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COST-CUTTING REALITY STINGS KCAL.

Byline: TOM HOFFARTH The Media

The nature of the beast in today's local television industry involves trying to make things work with outsourced jobs because of the cost-cutting demands from the parent company's shareholders. Count KCAL-Channel 9 among those now faced with that reality as it will make a major adjustment in how it covers the Lakers, Dodgers and the all the rest of its live sporting events starting in 2006.

Viacom's latest multi-million cutback edict has finally forced KCAL president and general manager Don Corsini and senior VP/station manager Pat McClenahan into wiping out its Emmy Award-winning in-house live sports production team as of Dec. 31.

That means executive producer Jeff Proctor, Lakers' longtime producer Sue Stratton, Lakers director Mark Shah and five other key audio, graphic and videotape replay technicians are out of their jobs in about two months. The cutbacks in what's considered to be station overhead won't affect the team-hired broadcasters or the sports news units that produce the pregame shows or handle the daily sportscasts on KCAL or KCBS-Channel 2.

When faced with a budget cut like this a few years ago, KCAL did away with its special projects news department. Now, it's time for sports to take a hit, as other local TV stations have had to deal with it. This recent evolution can be directly linked to the escalating rights fees that eventually catch up with the local stations and force upper management to reassess their priorities in light of stockholders' demand for more profits.

In the upcoming weeks, bids will be heard from, among others, FSN West, Northwest Mobile and a company that Proctor plans to start himself for the rights to produce KCAL's games. But even if Proctor is hired back, there's no guarantee someone like Stratton, who is going into her 28th season as the Lakers' producer, will be retained.

McClenahan says that while it is too early to determine what personnel changes might result from this move, KCAL won't compromise the product despite the personally painful cutbacks of employees who he has worked with for many years.

``Our responsibility to the viewers, and our contractual obligation to the teams, is to present the best production we can, because they all expect the highest quality,'' said McClenahan, who, like Corsini, comes from a strong sports production background going back to their days at Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket in the early '90s. ``We will continue our commitment to make the best local production.''

KCAL has considered the Lakers its most valued investment for years, sending eight people on its road-game telecasts in recent seasons to ensure a telecast that probably sets the standard for local, over-the-air production for coverage of an NBA team.

FSN has to be salivating over the thought of a bid to do the Lakers for KCAL. FSN has been producing its own Lakers games for 20 years, and has produced Dodgers games for itself and, up until last year, for KTTV Channel 11 and KCOP Channel 13. Starting in 2006, the Dodgers' over- the-air games moves to KCAL.

--Studio adjustments: Former NBA coach and player Paul Silas, most recently mentoring LeBron James in Cleveland, is the key addition to ESPN's studio show when it starts its coverage of the NBA with a Wednesday night doubleheader that serves the Lakers-Denver contest as a follow-up to Philadelphia-Detroit.

Bill Walton, who sporadically played under Silas as an oft-injured Clipper in the mid '80s, admits he's spent his summer sewing collars on his tie-dyed T-shirts to conform to the new NBA dress code.

``(Conformity) was a battle I fought and lost 35 years ago when I realized there was nothing more important than being a member of a special team,'' said Walton, referring to his battles in the volatile '60s playing for UCLA coach John Wooden. ``It's a privilege to be in the NBA and everyone has to do whatever the rules are.''

TNT, which launches its 52-game regular-season telecast schedule Tuesday with Dallas-Phoenix, starts its exclusive Thursday night doubleheaders by including the Phoenix- Lakers game. The network has added former UCLA and Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller to the mix, but also gussied up its studio with a multi-million dollar face-lift that includes a dome-shaped roof.

SOUND BYTES

WHAT SMOKES

--A year ago, it was Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops who warned poll voters to be aware that ESPN has a contract with the SEC when they see the network's analysts talking about how Auburn should be the No. 2-ranked team behind USC instead of his own Sooners. This week, it was Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, whose team is an SEC member, accusing ``the national media, led by ESPN'' of having an agenda in trying to promote a USC-Texas national championship game this January. ``ESPN has gotten so much power lately, it's kinda scary,'' Tuberville said at a Montgomery, Ala., booster club meeting Monday, covered by the Montgomery Advertiser. ``And most of their analysts are coaches who haven't won any games. That's why they're there. I think you know who I'm talking about ... ESPN, I'll tell you, I don't have much to do with them anymore.'' Except that he appeared on Dan Patrick's ESPN Radio show to partake in a rather heated debate. In the end, Tuberville seemed to agree with Patrick that it's the current BCS system, not ESPN, that should be the root of the problem. Patrick, who said Tuberville was ``way out of line on this,'' may have his own bias toward his employer. But in this case, he said he was defending his organization as a talk-show host and does have a history of being critical of things ESPN has done in the past. ``We (ESPN) should be criticized but Tuberville didn't have any facts to back up his statements,'' Patrick said. ``It's a cop-out when all else fails to blame ESPN. I let him have the floor, but in this case, he was wrong.''

WHAT CHOKES

--On last Saturday's ``ESPN College GameDay,'' Chris Roberts' rather subdued KLAC-AM (570) radio call of the final play in UCLA's dramatic overtime win at Washington State was included in a replay montage of all the close finishes from the previous weekend. ``Handoff ... Drew ... he'll fade into the end zone, spin around ... touchdown, UCLA ... The Bruins get in and the team is going absolutely berserk ...'' That call by the usually over exuberant Roberts prompted ``GameDay'' host Chris Fowler to reply: ``You gotta get more berserk.'' Why does it seem that Roberts just can't win?

--NBC's telecast of the Breeders' Cup (Saturday, 10 a.m.-to-3 p.m.) marks the final regular TV appearance of trackside reporter Charslie Cantey, who is retiring after 30 years in the business. The former exercise rider at Belmont Park started as a local horse racing co-host on WOR- TV in New York, joined CBS in 1977 and went to ABC in 1986 for the Triple Crown races. She has been at NBC the last five years.

--ESPN Classic's series, ``60 Minutes On Classic,'' (today, 6 p.m.) includes a piece from 1977 where Arnold Schwarzenegger admits to Morley Safer that (gasp) he used steroids (which were not yet illegal) when he was a body builder. This footage apparently wasn't used in the original ``60 Minutes'' telecast because ... Andy Rooney needed more time to whine?

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SOUND BYTES (see text)

BY TOM HOFFARTH
COPYRIGHT 2005 Daily News
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Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 28, 2005
Words:1233
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