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L.A. Sports Anchors Have Had a Tough Time Staying Afloat

The revolving door: Channel 5 weekend sports anchor Steve Roah, after learning this week that his contract would not be renewed, said: “That’s life in the big city.”

What Roah meant was, “That’s sportscasting in L.A.”

It isn’t exactly a stable profession.

Less than a year ago, Channel 5 gave Joe Buttitta his walking papers.

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More recently, Channel 4 fired weekend anchor Andy Liscano, replacing him with Mike Smith, who came from San Diego, and Channel 7 dropped weekend sports anchor Ed Arnold.

Although Liscano has not been heard from since his departure, Arnold is close to a deal that would put him at Channel 5 as Roah’s replacement, and Buttitta has done some fill-in work at Channel 13. He might end up there permanently if the station decides to expand its weeknight news show to the weekends later this year.

Meanwhile, Stu Nahan’s status at Channel 4 remains tenuous, although the station reportedly is hoping to re-sign Nahan before his contract expires in August. So maybe the question is, will Nahan accept the terms?

Arnold, in shopping around for work, said he was told by Channel 4’s management that there were no openings because they were hopeful of re-signing Nahan.

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Arnold said he also talked to Channel 2 management about work there, but was told that workaholic Jim Hill and weekend sports anchor Tony Hernandez had all the bases covered.

That left Channel 5. “I’ve signed nothing, but things should work out,” Arnold said.

As Roah’s replacement, Arnold would have to play a backup role to Keith Olbermann, the weeknight anchor who replaced Buttitta last September.

“No problem,” Arnold said. “I’m a team player.”

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Also, Arnold figures to make a smaller salary at Channel 5 than he did at Channel 7. “Money is not a big issue with me,” he said.

Roah said his problems at Channel 5 started when Olbermann came aboard. “He came in as the fair-haired boy,” Roah said. “I’d do features and he wouldn’t use them. I’d complain and get nowhere.

“I don’t know whether Keith didn’t like my work, or he didn’t want to share the spotlight.”

Roah also said that Olbermann, who became the station’s sports director about a month after his arrival from Boston, frequently complained about Roah’s work, usually in the form of memos. Roah said that one memo concerned the mispronunciation of hockey names. Another, addressed to Roah and several other people, concerned not giving the death of Roger Maris better play. Roah said he did not have a role in how the Maris story was played.

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“I find it somewhat paradoxical that on the air he takes sports so light-heartedly, yet off the air he takes everything so seriously. He was always writing memos. He complained I was hurting the integrity of the sports department and the entire station.”

Said Olbermann: “I’m sorry Steve has chosen to go public with things that shouldn’t go beyond the confines of this station.

“Yes, I did send Steve a memo about his mispronunciation of some French hockey names. All I did was suggest he check the hockey guide. It was such a minor thing it’s hardly worth mentioning.

“As for my not using his features, it was my understanding that since I was the new guy, the station wanted me to get the exposure. It had nothing to do with Steve or the work he did.”

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Looking ahead: Michael Eskridge, NBC-TV’s executive vice president in charge of the 1988 Olympics, was in town this week to talk to television reporters about the coverage at Seoul, South Korea, where the Games will run from Sept. 15 through Oct. 4.

Because of those dates, NBC will have only four days after the Olympics to get ready for the 1988 World Series.

Eskridge said that there would be 179 1/2 hours of Olympic programming, which is close to the amount ABC carried in ’84.

Somewhat surprisingly, 130 hours will be live, according to Eskridge. However, some of that live programming will be delayed two hours in the morning on the West Coast. That’s because NBC’s weekday coverage will begin at 7 a.m. in the East, which is 4 a.m. in the West.

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Prime-time coverage will be from 4:30 to 9 p.m. PDT, with late-night coverage beginning at 9:30 and continuing until 11:30.

Add Olympics: Eskridge said that NBC made a $50-million payment toward its $300-million rights fee late last month and will make three payments of only $15 million each before the Games. The remaining $205 million will be paid after the Games.

When the rights fee was announced, Olympic and network officials said that the fee might go over $300 million--to as high as $500 million--if sales went well for NBC.

But Eskridge said there is only about a 1-in-10 chance that NBC will end up paying more than $300 million. He said the sliding scale was announced to save face for the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee.

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“They had said American TV rights might bring as much as $750 million and at least $500 million,” Eskridge said. “The way the deal was announced, their estimates didn’t look so far off.”

Eskridge said projections indicate that NBC will gross $600 million in advertising and will spend $110 million in production. “We plan to make a profit,” he said.

Add Eskridge: He was named to his new position at NBC last October after spending a year at RCA as vice president in charge of home information systems. Before that, he was president of NBC radio.

Reporters who talked with him this week were impressed with his candor, his knowledge and, particularly, his attention to detail.

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“There will be 36 hours of commercial time,” he said. “Or, to break it down further, 4,372 30-second spots.”

Notes Can you believe it? KMPC, the Angels’ flagship station, didn’t interview Don Sutton after he won No. 300 Wednesday night. Incredible. Somehow, it seems, the station could have been able to get to him. . . . Although NBC has been getting poor ratings for its World Cup coverage, the Spanish International Network is doing well, particularly in Los Angeles. According to Arbitron ratings, Sunday’s Mexico-Bulgaria match on Channel 34 drew a 5.3 and was seen in 233,269 homes. The U.S. Open on ABC, meanwhile, drew an Arbitron rating of 4.8 in Los Angeles. However, the Nielsen rating for the golf in L.A. was a 5.8. . . . NBC has hired ESPN commentator Paul Maguire to work on its “NFL ’86" shows this fall. Maguire worked for NBC in the ‘70s before being fired by Don Ohlmeyer, former executive producer. NBC has also hired Sports Illustrated’s Frank Deford for “NFL ’86.” Maguire and Deford replaced Pete Axthelm and Larry King, although their roles will be different.

If you missed Hector (Macho) Camacho’s controversial victory over Edwin Rosario last Friday, NBC will show the fight on its “SportsWorld” show Sunday on Channel 4 at 1 p.m. Also on the show is a live fight, Azumah Nelson vs. Danilo Cabrera from San Juan, Puerto Rico. . . . Add boxing: Monday night’s tripleheader at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas will be televised on a pay-per-view basis by 27 cable companies in the Los Angeles area and Cox Cable in San Diego. The bouts: Roberto Duran vs. Robbie Sims in a 10-rounder, Thomas Hearns vs. Mark Medal in a 12-rounder and Barry McGuigan vs. Steve Cruz in a 15-rounder.

HBO’s weeknight Wimbledon coverage begins Monday. A match will be shown on a same-day delayed basis each night at 5 p.m., followed at 7:30 by a half-hour of highlights. More highlights will be shown at 11:30 p.m. each night. . . . HBO will supplement its coverage with a number of features. . . . Channel 2’s Jim Hill has added some new features to his repertoire. They include “At Home With . . . ,” in which Hill goes to the homes of sports figures to conduct interviews, “Where Are They Now?” which looks at former stars, and, “What’s Your Question?” which gives viewers a chance to get on camera if their questions are selected.

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