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So Far, No NFL Team in L.A. Means No NFL Ratings, Either

When Los Angeles lost both of its NFL teams, there were two lines of thought on what would happen to television ratings:

A) With the elimination of blackouts and doubleheader restrictions, L.A. would get more and better games and the ratings would go up.

B) Without local teams, overall interest in the NFL would decline and so would ratings.

After 10 weeks, the jury is in. The answer is B.

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NBC’s L.A. ratings are down 30%, from an average of 13.8 last year to a 9.6 this year. Nationally, NBC’s ratings are down 12%, from an 11.8 to a 10.4

Fox’s L.A. average is down 26%, from a 13.2 to a 9.8, but nationally it is up 4%, from an 11.5 to a 12.0.

L.A. ratings for ABC’s “Monday Night Football” are down from an 18.5 to a 16.4. Nationally, “Monday Night Football” ratings are down from a 17.8 to a 17.1.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello points out that because more games are being shown, total viewership in L.A. is up, but still the message to the NFL is: The No. 2 television market in the country is in need of a franchise.

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More ratings: Fox’s “game of the year,” San Francisco at Dallas on Sunday, has lost much of its luster, but it has still been quite a year for the “moving-on-up” network. No one is calling Fox a “pushcart network” these days, as NBC’s Dick Ebersol once did.

Fox’s average NFL rating of 12.0 tops the 11.9 CBS had after 10 weeks in 1993.

And Fox’s pregame show is beating NBC’s, 4.4 to 2.2, in the demographic group of men 18-49. Overall, Fox is winning, 4.4 to 3.3.

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Both NBC and Fox have formidable casts on their pregame shows, and on Sunday, Joe Montana makes one of his periodic appearances on NBC.

But what seems to give Fox the edge is the production that goes into its one-hour show, starting with the opening skits and continuing through features that deal with serious topics.

A case in point was a piece called “Price of Fame” that executive producer Scott Ackerson and crew did for last Sunday’s show. This well-balanced, well-researched segment dealt with the lack of privacy for athletes such as Emmitt Smith.

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When Fox got the NFL, it went out and got the best football announcing team in the business, Pat Summerall and John Madden.

Now that it has baseball, it should take the same approach and go after Vin Scully. A good partner would be Jeff Torborg, who worked well with Scully on CBS radio’s coverage of the World Series.

A lot of people didn’t hear them because the broadcasts were on KMAX-FM (107.1), which has a weaker signal than KNX (1070). KNX dropped the CBS baseball package in mid-season.

Fox already has Dick Stockton, a veteran baseball announcer, but he would fit better in the No. 2 slot. Scully should be Fox’s No. 1 man.

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Sports-talk radio, a proven loser in Los Angeles, just won’t go away. KMAX is just limping along these days, and now comes word KIIS-AM (1150) is considering a sports-talk format.

“It’s one of the options we are looking at,” said Roy Laughlin, the general manager of both KIIS-FM (102.7) and KIIS-AM.

KIIS-AM now carries KIIS-FM programming, but Laughlin said he is trying to persuade his bosses at the Gannett headquarters in Washington to change that.

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He said if KIIS-AM goes to a sports-talk format, the station would take a low-budget approach.

“You don’t build a 500,000-square-foot hamburger stand and expect it to be a success,” Laughlin said.

XTRA, meanwhile, increased its power to 77,500 watts Thursday and was getting daytime calls from as far away as Oregon and Washington.

TV-Radio Notes

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Because of sanctions against Washington, UCLA’s game Saturday against the Huskies will not be televised. . . . USC-Oregon State will be on Prime Sports at 7 p.m. . . . Both the St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders will be televised Sunday morning. Fox has the Rams’ first game in the new Trans World Dome against Carolina and NBC has the Raiders at the New York Giants. . . . Phil Simms is working the Raider-Giant game, giving him a chance to talk about both his former team, the Giants, and his former backup, Jeff Hostetler.

Fox assigned commentator Ron Pitts to work the regional telecast of Atlanta at Buffalo, which could have created an interesting situation. Ron’s father, Elijah, an assistant with the Bills, has been filling in for Coach Marv Levy while Levy recovered from prostate cancer surgery, but Levy is expected to resume his coaching duties Sunday.

Brett Lewis, co-host of Del Harris’ one-hour radio show on KLAC on Monday nights, last Monday reminded the Laker coach that he becomes a media representative when he does the show. “My IQ just dropped 20 points,” Harris quipped.

Prime Sports gymnastic commentator Maura Driscoll was able to land an interview with Bela Karolyi, the first one he has done since his coaching tactics were challenged by author Joan Ryan in her book, “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.” Included in the report by Driscoll on “Press Box” Wednesday night was this from Karolyi: “You have to give them the guts. If you are not pushing them, if you are not turning them into little fighting tigers, they are never going to become tigers.”

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Sunday night’s gala at UCLA celebrating the “100 Greatest Moments in L.A. Sports History” will be televised live by Prime, beginning at 8 p.m. It will also be the focal point of Irv Kaze’s KIEV show tonight at 6:15. . . . Attention figure skating fans: CBS has a taped prime-time show tonight at 9, “Ice Wars: USA vs. the World,” and ABC has one Thursday at 8 p.m., “Skates of Gold III,” featuring 22 Olympic gold-medal winners.


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