Viviano casting off for anchor job with CNN/SI


November 16, 1999|By Milton Kent

In a few weeks, Mark Viviano will regain his regular sleep patterns, but he'll have to go to Atlanta to do it.

That's because Viviano, who anchors sports on Channel 11's Saturday and Sunday morning news shows, as well as doing morning-drive sports on WBAL (1090 AM) and WIYY (97.9 FM), will be leaving the Hearst empire for an anchor slot with CNN/SI.

"I didn't have to wake up at 3: 30 in the morning, but I loved doing it. I loved working with [WBAL radio morning anchor Dave] Durian and everyone here. I'm going to miss Baltimore," said Viviano, whose last day on the air here will be Dec. 3.

Viviano, who came to Baltimore from Dayton, Ohio, in 1994, quickly became one of the best sports anchors in town, manning the weekend shift at Channel 11.

It was four years ago this month that Viviano broke the biggest story of his career, the news that the Cleveland Browns were pulling up stakes and moving here. He took a huge flier on the story and had to wait it out nervously to see whether what he was reporting would actually come to pass.

"That's a once-in-a-lifetime story. I may not have an opportunity to do anything of that magnitude again," Viviano said. "I was still new in town, and I know a lot of people were wondering if this was going to happen."

But when the news director who hired Viviano left and a subsequent boss sliced newscast time for him and weeknight anchor Gerry Sandusky, both turned to radio to get more opportunities to showcase their talents.

Said Jim Walton, CNN/SI's president: "That [doing radio work] showed me something. I didn't get the impression that he did that for the money. I think he did that to find some channels to be expressive and to hone his craft."

Viviano said his departure for a national cable outlet, albeit a relatively nascent one with 15.4 million subscribers, was speeded by a sense that local sportscasters are becoming a vanishing breed.

"Hey, there's a station in Vegas that doesn't even have sports," Viviano said. "I've been hearing for 13 years that nobody cares about sports during newscasts, and my time and circumstances at the station had changed, so how fortuitous for me that this came along when it did."

In a related development, Jeff Beauchamp, station manager at WBAL Radio, said former Channel 13 weekend anchor Chris Ely will sit in tomorrow and Thursday morning for Viviano, and is considered a leading candidate to take over morning-drive sports. Beauchamp said Ely also will be host of some talk shows on the station this winter.

Finding the truth

Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough may actually have stumbled onto something in a Saturday column that may affect the next NFL television contract.

As McDonough sees it, the fact that NBC last week signed a six-year deal with NASCAR that runs through 2007 -- one year after the end of the NFL's current contract -- indicates that the network might not have an interest in getting back into football.

And if that notion is true, then the league will not have the external force of a network on the outside clamoring to get in, which may keep the bidding flat or bring revenue down a bit.

Of course, 2007 is a long way away, and all bets may be off if the NASCAR package proves to be a bust or if NBC follows through on plans to start its own summer/fall football league.

By the way, NBC's coverage of Sunday's NASCAR race pulled in a 3.0/7 in the Nielsen overnights, the lowest rating for a Winston Cup race in the four years that stock car race ratings have been measured. Of course, most NASCAR races don't run opposite NFL games, either.

Screening room

Tonight's schedule is loaded with interesting taped programming spread across the dial.

At 7, the latest edition of ESPN's "Outside the Lines" examines the role of Native Americans in sports, with anchor Bob Ley the host from the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

The program was still being edited at press time, but among the scheduled features include the controversy over the use of Native American symbols as team mascots, the difficulty Native American athletes have leaving reservations to participate in sports and a look at Jim Thorpe, perhaps the greatest athlete of the 20th century.

Then, at 8, ESPN Classic unveils the latest in its "Lost Treasures of NFL Films" series, with a peek at heretofore unseen or rarely seen footage of the American Football League. Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films, is the narrator, and his disdain of the AFL is often thinly disguised.

In fact, in one sequence, Sabol, to his credit, acknowledges that he edited a package of Super Bowl III to make it appear that a late Colts drive had an impact on the game, when, in truth, the Jets were in control by then.

But the footage of unheralded players, such as Marlin Briscoe -- who played quarterback at Denver before the merger in 1970 -- and a Jets linebacker named "Wahoo" and the reminiscences of some of the terrific games of the predecessor to today's AFC are worth it.

Finally at 10, HBO's "Real Sports" has an excellent profile of Maryland's football radio sideline reporter, Tim Strachan, a former All-America quarterback prospect who was paralyzed in a swimming accident before his senior year of high school. The piece, reported by correspondent Bernard Goldberg, is sentimental and inspirational without being sappy.

Other features include a look back to the 1966 Michigan State-Notre Dame football game and at two-time WNBA MVP Cynthia Cooper.

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