Publish date:

Under Review

NBC, once the home of the NFL and the NBA, continues to lean
toward alternative sports programming. The network, which now
brings us Arena Football, pro bull riding and the National Dog
Show, has signed a deal with the Travel Channel to air the
World Poker Tour on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, from 4 p.m. to 6
p.m., opposite pregame shows on CBS (which has the game) and
ESPN. Although NBC has rights to the Olympics until 2012, it
has otherwise stayed out of the market for big-time sports
since the late '90s. "We're trying to be creative," says NBC
Sports' Jon Miller. "We're not throwing a lot of money at
rights, so we're not going to lose a lot if this doesn't make
sense." The theory behind the poker program, Miller says, is
that "channel surfers will drive by and find an interesting
alternative." The WPT won't come near the ratings that Super
Bowl pregame shows draw, but it might help push poker closer to
the mainstream. Says Steve Lipscomb, the WPT's CEO, "This gives
us an opportunity to legitimize it."

Doc Rivers seems to move fluidly between his metiers. In May
1999 he was flown to interview for the job of Magic coach just
days after wrapping up a season as a TNT analyst. (He got it
four weeks later.) Then, when he was fired by Orlando on Nov.
17 after a 1-11 start, Rivers, 42, was unemployed for all of
two days before landing an NBA analyst's job alongside Al
Michaels on ABC. The network had been searching for a second
voice since naming Michaels on Sept. 22. "Sometimes the baddest
timing seems pretty good," said Rivers last Saturday, after his
first dress rehearsal. "It was disappointing to be let go, but I
love this opportunity. Working with Al Michaels is as good as
it gets." They'll debut on Christmas Day, when the Rockets
visit the Lakers. --J.M.