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How Fox Cornered the Market by Giving NFL Time and Score

One of the most talked-about aspects of Fox’s first season of NFL football has been that little graphic in the upper left corner with the score, quarter and time remaining.

There’s a story behind it, involving a production executive named Marc Yobs, who was killed in the Northridge earthquake Jan. 17.

Graphics was one of the first orders of business for David Hill when he became the president of Fox sports last December. The self-assured Hill knew what he wanted, which besides the all-the-time score was an overall look that would take Fox sports into television’s future, with its 500 channels, interactive capabilities and on-line computer services.

He met with dozens of companies that design graphics and selected Autographics of Hollywood.

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Autographics is associated with the Post Group, a major Hollywood production company. Fred Rheinstein owns the Post Group, along with 14 other companies, as well as the studio where Roy Firestone and Jim Rome do their shows for ESPN and ESPN2.

Rheinstein’s daughter, Linda, owns Autographics. She has worked for and with the three major network sports divisions for more than 20 years, so she knows Fox’s new executive sports producer, Ed Goren, who came over from CBS.

Yobs, Fred Rheinstein’s assistant, suggested to Linda Rheinstein that her company and the Post Group go after the Fox account.

She called Goren and asked to meet with him and Hill. A meeting, which was also to include Yobs, was scheduled for Super Bowl week in Atlanta, and she and Yobs began working on a presentation.

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But tragedy struck on Jan. 17.

The showplace hillside home in Sherman Oaks that Yobs, 32, shared with his girlfriend, Karen Osterhold, 30, slid down the hill during the quake. Both were killed.

Linda Rheinstein went to Atlanta anyway and asked that the meeting be postponed. She needed more time and, of course, they gave it to her.

A week after the Super Bowl, she met with Hill and Goren in Los Angeles. They were impressed with the presentation, and her company got the account.

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Rheinstein’s people now work closely with Fox’s in-house graphics specialist, Jane Pryor, whom Hill hired. Pryor had previously worked for Hill in England and Australia.

But the whole look of Fox sports might be different had it not been for Marc Yobs and his urging that Rheinstein try for the account.

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Add graphics: What did Rheinstein and her creative director, Chris Liberty, who would be the one to design the graphics, think when they first heard that Hill wanted to put the score and time remaining on the screen and leave them there?

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“My first reaction was, ‘This man is brilliant,’ ” Rheinstein said. “Has a little graphic ever gotten so much attention? Also, the graphic serves as a logo for Fox. Whenever you watch NFL highlights and you see that graphic, you know it’s Fox.”

That was Hill’s thinking exactly.

“Everything we do is with the future in mind,” Hill said. “When there are 500 channels, it will be very important to brand your product so it is immediately recognizable.”

Also, it seems viewers are becoming more accustomed to the graphic. One thing for sure, it beats not having the score put up enough.

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Try watching “Monday Night Football” in a noisy bar and see how long it takes before you see the score. It seems like forever.

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Raider radio commentator Bob Chandler, who has also been doing sports for Channel 2, is recuperating from a recent lung biopsy that revealed a malignancy. He will be undergoing treatment at USC Norris Cancer Center while continuing his radio and television obligations.

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End of an era: Firestone’s “Up Close” show, formerly “SportsLook,” has been a fixture for nearly 14 years, first at the USA network, and at ESPN for the last 11.

Now Firestone is about to move on. Although nothing is final, Firestone said the plan is for him to cease doing the daily show at the end of the year but continue with ESPN and do prime-time specials every six weeks, and other projects as well.

“Instead of doing 250 interviews a year, I’ll be interviewing 40 of the biggest names in sports,” Firestone said.

He said he had to leave the daily show because he is developing a late-night show for another network.

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In line to replace Firestone on “Up Close” is ESPN’s Chris Myers.

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A feature on ESPN’s “GameDay” takes a look at the Darryl Henley situation.

The Ram cornerback, facing charges of cocaine possession and conspiracy to sell, tells ESPN free-lancer Greg Garber, who is also a reporter for the Hartford Courant, “Eventually everything that is said has to be accounted for, and I don’t think I’ve blinked in this whole thing and I’m not blinking now.”

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Asked if he is saying he is not guilty, Henley says, “I’m saying I’m not blinking.”

The feature focuses on the question of whether Henley is getting preferential treatment by being allowed to play. Says Times writer T.J. Simers, who covers the Rams and was interviewed for the piece, “If Charles Manson was available and could get the weekends off and could catch the ball deep, I think there would be spot for him here.”

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Belle gems: Jim Rome recently went to Cleveland to do an interview with the Indians’ Albert Belle, and it will run this weekend as the “Sunday night conversation” segment on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

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Belle, asked if he used a corked bat, says, “I don’t need to use a corked bat.”

Asked if he was worried that if he wins the American League MVP award people would say he won it because he used a corked bat, Belle says, “No, because how do we know Babe Ruth didn’t use a corked bat? He hit in bigger ballparks than I did.”

TV-Radio Notes

If the NHL season does not start on schedule because of a lockout this weekend, ESPN2 will fill the air time with karate, minor league hockey and rodeo. . . . NBC announced that it drew higher ratings for its coverage of the AFC in September than Fox did for the NFC and also that it won the season’s first month for the first time in 15 years. NBC claimed an average rating of 11.8 after four weeks and said Fox’s rating after three weeks was an 11.1. But Fox’s David Hill pointed out that the second half-hour of its one-hour pregame show beat NBC’s half-hour show, 5.0 to 3.9. Also, Fox’s show is getting higher ratings than CBS’ “NFL Today” did.

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In what is apparently a first, Fox will use an active player as a commentator Sunday. With the Kansas City Chiefs in a bye week, Marcus Allen will work the Detroit-Tampa Bay regional telecast with New York play-by-play announcer Tim Breen. Does this mean Allen might retire to join Fox next year? “No, I haven’t given retirement any consideration at this point,” Allen said. If he does end up with Fox someday, it might be fun to hear him work a Raider game, although he said, “I’ve put all that stuff with the Raiders behind me.”

The Fox game here Sunday is Philadelphia at San Francisco, with Pat Summerall and John Madden. The NBC game is the New York Jets at Cleveland, with Marv Albert and Paul Maguire. . . . The road team has won every week in the first four weeks of Sunday night NFL football on TNT. That figures to continue with Miami at Cincinnati this Sunday. . . . Versatile Chris Marlowe, best known for his work on beach volleyball, did a nice job on football play-by-play for Prime Ticket last Saturday on the San Diego State-Colorado State game. It was his first try at football play-by-play. . . . Ann Liguori has an interesting interview with new Philadelphia 76er Coach John Lucas on her “Sports Innerview” program on Prime Ticket Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Tapes of the Jim Healy tribute that KMPC ran on Aug. 24 are being sold for $12, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society’s programs for kids with cancer. Details: (310) 840-4914. . . . The former KMPC team of Brian Golden and Doug Krikorian will be reunited on KABC Saturday, 7-9 p.m. They will be going against their former colleague, Joe McDonnell, who will be on KMPC 6-10 p.m. . . . Saturday night’s big high school game between Bishop Amat and Bakersfield will be on KORG (1190). Scott Galetti, who will do the play-by-play, put the package together.


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