Are Americans ready for a 24-hour channel devoted to gambling? The founders of Casino and Gaming Television are betting on it and aiming to be in a million homes next year, 20 million by 2008. CGTV will cover sports through the lens of would-be bettors but won't accept wagers. Will "^ the channel encourage gambling? "We don't feel we're creating this colossal demand for gaming. That demand exists," says CGTV president Nick Rhodes, who was part of the team that built Speed Channel and the Outdoor Life Network. CGTV cofounders Robert Carlsson and David Hawk, both investment bankers, were inspired by the popularity of poker shows such as the Travel Channel's World Poker Tour and by the more than 50 million Americans who gambled in casinos last year. Rhodes says CGTV is positioning itself as a gaming "lifestyle network." In addition to analysis of sporting events, shows will include Winning Hand, in which poker experts give tips, and Dusk 'til Dawn, which takes viewers on a tour of Las Vegas, Monaco and other gambling spots. "Our intent is to become the single source for the fantasy and sports gamer," says Rhodes. The biggest hurdle may be persuading advertisers to roll the dice. "I don't think it's the environment in which most advertisers want to put their ads," says Larry Novenstern, director of national broadcast at Deutsch Inc. ad agency. A hopeful Carlsson disagrees. "Even NBC has a Las Vegas show," he says, "[Gaming] has become mainstream. It isn't taboo anymore."
?LIFT FROM LEBRON
ESPN's opening game, LeBron James and the Cavaliers against the Kings, drew a 2.8 rating, or 2.49 million households. Only one of ESPN's 69 regular-season games last season did better: the Jan. 17, 2003, matchup of Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming, which got a 3.8.