Chicago Cubs fans -- be they in Portland, Ore., or Portland, Maine,
or Ponca City -- are thoroughly serviced with blanket television
coverage of their favorite team.
The credit goes not to Chicago station WGN, but rather to a
business headquartered at 71st and Lewis.
In 1976, in a move considered moronic by others in the television
industry, Ted Turner decided to send the signal of his WTBS in Atlanta to a
satellite and sell the signal to cable systems. The first ``superstation''
was created. United Video liked the concept, and in 1978 the small Tulsa
company searched the nation for an attractive independent and discovered
WGN was not cooperative and even mounted a litigious challenge, but there
wasn't a law or FCC rule to prevent United -- now known as UVTV -- from
plucking and marketing the station's signal. In 1980, WGN truly became a
``superstation'' when it obtained Chicago Cubs broadcast rights.
In 1995, WGN is available in 35 million American homes and the
Cubs are among the more highly recognized of all pro sports
franchises. Their play-by-play announcer, the venerable Harry
Caray, is a hero to millions of sedentary beer drinkers.
UVTV's parent company, United Video Satellite Group, employs
more than 700 people and claims total assets of nearly $150
million. Since both parties have thrived, it would seem WGN and
UVTV would be corporate allies, but UVTV president Jeff Treeman
describes the relationship as ``not particularly friendly.''
``They feel like we're stealing the signal,'' Treeman said.
``Let me word this carefully -- WGN and we have gone from being
confrontational to being closely accommodating of each other.''
The process works like this: The television signal carries from WGN's
tower to a UVTV-owned satellite dish in Monee, Ill., then is bounced to an
orbiting satellite before being received by subscribing cable systems.
Eighty-five percent of the nation's cable systems carry WGN, and
UVTV is looking to soon penetrate two important markets --
Pittsburgh, Pa., and Manhattan, N.Y. If a cable operator wants WGN
on his menu, he doesn't call WGN. He places a call to the 918 area
code and deals with Treeman.
``WGN didn't like us when all this started and they came after us in
court, but we've never done anything that breaks any copyright laws,''
Treeman said. ``I just look at it as being a real success story all the way
* UVTV and Holden Productions, Inc., have formed a pay-per-view company
called ``Gloves Off.'' UVTV's first experience in the fight game happens on
Saturday, June 10, when heavyweights Tommy Morrison and Donovan ``Razor''
Ruddock clash in Kansas City. The show, which includes a Roberto Duran-Roni
Martinez undercard bout, has been priced at $29.95.
A boxing PPV program is considered a strong success when it is
bought in 300,000-plus households.
``I think we'll do between 200,000 and 300,000,'' Treeman said. ``We're
looking into boxing because we think there is revenue potential. If this is
a pleasant experience, we'll definitely do another bout.''
* ESPN's Al Bernstein and USA Today boxing writer Jon Saraceno
will provide ringside commentary during the Morrison-Ruddock fight.
``A lot of people have this pegged as a pick-'em fight, but I
have a strong feeling Morrison will win convincingly,'' Saraceno
said. ``He'll get a title shot if he knocks out Ruddock.''
* Through Wednesday night, when Orlando edged Indiana 108-106 in
yet another terrific postseason passion play, NBC's ratings for NBA
playoff games are 12 percent better than last year's. The network's
overall rating of 7.6 is the highest for the NBA playoffs since
1977. Each ratings point represents 954,000 television households.
Turner Sports also experienced a big ratings boost with its
45-game playoff package on TNT and TBS. Overall, Turner posted a
4.0 cable rating, which represents 2.5 million households per game.
* Don't call baseball's labor dispute a ``strike'' or ``work stoppage.''
Call it `'attempted suicide.''
Baseball attendance is down 27 percent and TV ratings have dropped 30
The national pastime this spring has been watching the spectacular play
of NBA stars Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaquille O'Neal and Reggie
Miller. Meanwhile, the recent baseball highlights that have received the
heaviest play were Ken Griffey Jr. and Al Cole sustaining broken bones and
pitcher Norm Charlton taking a line drive between the eyes.
* Channel 6's John Walls joins Ron Franklin and the infamous Ben
Wright for ESPN's coverage of the NCAA Championship golf tournament
(cable 25, Friday 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday 1-3 p.m.).
* Another ESPN event -- the College World Series -- begins with
Friday's 2:35 p.m. Oklahoma-Florida State contest (Bob Rathbun
play-by-play, Steve Garvey on color). Mike Patrick and Fred Lynn
work the 6:35 Miami-Southern Cal game.
There won't be any Sooner radio coverage in Tulsa.
* A 30-minute golf show hosted by Bo Belcher will air on KAKC
am1300 each Thursday at 4 p.m.
Former New Orleans Saints announcer Dave Garrett has been
selected as the new play-by-play voice of the Dallas Cowboys after
a stormy four-month search.
Garrett, 35, who once worked with Cowboys coach Barry Switzer at
Oklahoma, agreed to a one-year contract with KVIL-FM in Dallas, the
Cowboys' flagship station. Garrett succeeds Brad Sham, who
broadcast Cowboys games for 19 seasons.
* Bill Land, the reigning Tulsa Sportscaster of the Year, and J.V.
Haney might resurface as co-hosts of a weekly television show. If
they can muster adequate advertising support, the program -- a
roundtable-discussion format with other media members and assorted
guests -- would be taped in a TCI Cablevision studio and run on
cable channel 9. No start date has been targeted.
KQLL am1430 canceled its Land-Haney morning call-in show on March 31.
``We're like turtles,'' Haney said. ``We'll pop up somewhere.''
* Tulsa's Bob Carpenter hasn't decided whether he'll return to
Jefferson-Pilot's college football play-by-play staff. Jefferson-Pilot
provides regional coverage of Southeastern Conference games.
Carpenter's currently works St. Louis Cardinal and ESPN baseball
telecasts. ``After the long haul of a baseball season ... I just don't know
about football,'' he said.