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Keeping Costas is key for NBC's strategy

By JOHN COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 17, 2002


NBC does not have the NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball and, after the playoffs end, the NBA, so it will rely on horse racing, golf and the Olympics to lure viewers.

NBC does not have the NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball and, after the playoffs end, the NBA, so it will rely on horse racing, golf and the Olympics to lure viewers.

Considering those events rely so heavily on their hosts, it was imperative for the network to keep the best host in the business, which NBC has done agreeing to a multiyear contract with Bob Costas that keeps him at NBC until at least the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, and perhaps beyond.

"We, obviously, have chosen not to play in the big loss-leader game of baseball, football and basketball," NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said. "Bob's deal is crafted around the major events that we do have at this point: the Triple Crown, the Breeders' Cup, the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup, the Olympics ... and another 8-10 events a year that Bob and I will mutually decide if there are things we want to do and he wants to do."

Costas turned down an offer from ESPN before signing with HBO to continue his duties there as a host of his own interview show, and ESPN sister station ABC was thought to be trying to steal Costas away from NBC.

But a long relationship with NBC and the allure of hosting the Olympics were too strong a combination to overcome.

"Coupled with my new situation at HBO, it's a perfect schedule for me," Costas said.

BYE, BYE, CNN/SI: As much as they tried to be hipper, more irreverent and more timely than rival ESPNews, Fred Hickman, Vince Cellini and the rest of the gang over at CNN/SI just couldn't overcome their nemesis or upstart all-sports stations such as Fox Sports Net, ending their 5 1/2-year run Tuesday.

CNN/SI reached 20-million homes; ESPNews reaches 37-million and ESPN 86.5-million.

CNN/SI signed off with anchors thanking viewers and repeated the same edition of Sports Tonight until midnight, when the channel showed a blue screen with the message, "The owners of CNN/SI have stopped production of the network, and we regret that we can no longer provide it to you."

JOSE CAN YOU HEAR?: The recently retired Jose Canseco will be on Fox Sports Net's Last Word With Jim Rome at 6:30 tonight.

It will be interesting to see what path Rome takes in his interview after Dan Patrick practically begged Canseco Wednesday not to write a planned tell-all book.

Patrick told Canseco it would be "a huge mistake," again blurring that line between television "journalist" and journalism.

LEG TWO: The 127th Preakness Stakes from Pimlico in Baltimore will be broadcast from 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday on NBC.

"My pick is definitely War Emblem," analyst Mike Battaglia said.

"My pick definitely will not be War Emblem," analyst Bob Neumeier said.

It's that kind of indecision the network is counting on for viewers. Deep down, chances are NBC is pulling for War Emblem, who would then go for the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. "They're all coming after him early, and they'll tire him out," said host Tom Hammond, who picks Medaglia d'Oro.

REALLY?: ESPN's Outside the Lines series looked at the growing popularity of sports video games Thursday night.

Some of those interviewed liked them, including Golden State Warrior Antawn Jamison, who plays a lot each day, saying, "I can actually say 10 hours is not anything over the ordinary."

Others such as David Walsh, a child psychologist, did not. "I can't figure out why they carry an E rating, because they promote violence, they promote cheating. How that can be appropriate for kids is beyond me," Walsh said.

AROUND THE DIAL: Lesley Visser agreed to a three-year contract with CBS's NFL Today as a reporter. The studio team will be Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, Deion Sanders and host Jim Nantz. ... Sunshine Network LIVE! Special Edition at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday will feature highlights and interviews from the state high school baseball championships.

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