MLB toughens its strike zone on length of ESPN highlights

Media Watch

August 03, 1999|By Milton Kent

What appears to be the latest salvo in the not-so-cold war between Major League Baseball and ESPN has been fired by MLB, which is clamping down on the amount of highlights that ESPN can show during "SportsCenter."

Baseball has informed ESPN that it is holding the all-sports outlet to the letter of a rule that says that it may show no more than five minutes total of highlights during any "SportsCenter" and no more than two minutes of clips of any particular game during that show.

That, apparently, would explain why, in recent weeks, many games have gone completely without highlights while others have been shown with just one clip, usually a home run. In other cases, clips leading into and out of breaks are of games not played on that particular evening, which don't count against the limit.

"We have a contract and we expect everyone to live up to the terms of the contract," said Richard Levin, a baseball spokesman.

This is just another step in the fight that has erupted between the two sides since ESPN moved "Sunday Night Baseball" games in September off the mother ship and onto ESPN2 in place of football telecasts.

Last September, baseball took back the telecast rights to three Sunday night games, one of which was the contest where Cal Ripken ended his consecutive-games streak.

In April, baseball moved to get out of its regular-season telecast contract with ESPN, scheduled to run through 2002, and in May, ESPN sued baseball to keep the contract intact. A federal judge is to hear the matter later this year. Levin said this notification -- sent to all of baseball's rights holders -- is a part of its suit.

Producers, of course, will always find something to plug in the holes, whether it be longer-form interviews, or highlights from other sports.

But, in the long run, the entities that are hurt most by this tomfoolery are baseball, which doesn't get its product displayed, and baseball fans, who don't get to see all of what happened.

It's way past time the two sides play nice with each other, and figure out some way to get past these unpleasantries that doesn't hurt the fans.

Settling the score

At 9 this morning, one of sports television's dirty little rumors will be put to rest, and CBS Sports president Sean McManus will be all too happy to quash them.

The whispers, mostly of a comical nature, have centered on what McManus, who became a father Friday for the first time, had been willing to do to bring the NFL back to the network.

"I'm going to say, `I had my first child [Maggie] the other day. You see [NFL commissioner] Paul Tagliabue. You don't see Maggie. I hope this puts to end those persistent rumors that I gave up my firstborn to get the NFL," McManus said yesterday.

As far as the NFL is concerned, it's all good news for young Maggie McManus -- the 7-pound, 13-ounce first granddaughter of ABC Sports legend and Monkton resident Jim McKay -- and her dad.

Despite industry speculation, the NFL actually made money last year for CBS, McManus said. Not a lot, according to some experts, but more than anyone expected, particularly at stations CBS owns in cities like New York, Denver, Boston and Baltimore.

And the prospect for making money this year is pretty good, as well.

"Obviously, it's producing a value, otherwise people wouldn't be so interested in it. I don't hear anybody complaining about the NFL," said McManus.

Least of all Maggie McManus.

Standing pat

While CBS is making changes up and down its NFL roster, Fox appears to be holding forth, what with its two-time Emmy Award-winning pre-game show and the best pair of football announcers going.

The network has announced its pairings for the coming season, and they look strangely familiar to last year's, with the exception of Ronnie Lott, who, after being bounced from the pre-game show last year to become a game analyst, isn't on the analyst roster this year.

The network's tandems are headed by Pat Summerall and John Madden, who return for their record 19th season together. However, Madden, who does not fly, will not join Summerall for Saturday's Denver-San Diego telecast from Sydney, Australia. Instead, Matt Millen will do analyst honors.

Millen and Dick Stockton return as Fox's No. 2 team and will get a divisional playoff game next January. Other booth duos (play-by-play listed first) include Kenny Albert-Tim Green, Ray Bentley-Ron Pitts, Curt Menefee-Brian Baldinger and Sam Rosen-Bill Maas.

James Brown, who won the Emmy as best studio host, returns to helm the wacky pre-game show, flanked by Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Cris Collinsworth, who won the Emmy for best studio analyst.

Pub Date: 8/03/99

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