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NFL needn't worry about new league

The only place where testosterone seems to be playing more of a factor than professional football is broadcasting.

That is, after all, the only possible explanation for the harebrained scheme that NBC and Turner are listening to - a plan to launch a second professional football league and do battle with the NFL.That would be sort of like programming the Goodwill Games (remember those?) against the Olympics.

Basically, we have a couple of big, macho corporations - NBC parent company General Electric and Turner parent company Time-Warner - who got shut out of the NFL television contracts. Both G.E. and Time-Warner have tons of money and executives with huge egos. (Male executives with huge egos.) And they won't be able to broadcast football games for the next eight years.

So this odd little idea of a rival league is being bandied about.

But it's not going anywhere. Don't be surprised if it never makes it off the drawing boards.

The same plan was pitched to CBS four years ago when it lost the NFC TV package to Fox. What CBS executives quickly discovered was that it would be expensive (current estimates put the cost of a start-up league as high as a billion bucks), that its affiliates had no interest in it, and that the entire idea was unworkable.

Think about it. Who in their right mind is going to sit down and watch a league full of nobodies when there's honest-to-goodness NFL football on TV?

Let's not forget that, for all the huge multibillion-dollar TV contracts, NFL ratings have declined in recent years. There's no big, untapped pool of viewers out there.

And don't start talking about how the AFL managed to build itself into a respectable league and force a merger with the NFL. Those were very different times when there were only a handful of NFL teams. An opening existed then that has long since closed.

NBC and its affiliates will probably end up counter-programming with golf and figure skating and movies and so on. There will not be a rival professional football league - at least not for long.

If G.E. and Time-Warner actually decide to throw their money down such a rat hole, they can pretty much be assured of being really lonely while they try it.

JUST WONDERING: You don't suppose NBC could talk Notre Dame into switching some of its home games to Sunday afternoons, do you? That might work.

And, locally, you don't suppose NBC affiliate KSL-Ch. 5 might try rebroadcasting BYU games on Sun-day afternoons, do you? That also might attract a few viewers - but there's a big question as to whether BYU would go for something like that.

HOW LOWE CAN YOU GO: According to the trade publication Variety, Rob Lowe may be starring in an NBC sitcom. Paramount has sold the network on the idea of at least shooting a pilot, in which the former Brat Packer would star as a business-school grad who runs his family's Chicago restaurant.

Lowe has never been confused with Olivier, but then great acting talent has never been a requirement for sitcom stardom.

MORE CHANGES: Not only is CBS switching "Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel" from Wednesdays to Tuesdays next month, but the network has dropped the show's executive producer. That's what crummy ratings will do to you. (And you didn't think they'd fire Gumbel, did you?)

Executive producer Michael Rubin is out - he'll be reassigned within CBS News. Jonathan Klein, who is also the executive vice president of CBS News, takes over immediately.

Klein will stay with the show through the end of the season in May. Whether he'll stay with "Public Eye" - or whether the show will stay with CBS - remains to be seen.

100 TELEVISIONS: Here's a warning for parents out there - be careful what contests you let your kids enter.

Lisa Wheeler, a 14-year-old who lives in Montesano, Wash., entered ABC's TGIF "I Want to Win 100 TVs" contest over the Internet. And she won - you guessed it! - 100 TVs.

Those 100 TVs range in size from 61-inch projection television to hand-held Sony Watchmans.

Fortunately, the Wheelers have a large garage.

RENEWAL RHUMBA: The folks at Disney have renewed the surprisingly good syndicated series "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" for a second season.

However, it will be changing channels locally. Currently seen on KTVX-Ch. 4, it will be moving to KJZZ-Ch. 14 in the fall.

LEGAL EXPERT? NBC News has hired Marcia Clark - of O.J. Simpson trial fame - as a legal consultant. She'll appear on various NBC shows, as well as occasionally hosting various CNBC prime-time programs.

Having Clark around should come in handy for NBC the next time the network needs advice on how to lose the case of the century.

SAY IT AIN'T SO: Garth Brooks has always been one of the class acts of the music world - unfailingly polite, respectful and patient with his fans and the media.

Which makes you wonder why he would agree to host and be the musical guest on the Feb. 28 edition of "Saturday Night Live." Having tuned in to a couple of recent episodes while out of town, that show is still as low-class as ever.

Trust me - we're much better off with "SportsBeat Saturday" that we'd be if KSL-Ch. 5 aired "SNL."

LESS TO MISS: TCI customers still fretting over the loss of WGN and Chicago Cubs baseball can be a little less upset this coming season.

Not because TCI has any intention of returning WGN to your channel lineup. But because WGN is removing 50 Cubs games from its schedule.

During the 1998 baseball season, WGN will air 92 games. It aired 142 last year. The reason for the change? Would you believe "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"?

Well, it's true. The station's ownership owns 22 percent of upstart network the WB. And it gets better ratings with "Buffy" and the rest of the network's programming in pattern on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.