SPORTS FOR SALE: Television, Sports, and the Fans by David A. & Norman Marcus Klatell

SPORTS FOR SALE: Television, Sports, and the Fans

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Klatell and Marcus, who head Boston University's Institute in Broadcast Sports, have cobbled together a lightweight, gossipy survey that could as easily have been the handiwork of journalists or industry insiders as scholars. Jim Spence, for one, addresses many of the same issues in Up Close and Personal (p. 682), an anecdotal account of his 25-year career at ABC, which bracketed what probably was the golden era in the megabuck marriage contracted between big-time sport and TV. The authors offer some perceptive commentary on sport-related lawsuits, including the College Football Association's successful challenge of the NCAA's sometime control over TV fights, and allied efforts to maximize returns in what was long viewed as a topless market. They also probe the recent preference of major advertisers for sponsoring golf tournaments, marathons, or similar events rather than having broadcasters air their commercial messages to an audience whose size and receptivity are increasingly suspect. Otherwise, however, Klatell and Marcus cover mainly familiar ground in often pedestrian fashion. Their episodic overview focuses on the dramatic revenue growth achieved by ABC, CBS, NBC, and ad hoc affiliations via telecasts of amateur as well as professional sports. About the time bidding for the Superbowl, the World Series, the Olympic Games, the Kentucky Derby, and other premier events reached unsustainable heights, they recount, cable-TV outfits like ESPN began to compete seriously on a number of fronts. Faced with eroding profit margins (and non-athletic woes), they observe, networks have mended their prodigal ways. A likely outcome is that by the turn of the century many if not most celebrated contests will be available only on cable (i.e., pay) TV. Unfortunately, Klatell and Marcus reach no substantive conclusions of their own, leaving the last words to five TV executives whose self-serving and conflicting statements end the text on an uncertain note. The final score: acceptable fare for fans willing to settle for a briefing that documents without illuminating a significant element of latter-day culture.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press