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L.A. Market Won’t Go Hungry

Sat., July 1, 1995

It’s been a few days since Raiders boss Al Davis announced that he was ready to put Los Angeles in his rearview mirror. But the idea of no NFL team in the nation’s second-largest television market is still hard to fathom - especially at Fox.

The Fox Network, which signed a four-year, $1.56 billion deal late in 1993 to broadcast NFC games, is asking for a rebate.

NBC Sports, which is paying $217 million a year for AFC games, seems to have faith that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will return professional football to the City of Angels as quickly as possible.

“At this point I have full confidence in Paul and the owners that this is something that’s going to evolve,” said Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports. “It’ll probably take 12 to 18 months to come to fruition. I’m pretty comfortable with the fact that things will be OK.”

With the Rams in St. Louis and the Raiders poised to scoot back north to their previous home in Oakland, what will the folks in Los Angeles do on Sunday afternoons this fall?

Better yet, what kind of ratings will NFL telecasts draw?

“I’m certain that Fox is going to bring a high number of Rams games back to L.A.,” said Ebersol. “At least the first year, and we certainly will bring the Raiders games back into L.A.

“We’ll follow the Raiders ratings,” Ebersol said. “There probably are ill feelings, but there’s got to be great curiosity about what’s going to happen. Most weeks, at least half of them, we’ll need a late game in L.A. - Oakland and games at San Diego and Seattle will be our only choices.”

While this game of musical franchises forced changes on NBC, the network elected to make some on their own.

With recently signed Phil Simms and Paul Maguire joining play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg, NBC is going to a three-man broadcast booth for the 1995 season.

Simms, who quarterbacked the New York Giants just two seasons ago, will analyze the offense, and Maguire, formerly a linebacker and punter with the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills, will analyze the defense.

NBC signed Simms in April after he opted not to go

back to football. He had worked a season for ESPN as a studio analyst but left to make a comeback as a player before changing his mind and defecting to network television.

The folks at ESPN were not happy with the turn of events.

“We tried to handle it professionally,” said Simms. “What it came down to is I didn’t have a contract there. I saw an opportunity to come over to NBC. My ambition in broadcasting was to be a color man for football games, and that opportunity was here.”

The idea that Simms might again want to get closer to the game wasn’t lost on Ebersol.

“We were able to get from Phil Simms a no-coaching guarantee so we won’t run into any of the problems we’ve fallen into in the past,” Ebersol said.

Robin Roberts, who also appears with Chris Berman on “NFL GameDay,” signed an agreement with ESPN and ABC Sports that extends through the year 2001. Among her new duties at ABC will be hosting “Wide World of Sports.”

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