Basically, SportsChannel Tries Again

SportsChannel Los Angeles, which has struggled as a pay service, is going to change the way it does business.

General Manager Lynn Woodard said Thursday that SportsChannel, beginning April 1, will become a basic service, like Prime Ticket, except for selected "premium" events--Dodgers, Angels and the Stanley Cup finals.

All other SportsChannel programming, including regular-season NHL games, college basketball and Santa Anita races and replays, will be available to all cable subscribers.

It hasn't been determined whether early-round NHL playoff games will be part of the basic service.

The "premium" events will be available only to monthly subscribers or--and this is new--to those who wish to buy on a pay-per-view basis.

Woodard said a pay-per-view price schedule has not been determined.

The new plan hasn't been embraced by all cable affiliates, because it involves additional costs.

Cencom, which serves Alhambra, Pasadena and other parts of the western San Gabriel Valley, and Paragon, which covers Torrance and Garden Grove, have decided to drop SportsChannel.

Mark Mangiola of Paragon said, "At this time, we are not prepared to pass along a surcharge to our 220,000 subscribers." He declined to say how much the surcharge was.

Mangiola said only 3,500 of Paragon's customers are SportsChannel subscribers.

Woodard said that systems representing about 50% of the market, including Continental, Century, Sammons and Falcon, have agreed to the new plan, and she is working on signing up more.

It's nice that ABC is televising Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap, but it's unfortunate that it won't be shown live in the West.

The Big 'Cap will be run as the fifth race, with a 2:30 p.m. post time, so ABC can show it live in the East at 5:30 as part of "Wide World of Sports." In the West, it will be shown on a three-hour delay.

ABC has been doing major races from Santa Anita that way since the 1982 Santa Anita Derby.

Although ABC televises the Triple Crown races live across the country, it chooses not to move "Wide World" from its usual 4:30 time slot to show one segment live.

"We've never had the choice of a live telecast, so we've never been forced to decide what we prefer," said Alan Balch, who handles marketing for Santa Anita. "It's a good business decision to show it delayed because it helps the live gate and the handle, but, if pressed, I think we would prefer a live telecast."

ABC's Dave Johnson will call the race, and he will be joined by Jim McKay and Charlsie Cantey.

Other segments on Saturday's "Wide World" are taped figure skating and a report on the Iditarod sled dog race.

It's another NBA doubleheader Sunday for NBC, with the Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers up first, followed by the Detroit Pistons and Lakers at the Forum.

NBC is saying that the first game begins at 9:30 a.m., but once again it is trying to deceive viewers. That's the start of the pregame show. Real action won't begin until 10, with the second game starting at 12:30 p.m.

The Laker game will be the first of three regular-season telecasts for new commentator Magic Johnson, who will join Marv Albert and Mike Fratello. Joel Meyers also will work the telecast, as a sideline reporter.

Recommended viewing: After the Laker game on Channel 4 will be the first show of a new syndicated series called "Barcelona '92."

Dick Enberg is the host of the one-hour shows, which are produced by GGP and shot on location in Spain. Sprinter Michael Johnson and Florence Griffith Joyner are among those featured in the first show.

A week from tonight, Chick Hearn will work his 2,500th consecutive Laker game.

This event will take place in Richfield, Ohio.

Promoters of the one-on-one contest between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving aren't releasing any buy-rate numbers, but sources say there were about 50,000 subscribers out of a pay-per-view universe of 18.5 million.

That figures out to a buy-rate of less than 0.3%, but at $19.95 the pay-per-view gross would be around $1 million.

It's amazing that anyone would buy such a show. And those who did sure didn't get their money's worth. You can see better one-on-one games at the local YMCA.

What next on pay-per-view, cricket matches?

Well, yes.

World Cup cricket competition from New Zealand and Australia will be offered by a few systems, including Cencom, Continental, Jones Intercable and the San Diego Cable Sports Network, March 20, 22 and 24 for $19.95 a match.

TV-Radio Notes

USC will appear on ABC Sunday at 1 p.m., when it plays Washington State. Fortunately, Dick Vitale and Jim Valvano won't be announcing. It will be Gary Bender and Cheryl Miller, who are a little easier on the ears. . . . The Trojans' final two games, against Arizona State next Thursday night and Arizona March 14, will be televised live by Prime Ticket, with Tom Kelly and Paul Sunderland reporting. . . . Sunderland is best known as a volleyball player and announcer, but he has emerged as an outstanding basketball commentator as well. He played basketball at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks and later for Dick Harter at Oregon before transferring to Loyola Marymount after his sophomore year. Sunderland played basketball and volleyball at Loyola, but concentrated on volleyball and went on to the Olympics in 1976 and '84. Sunderland said he also would like to branch out into sports reporting and anchoring.

Although it was expected by Thursday, there is no word on whether Jim Lampley will be staying at Channel 2 as the station's main sportscaster. However, co-workers at the station presume he will be leaving. Lampley was delivered a blow Wednesday when his friend, Buddy Singer, a respected sports producer, was given another assignment, although a station spokeswoman said the reassignment is not expected to be permanent. Other sports producers at the station have been threatened with reassignment, at least until a main sportscaster is in place. . . . If Lampley is gone, Rory Markas will continue doing weeknight sports until, presumably, a new main sportscaster is hired. Markas, who has been doing solid work, will then move to weekends. During the baseball season, he will miss some weekends because he was recently hired as a play-by-play television announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers. Markas was a shortstop at Chatsworth High when the Brewers' Robin Yount was a shortstop at rival Taft High in Woodland Hills.

ESPN is televising the GTE West Senior golf tournament from Ojai, beginning today at 1 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. . . . TNT is televising the Newsweek Champions Cup tennis tournament from the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort in Indian Wells Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 11 a.m. each day. . . . "The Great Race," the first of a series of four Dodger preseason specials Channel 11 will televise, will be shown Saturday night at 7:30. The show, narrated by Vin Scully, reflects on last season.

NBC's pay-per-view Olympic Triplecast packages haven't been selling well, so a new package has been announced. Subscribers will be able to buy a single day for $29.95. A full package goes for $125 or, with perks, $170. . . . Prime Ticket's Randi Hall, who will work as a reporter for NBC on gymnastics and diving at Barcelona, is in Orlando, Fla., this weekend to work NBC's American Cup gymnastics coverage Saturday at noon.

When NBC left the second game of last Sunday's NBA doubleheader, Utah at Phoenix, the Suns appeared to have won, 114-107. What NBC viewers didn't know was that Utah's Blue Edwards came back in the last two seconds and made two free throws to make it 114-109. The lesson here is, NBC shouldn't be in such a hurry to break away. . . . Is Kim Zmeskal a bigger television draw than Michael Jordan? ABC believes so. Spokesman Mark Mandel points out Zmeskal and the five-month-old world gymnastics championship on ABC last weekend got a national rating of 5.3, and that Jordan and the Bulls on NBC got a 4.7.

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