, we were hoping Channel 13 would do more with that crawl across the bottom of the screen Saturday afternoon during the Ravens' game than offer a lame excuse for leaving the PGA Championship in the middle of CBS' coverage. We thought they would update viewers on match scores, but that appeared to be too much to expect from Baltimore's favorite sports station.

On the network level, information, as always, takes a back seat to self-promotion, as seen in Saturday's Orioles-Cleveland telecast, for instance.

When Eric Davis came to the plate in the first, with a 29-game hitting streak intact, Fox removed the constant score and count box that is supposed to stamp its coverage, to insert a "bug" or logo so that if Davis got the hit there, and anyone used the highlight, the viewer would see that the game aired on Fox.

Of course, Fox, like everyone else, already inserts its corporate name within the score and count box, but apparently that's not blatant enough a commercial for us idiot viewers.

Pub Date: 8/18/98

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