Sunday, January 07, 2001

Sports on TV-Radio

Too many sports channels

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        I've gone digital. I've got 300 channels. I think. I haven't gotten through them all yet. But I'm determined to survey all the sports channels.

        It is a little after noon on Friday. Let's see: SportsCenter's on ESPN, NFL 2Night's on ESPN2, news on ESPNews, a Bo Jackson profile's on ESPN Classic, women's basketball is on Fox Sports Net, soccer is on Fox Sports World, news is on CNN/SI, guys talking golf are on The Golf Channel, dune buggy racing's on Speedvision and fishing's on The Outdoor Channel.

        With apologies to Bruce Springsteen: “I've got 10 sports channels, and nothing's on.” The only thing I come across in my remote voyage through the sports world that stops me is the Jackson profile.

        This isn't prime time, of course. But the point: There is so much sports on television that nothing stands out. That's why ratings are falling year after year. How is Monday Night Football going to draw like it did in 1979 when you have 10 other sports choices, plus wrestling on two non-sports channels?

        Highlights are hardly highlights when you can see them on four or five different channels all day long.

        Ten sports channels are what you get as part of the standard digital package from Time Warner. You also can buy all sorts of individual games. I could have order up the Rayo Vallecono vs. Real Madrid game from the Spanish soccer league for $5.99 Friday night. And there's 10 NBA pay channels.

        Digital is great. The picture is clearer. The directory makes it easier to find things and move from channel to channel.

        Of the additional six sports channels I got when I went from analog to digital, ESPN Classic will be the only one I ever watch — and only for SportsCentury.

        No knock on the other channels. There's just too much on, and too little time to watch.

        Getting a game on national television used to be a big deal — UC's basketball program went from 1983 to '90 without a national TV appearance. This year, the Bearcats are on regional or national TV 14 times. Saturday, there were 13 games available on digital.

        GOOD ANDY: Andy Furman got Earle Bruce and Chris Spielman on WLW SportsTalk on Tuesday to talk about John Cooper's firing. The show went on until 10 p.m. because of the volume of calls.

        Cooper and Furman had a good relationship, but Furman said that had nothing to do with Furman coming out against the firing.

        “He always came on whenever I asked,” Furman said. “But you've got to separate feelings from business.”

        CUT SHORT: WLW has to find a way to make a little more time for the Hot Stove League. Wednesday's show lasted 17 minutes because of the Xavier game. HSL is popular with listeners. Work the schedule around it.

        ON THE BOWLS: The lamest part of any college football bowl broadcast is when the CEO of the sponsor gets his two minutes with the sideline reporter. Nothing makes me want to buy a product less.

        NOT LIVE RADIO: ESPN 1160's new schedule starts Monday. Putting Ken Broo in the 10 a.m. to noon spot and Andy Hemmer in noon to 1 p.m. means Tony Kornheiser gets pushed back to 1 to 4 p.m., and the Dan Patrick Show airs from 4 to 7 p.m.

        John Fay covers radio/TV sports for The Enquirer. He can be reached at (513) 768-8445.


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