Delaying Needn't Be Inevitable

Some traditions are worth preserving. One that isn't is the longtime practice of delaying Channel 9 Laker telecasts from the Eastern and Central time zones.

Tonight's game from New Orleans will be televised at 6 p.m., a delay of one hour. Same thing with Monday's game from Memphis, Tenn.

What makes these delayed telecasts doubly annoying is that the Laker radio broadcasts also are delayed.

In an era of e-mails, cell phones and the Internet, when so many things are instantaneous, delayed telecasts and broadcasts are as stale as day-old news.

Waiting until 6 p.m. to televise road games that begin at 4:30 or 5 p.m. Pacific time has been something the Lakers and Channel 9 have always done. But why?

"By delaying the games we give more people the opportunity to see the games because most viewers are still at work for these early starts," said Pat McClenahan, the station manager for Channel 9 and sister station Channel 2. "By moving the games into a more convenient time period, more people can watch and more people do watch."

McClenahan pointed out that Tuesday night's Laker game at Milwaukee, which was delayed one hour, drew a 7.8 rating, the highest November Laker rating in three years.

Maybe the question is not how many people are watching but rather how many people are happy about watching a delayed telecast. And couldn't those who are worried about missing the tipoff set their VCR or TiVo?

There is no question that radio listeners, most of whom are stuck in rush-hour traffic, aren't happy about delayed broadcasts.

Now that the Lakers have a separate radio announcing team, the only reason the broadcasts are delayed is because the Lakers insist that they coincide with the delayed telecasts.

This has executives at Laker flagship station KLAC (570) seething.

"The Lakers like to think we're all one big happy family," said one relatively new KLAC executive, "but the reality is we're in competition [with Channel 9]. When we first heard we were still going to have to delay our broadcasts, we thought, 'This is crazy.' We had never heard of such a thing."

Not too many people outside Los Angeles have.

The Raider Issue

Ready for the 2-6 Oakland Raiders against the 2-6 New York Jets? That's what we get at 1:15 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2.

McClenahan, who oversees such programming decisions at both Channel 9 and Channel 2, also was asked: Why is L.A. getting a steady diet of Raider games?

This makes about as much sense as delaying Laker telecasts, especially because the Raiders are fading faster than Charles Woodson's chances of getting a Christmas card from Bill Callahan.

"Our job is to program the station with programming that is of interest to the most number of viewers," McClenahan said. "Our Raider telecasts are averaging a 7.5 rating. Our non-Raider telecasts are averaging a 5.5. That's a difference of 100,000 homes.

"The Raiders still have the biggest following of any team in Los Angeles."

On this issue, McClenahan gets support from a radio counterpart, in this case XTRA (690, 1150) program director Don Martin. XTRA began carrying Raider broadcasts this season.

"Our listening audience among Hispanics has gone from 17% to 30%," Martin said, "and in a market that is 52% Hispanic, that's huge. And the main reason for this increase, I believe, is our Raider coverage.

"I agree [with McClenahan]. You can't go wrong with the Raiders, even when they're going bad. With the Raiders, you have the most loyal fans anywhere."

NBA-ABC Update

The names David Robinson and Mark Jackson have come up as possible candidates to join Al Michaels on ABC's NBA telecasts beginning Christmas Day.

USA Today's Rudy Martzke also reported that Rex Chapman was due in New York for an audition Thursday.

ABC Vice President Mark Mandel said there is no timetable for making a decision, but one thing that seems clear is that the ABC commentator or commentators will be new to broadcasting.

And that could be a problem. It's one thing to know basketball and know how to talk about the game, it's another to slip on the microphone and immediately know how to handle all the technical aspects of the job.

Channel 9's Susan Stratton, regarded by many as the best basketball producer and director anywhere, said all that is required of a commentator these days makes the job difficult.

"It is such a fast-paced game that you often don't have time to look at a replay before talking about it," said Stratton, who is traveling with the Lakers and was in San Antonio Thursday. "Stu [Lantz] is very good. I can say two or three words into his ear -- Kobe three-pointer, or Derek steal or Hornets' last score -- and he'll know exactly what is coming up and what to say.

"It's not an easy thing to learn, and neither is learning how to handle all the bells and whistles the networks have at their disposal these days."

One person who might fit the bill is Orlando Coach Doc Rivers, and he may soon be available if the Magic keeps losing games.

Rodeo Days

Looking for something different? The Professional Bull Riders' World Finals are taking place in Las Vegas, and Outdoor Life and NBC are televising the event. NBC offers two hours of live coverage of the finals Sunday at 1 p.m.

PBR is concluding its first season under a new television contract. NBC has been involved since 2002, but this is Outdoor Life's first year and the cable channel just signed a four-year extension.

The arrival of Outdoor Life meant the departure of the National Network (TNN), and PBR chairman Randy Bernard is thrilled about that.

"We couldn't get away from TNN fast enough," he said from Las Vegas Thursday. "They were ruining our sport."

Bernard said besides lousy time slots, TNN wanted PBR to be another World Wrestling Federation.

"We don't need to make it fake," he said. "We have a great sport without all that."

The NBC announcing crew working the finals includes George Michael, Tuff Hedeman and Justin McKee. Outdoor Life has added Cindy Taylor, best known for her role as the host of E! Channel's "Wild One," to its broadcast team.

Recommended Viewing

Joe Torre, appearing on "Dateline NBC" Sunday at 7, talks with Stone Phillips about growing up in an abusive household. Torre says his father, a New York City detective, kept his entire family in a constant state of fear because of his violent rages.

"When he was home, it was like walking on eggshells for us all the time," Torre says.

Short Waves

James Brown, who does a daily show for Sporting News radio, is in store for a busy weekend. He'll serve as the host of HBO Pay-Per-View's telecast of Saturday night's card featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Antonio Tarver, then fly back to Los Angeles and be up by 5 a.m. to get ready to do "Fox NFL Sunday." ... Reuters reported Thursday that the NBA, continuing to expand its international coverage, has made new deals that will make games available in all 314 million television households in China. The NBA also has made new deals with several countries, including Belarus and Georgia.

In Closing

Here we go again. ABC has three attractive regional college games Saturday morning -- Michigan State at Ohio State, Texas A&M; at Oklahoma and Tennessee at Miami. But because of ABC's commitment to Saturday morning children's programming, the West Coast doesn't get any of these games.

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