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KOSHINSKI AWAITING OPPORTUNITIES

Bob Koshinski, the former general manager of the Empire Sports Network, was approached by several fans at Dunn Tire Park on the day that the Buffalo Bisons' home opener was rained out.

"They were lamenting the fact that Empire is gone," Koshinski said over breakfast recently.

He knows that not everyone feels that way. A few weeks before, a woman asked him if he was still at WLVL-AM in Lockport.

"I hadn't been there in 28 years," Koshinski said. "I'm used to people asking me if I'm still at Channel 7 and I haven't been there in 14 years. I guess they confuse me with Mike Randall."

There is no confusion about the sense of loss that many local and national sports fans feel now that Empire is history. In years past, Empire and its deceased Adelphia radio brother, WNSA-FM, would have been all over the Bills' draft plans this week.

But the regional sports network was probably missed even more by the area's basketball fans. After all, it was a year in which Niagara Falls High School, Niagara University, the University at Buffalo and the Canisius College women's teams had postseason runs that are unlikely to be collectively duplicated for decades.

"Those are the type of events we normally owned," said Koshinski, noting that the half-hour Empire Sports Reports had time to do them all justice.

He praised Channel 2's coverage of the state title run of Niagara Falls High but noted that the two or three minutes that local news stations give to sports these days is a losing proposition for the viewers who were served by Empire.

"If you can't follow some score across the bottom of the screen, you're not going to get it," Koshinski said. "Because they're not going to say it. We could have given up to 10 minutes on a single story, even in our crippled state at the end."

Koshinski has a lot of time on his hands these days. He is still comfortable, thanks to the severance package he received from Adelphia. But he is looking for work.

"It is very quiet out there," said Koshinski, who isn't necessarily looking only in radio or TV. He isn't aware of too many Empire employees who have found full-time work yet. Josh Mora is working for Comcast Chicago and producer Dick Keane is now at Channel 4. That's the extent of those who he knows have landed jobs in a tough job market.

The announcement Thursday that Time Warner and Comcast have agreed to buy Adelphia for $17.6 billion could result in a new regional sports and news player eventually hitting the market and bringing jobs with it. But that's months, maybe even years away.

"It is possible Time Warner could create both a local sports and news channel here as they've done in other markets," Koshinski said. "They could do here what they've done in Syracuse and Rochester. It wouldn't be difficult to interconnect channels and provide state and regional coverage of sports and news."

Of more immediate concern is what the Time Warner-Comcast deal could mean to the Buffalo Sabres' plans to send its games to Rochester and Syracuse through its deal with the Madison Square Garden Network (MSG). Time Warner has dropped MSG from both cities in a financial feud. Once the Adelphia deal takes effect, and if MSG stays off the Rochester and Syracuse systems when the Sabres start playing again, the NHL team will be out in the cold in those markets again.

The Sabres are guaranteed coverage in Western New York for another season and it will take regulators a good deal of time to finalize the Time Warner-Comcast deal for Adelphia. But after that, the team's cable future may be up in the air.

Short takes

The NBA playoffs begin today, and it doesn't look like too many Western New Yorkers care. Cleveland's devastating loss to Detroit last weekend, which helped keep LeBron James out of the playoffs, had a 1.0 rating Sunday on Channel 7. The later Indiana-Miami game had a 1.7. And those are decent local numbers for the NBA.

It isn't clear whether Bills quarterback J.P. Losman will have a radio show this season, as Drew Bledsoe did a year ago. "We are considering a couple of options with our flagship station (97 Rock)," Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said. If the Bills are just considering it now, the chances of it happening probably are pretty slim.
e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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