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Sports on the air

Remote patrol: Attention please

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published May 28, 2004

The Indianapolis 500, once America's premier auto race, airs at noon Sunday on Channel 28, with prerace beginning at 11 a.m.

Does anyone care?

ABC is hoping so. It just extended its agreement with the Indy Racing League through 2009, and wouldn't mind seeing some improved ratings indicating that was a good move.

The race's audience has shrunk by more than half since 1992, from 14-million to 6.7-million. Last year, the race did an all-time low 4.6 in ratings. The year before, it had a 4.8. In both cases, it was beaten by Fox's NASCAR offering, which posted a 5.1 in 2002 and a 4.7 last year.

NASCAR's ratings have seen a slight decline compared with last year, but even its lowest-rated race has done better than last year's Indy 500.

Old college try

Fox Sports announced this week it will incorporate its region programming into a three-channel college network this fall, offering more than 800 live NCAA events a year.

The three channels will be filled with select college programming from FSN's regional sports networks and its affiliates, including coverage from major conferences like the ACC, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC. Subscribers will receive all three channels - Eastern, Central and West. Fox College Sports will be available to approximately 20-million digital homes and 18 of the top 15 of the nation's 20 largest cities and 18 of the top 25, including Tampa.

Fox College Sports is the first threat to College Sports Television, which started two years ago and is seen in 7-million homes (to 3-million for FCS).

Beauty and the beast

The Detroit-Indiana NBA conference final is definitely must-miss TV, but the Lakers-Timberwolves has been a ratings winner for TNT, which earned a 6.8 (6-million households) Nielsen cable rating for Game 3 of their series on Tuesday. That makes it the most-watched NBA playoff game ever on cable. TNT is averaging a 6.3 rating for the series, to a 4.3 for the Dallas-San Antonio West final last year.

Bee there, or be squared

SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendery will host ESPN's 11th consecutive year of live coverage of the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals from Washington, 10 a.m.-noon Thursday on ESPN2 and 1-4 p.m. on ESPN.

Wondering what to do the hour in between? Tune in to ESPN2, which will have a one-hour telecast of the 2004 MATHCOUNTS competition. The spelling bee's championship rounds will be re-aired that night at 8 on ESPN2.

Programming note

Dream Job winner Mike Hall will begin training Tuesday in preparation for his new role as an ESPN SportsCenter anchor. I have got goosebumps.

[Last modified May 28, 2004, 01:00:27]


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