The pressure is on because ABC's 10-year contract with the USFSA ($12 million a year) ends after 2007 and the network severed its relationship with the International Skating Union after last season.
The ISU contract went from $22 million a year with ABC/ESPN to $5 million a year with only ESPN. That means there are no over-the-air U.S. telecasts of international figure skating events for the first time in more than 30 years.
"It is a disaster for the sport that the world championships are not on over-the-air television," USFSA President Chuck Foster said.
Einhorn is concerned new management at ABC also might end the network's 42-year affiliation with the U.S. championships.
"I have to believe they are still interested," Einhorn said. "On their Saturday night telecast, they talked a lot about the history."
Problem is, since two years ago, when the NFL switched a playoff game to Saturday night, the prime-time telecast of the national championships has faced overwhelming competition the USFSA could not avoid because of existing contracts with host cities. That will change in 2007 when the U.S. championships will move to a week with no Saturday NFL game, at least in non-Olympic years.
"I don't want skating to be counter-programming against football," Einhorn said.
What is called the "fast national rating" for last Saturday's three-hour skating telecast, 4.7, means the event will have drawn its smallest audience since going to prime time in 1992. Two more significant numbers: the only live hour, with the women's, drew a 5.0, and the overall rating in the 18-to-49 age group was 1.5.
Einhorn told USFSA officials last week they must make the Saturday prime-time show almost entirely live. That could mean radical scheduling changes, like having the nine top men and women after the short program skate the final Saturday night.