SportsChannel Paid the Price

The news that SportsChannel Los Angeles was folding at the end of the year didn’t come as any great surprise, but it was greeted with sadness.

A lot of hard-working people will be looking for jobs, people such as popular publicity director Chuck Hayes, Clipper producer Mark Goldsmith and regional sales manager George Jostlin, to name a few.

SportsChannel Los Angeles was hurt by a sagging economy, no question, but it probably was an ill-conceived idea.

With so much sports coverage--particularly baseball--on over-the-air television and basic cable, asking viewers to pay for a little more simply didn’t work. Not in Los Angeles anyway.


It’s another lesson for the sports television business. There are more failures in pay and pay-per-view than there are successes.

You start playing with numbers and it sounds good, but the reality is that viewers will not pay unless what is being offered is a special event, something such as next Friday’s Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe heavyweight championship fight.

The Magic Johnson re-retirement announcement brought out the best and worst in sports-talk radio this week.

KMPC and XTRA were all over the Magic Johnson story. That was the good part. The bad part was some of the wild opinions.


Suddenly, those who make a living behind a microphone deemed themselves medical experts.

The views went from one end of the spectrum to the other.

At one end was KMPC’s Fred Wallin. Some of his colleagues at the station call him “the prince of paranoia.” This week, he was more the prince of hysteria, going on and on about his fears that HIV could be spread by sports contact, despite what most experts say. Wallin, however, found a doctor who agreed with him.

At the other end was KMPC’s Joe McDonnell. His view that HIV cannot be spread by sports contact is the more common one, the more logical one. But McDonnell, as usual, went overboard.


He said Karl Malone and others who questioned playing against Johnson were on a “witch hunt.” He also called it McCarthyism.

Of course, anyone who didn’t agree with McDonnell was ignorant. Normally, he would have called such people idiots, but he has been told to refrain from using his favorite word.

Can’t anybody get McDonnell to admit there might be two sides to a story?

McDonnell’s partner, Doug Krikorian, is no shrinking violet, but alongside McDonnell he is the voice of reason. His view, that Johnson shouldn’t have given in to outside pressures, was reasonable enough.


Meanwhile, McDonnell blasted away.

But the low point of the week on KMPC occurred when Wallin called Brian Golden and Paola Boivin to express his views on their mid-day show--as if his 7-to-midnight slot didn’t give him enough air time.

Talk about an ego out of control.

The Magic Johnson story is a big one, but it got overkill at KMPC. Even callers started to complain that it was time to move on to other subjects.


At XTRA, the story didn’t dominate the airwaves quite as much. But there were so many calls on the subject that Lee Hamilton told at least one listener he was tired of talking about it.

XTRA’s mid-day host, Jim Rome, seemed to make a good point about the virtual impossibility of spreading HIV on a basketball court when he said people don’t bleed in, they bleed out.

But radio talk-show hosts should in no way pretend to be experts.

On a syndicated overnight show on XTRA one night, a doctor named Loraine Day was expounding the Wallin point of view. The next night, another doctor came on and said Dr. Day didn’t know what she was talking about.


The subject should be handled gently. Too often this week it was handled with a sledgehammer.

Might Magic return to NBC? Both the network and Johnson’s agent, Lon Rosen, said it’s too early to talk about that.

Don Corsini, Prime Ticket’s executive vice president in charge of programming and production, said he, too, would love to have Johnson somehow involved in his network’s Laker coverage.

Surely, there will be plenty of television offers. And certainly there should be no controversy about Johnson working in television.


Unless Fred Wallin creates one.

TV-Radio Notes

Before going out of business, SportsChannel will televise 13 more Clipper games, including tonight’s against the Lakers at the Sports Arena. The SportsChannel announcers are Joel Meyers and Bill Walton. The game will also be carried by Channel 9, with Chick Hearn and Stu Lantz. . . . Channel 9’s revamped Laker pregame show, “Lakertime,” makes its debut tonight at 7. Lantz is co-host with Gary Cruz. Susan Stratton has taken over as executive producer; Jeff Proctor, formerly of Prime Ticket, is the new producer and Stacy Brown, formerly the Lakers’ assistant publicity director, is the associate producer.

TNT opens its NBA coverage today in a big way--Chicago at Cleveland at 4:30 p.m. Then at 7:30 p.m., it’s Seattle vs. Houston from Yokohoma, Japan. TNT will televise 50 regular-season games this season, with TBS carrying 30 Atlanta Hawk games. . . . The first of 36 Clipper telecasts on Channel 13 will be Saturday night’s game at Phoenix. The first of the station’s six “Clipper Countdown” pregame shows--there will be about one a month--will be televised at 6. Producer Dave Goetz and feature producer Heidi Palarz have put together a slick show. The opening is particularly impressive, as is a feature put together by Palarz in which the players talk about the challenge ahead.


TBS will televise the PGA Grand Slam of Golf next Tuesday and Wednesday, delayed at 5 p.m. both days. The $1-million, 36-hole tournament at PGA West in La Quinta features the winners of golf’s four major championships--Fred Couples, Masters; Tom Kite, U.S. Open; Nick Faldo, British Open, and Nick Price, PGA. Vin Scully will anchor the coverage with Bobby Clampett. Don Sutton will serve as on-course reporter. . . . Don’t feel too sorry for Charlie Jones, who lost NBC’s golf beat to Jim Lampley. Jones’ agent, Martin Mandel of San Francisco, said things will work out fine. A new deal with NBC, which Mandel is working on, will allow Jones to work for other broadcast entities.

Saturday is a great day for college football, highlighted by Boston College-Notre Dame on NBC at 10:30 a.m., Washington-Arizona on ABC at 12:30 p.m., USC-Stanford on Prime Ticket at 3:30 p.m. and Kansas at Nebraska on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. . . . This is NBC’s weekend for an NFL doubleheader, but because the Rams are home Sunday, Los Angeles gets only the Raiders at Philadelphia at 10 a.m. NBC’s best game, Pittsburgh at Buffalo, wouldn’t be shown here anyway. The second game on the West Coast, outside Los Angeles, is San Diego at Kansas City. Channel 2 has Washington at Seattle at 1 p.m. . . . ESPN takes over Sunday night football this weekend with Cincinnati at Chicago. TNT finished with an average rating of 6.9, up from last year’s 6.4. Not bad considering two of TNT’s games went up against presidential debates.

Showtime will televise Saturday night’s Azumah Nelson-Calvin Grove super-featherweight fight at Caesars Tahoe at 10:15 p.m., a delay of three hours. Because this is a preview weekend for the pay-cable network, the fight will be available to nonsubscribers. . . . Because of its popularity, Prime Ticket has decided to expand its Sunday night series, “Baseball’s Greatest Games,” to year-round. . . . Last Saturday’s Breeder’s Cup on NBC got only a 3.8 rating in Los Angeles. By comparison, Stanford-Washington football on ABC got a 5.6. . . . Al Michaels will play himself in a guest appearance on ABC’s “Coach” next Tuesday night. . . . There is talk that Barry Bonds will seek a seven-year contract, and he may talk about it today on XTRA. He is scheduled to be on with Jim Rome. So is John Wooden.

Paul Sunderland will be Prime Ticket’s main analyst for USC, UCLA and Pepperdine basketball this season and will also work at least eight telecasts for ESPN. Former UCLA coach Larry Farmer, who has been coaching Kuwait’s national team, has also been hired by ESPN as a basketball commentator. . . . With Chris Roberts, longtime voice of Cal State Long Beach basketball, now set to call UCLA basketball, his replacement with the 49ers will be Scott Galetti, a Long Beach graduate.