It is an interesting and valuable exercise to open a dialogue between television network executive and TV Guide ("TV Sports Critics and the Large: Picture" April 29). There is, however a third side to this dialogue which is all too frequently ignored - that of the viewer. This is especially true of sports programming, because most of us who really care about sports care about the quality of sports programming as well.
When network spokesmen use terms like "larger picture" and "most don't understand the ins and outs . . . they do the viewers and themselves a great disservice. The networks have been explaining these things to us for years as a way of justifying mediocre programming. The public understands a great deal more than the networks give us credit for. If the television industry really thinks we don't understand, perhaps that is the reason why it doesn't strive for the best, but rather the most popular.
The defense by Beano Cook (CBS Sports publicist and author of the April 29 piece) of so-called "trash-sports" is just the kind of "lowest common denominator" thinking that guides network thinking. These shows aren't produced because people like them . . . they're produced because they make the networks gobs of dollars. Advertisers buy commercial minutes at sports events rates for what is essentially entertainment programming.
Ratings - which drive dollars up - are gotten by slick program positioning. The pro football boom of the late 60s and 70s has made Sunday afternoon a TV watching and particularly a sports TV watching period for many Americans who are not essentially sports fans. So the same people who make Three's Company and "Welcome Back Katie" a popular at night tune in Sunday afternoon to watch Suzanne Somers and Gabe Kaplan run around in shorts.
For the networks to call these people sports fans is a disservice to the genuine sports fan. Please Mr Cook, call this stuff what it really is - entertainment, not sport.
Finally, for the CBS sports publicist to raise the issue of live sports preemption is indicative of just how greedy the networks really are. So where Mr Cook, is CBS's exclusive coverage of the NBA Championship finals.
CBS has announced that no NBA Championship games will be shown in prime time nationally until June due to poor ratings during the regular season.
Quoting Mr Cook again" . . . unless there are unusual circumstances, a station can't justify pre-empting a live sporting event, even for a show that grabs a higher rating." How stupid do you really think we are, Mr Cook? You can't have it both ways!
Certainly the networks do have valid complaints against TV and sports TV critics. They can be ascerbic,, pedantic, and sometimes even just plain mean. But at least newspaper writers are honest most of the time. The networks usually can't afford to be honest because mostly their actions are not in the public interest. Most everything they do is in view of that large picture which really translates down to just one word - profits.