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Buss’ New Channel a Plus for Those Who Can Get It

Observations on Jerry Buss’ planned cable sports channel, detailed at a press luncheon Wednesday and scheduled to be on the air in October:

--It’s a plus for Laker fans, since they’ll get home games on this new channel as well as road games on Channel 9, which on Thursday announced a new six-year deal with the Lakers.

--It’s a plus for King fans who have cable, since more games will be televised than in the past, but a minus for those who don’t have cable because they’ll be shut out. Channel 9 will no longer carry King games.

--It’s a plus for indoor soccer fans because Lazer games, previously not televised, will now be shown.

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--It’s a plus for USC fans, who will get more men’s basketball, plus women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, track and field, swimming, baseball and possibly other sports. It’s also a plus for the school, which will get TV exposure for sports that otherwise would never have been on.

--It’s a plus for local sportscasters and TV production people, since it will open some job opportunities.

--It’s a minus for about three-fourths of the people in Southern California--those without cable TV as well as those whose cable companies will not offer the service.

Despite all the pluses, there still is a question as to how successful the venture will be. In December, Buss had several partners in a venture that was to be called Box Seat. In this new venture, so far unnamed, Buss has only one partner, cable pioneer Bill Daniels of Denver, one of the two original owners of the Los Angeles Express.

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The original partners, besides Daniels, included CBS Inc., the Washington Post Co. and cable entrepreneur Chuck Dolan, who owns Rainbow Program Enterprises. Together, they operate sports cable networks in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New England.

But these factions have bowed out, at least for now. Sources say they were leery of a sports channel that has only pro basketball and hockey as its main attractions and of the stories circulating about Buss’ alleged financial difficulties.

Similar sports-channel ventures in other cities have failed. What makes this one different is that it is offered free to cable subscribers.

Instead of charging cable subscribers, Buss and Daniels will sell commercials and collect from cable operators. Since sponsors generally don’t pay much for cable TV shows, most of the income Buss and Daniels receive will come from cable operators. The operators will pay between 15 and 20 cents a month per subscriber.

So, say, as Buss hopes, that the channel reaches a million households. It will generate as much as $200,000 a month, or $2.4 million a year from cable operators.

The cable operators, in turn, hope to generate new business. Mark Nathenson of Falcon Cable said: “If we can increase our subscriber base by just 2% by offering this channel, that means an additional $10 million a year.”

Buss said that the venture, in the beginning, will not bring in as much money to the Lakers and Kings as did a previous deal with ON-TV. That deal just expired.

“We have signed a lot of papers already, and hope to sign a lot more before October,” Buss said.

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Buss said he is hopeful of eventually carrying some UCLA and USC football games. USC football cannot appear on any kind of live TV this season because of NCAA sanctions.

UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis said he has met with Buss, but nothing has been worked out. The Angels are also a possibility in the future.

Cable companies that have already agreed to carry the channel include Group W, Falcon, Communicom, Valley, United, Storer, Heritage, Daniels and Coachella Valley.

The announcers: Buss said that regular Laker announcer Chick Hearn and Keith Erickson and regular King announcers Bob Miller and Nick Nickson would probably be used on the new cable channel. For tennis events from the Forum, Jeannie Buss said she also hopes to also use Hearn on tennis, with either Vijay Amritraj and/or Pepperdine tennis Coach Allen Fox as commentators.

Notes For the Spanish International Network (Channel 34 in Los Angeles), Wednesday’s European Cup soccer final between Liverpool of England and Juventus of Turin, Italy, at Brussels involved a major international news story. At least 35 people were killed as fans rioted before the match--and TV was there to cover it. SIN picked up the world feed, while its announcer, Alfredo Alvarez Calderon, was in a studio in Miami. The game was delayed by 90 minutes, and Calderon handled the news reporting well in both Spanish and English. Calderon, coincidentally, is a news anchor for SIN who was filling in for regular soccer announcer Tony Tirado. Since Calderon was in a studio, he was able to get wire reports on the riot. A few countries cut away from the coverage following the tragedy. SIN spokesman Mal Karwoski said: “I’m not sure, but those countries may not have rented enough satellite time to televise the entire match after the delay. We were fortunate enough to have the satellite time to still televise the match.” About the coverage of the riot, Karwoski summed it up by saying: “It was a tragic thing, just awful to watch. Some of the shots were truly gruesome.”

If you like slow-paced action, ABC is offering something different on its “Wide World of Sports” show Saturday--a live telecast of a rock climb. Actually, it should be more exciting than it sounds. ABC will follow Ron Kauk of Yosemite and Jeff Moffit of England on the last part of their two-day attempt to climb Yosemite’s 3,000-foot high Lost Arrow Spire. The show will be live in the East and delayed three hours here, but it will be shown here as if it were live. “Every other sport we televise has a certain pattern, a certain outline to follow,” ABC director Jim Jennett said. “I’ve never done anything quite like this.” ABC had to hire three cameramen who were also mountain climbers. They are a husband-wife team, Michael Hoover and Beverly Johnson of Kelly, Wyo., and Ron Peers of San Luis Obispo. Each will carry a camera while maneuvering up and down the rock by ropes. The two climbers, however, will have only a safety rope. They must move up the rock using only their hands and feet, which has never been done before. . . . Also on “Wide World” Saturday will be delayed coverage of the New York City Mini Marathon for women, featuring Joan Benoit and Grete Waitz. Wilt Chamberlain will appear as a guest analyst at halftime for Game 4 of the NBA Championship Series between the Boston Celtics and Lakers Wednesday night. The halftime guest analyst for Game 3 Sunday at the Forum will be Denver Nugget Coach Doug Moe. Thursday night, it was New York Knick Coach Hubie Brown. . . . Ratings game: ABC’s tape-delayed Indy 500 coverage Sunday night got an L.A. Nielsen rating of 10.0, while Monday’s Laker-Celtic game on Channel 2 got a 17.0. . . . Sports documentarian Bud Greenspan showed segments of the official film of the 1984 Olympics, “16 Days of Glory,” to a group of Olympians, media members and special guests at the First Interstate Bank Athletic Foundation Sports Museum Wednesday night. The film will be previewed in its entirety in Los Angeles July 29, and soon after that will be released to theaters. It may be on television as a mini-series as soon as next April or May. . . . Add Greenspan: On Wednesday night, he also presented the First Interstate museum with his 22-part “Olympiad” series. . . . Bobby Riggs and Vitas Gerulaitis will play Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in a benefit tennis match Aug. 23 that will be televised on cable on a pay-per-view basis. Proceeds will go to the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. . . . CBS radio’s “Game of the Week” on KNX Saturday at 5:30 will be the Chicago Cubs at Houston Astros, with Lindsey Nelson and Jerry Coleman reporting.


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