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The Big 3 networks are vowing more restrained coverage of O.J. Simpson's murder trial than the way pretrial hearings were handled last summer.

The Big 3 plan live coverage of closing arguments, the verdict and testimony by key witnesses. But once the trial starts on Jan. 18 or 23, they will provide brief news updates throughout the day with recaps in evening and prime-time news shows.

Big 3 network sales executives anticipate only a mild pre-emption of regular ad schedules. Major advertisers, including Procter & Gamble Co., have indicated they will not run spots in live Simpson trial coverage and media buyers estimate as much as 25% of all advertisers have such policies.

CNN, Court TV and E! Entertainment, announced fairly substantial coverage plans with CNN planning upwards of 6.5 hours daily of live trial coverage. Court TV and E! will go even further with live gavel-to-gavel coverage for the trial's duration.

Court TV has a policy of not breaking away from or running any spots during live testimony of key trials. CNN and E! plan to run normal levels of commercials.

Meanwhile, the marketing and public relations fervor surrounding the Simpson trial is hitting high gear with the upcoming release of "I Want to Tell You," a book co-written by Mr. Simpson and Lawrence Schiller that will be published by Little, Brown & Co. in early February.

"I Want to Tell You" will be backed by an extensive publicity campaign. To date, Mr. Simpson has approved a line of autographed trading cards, commemorative coins and statues.

What impact all the hype is having on the trial is unclear, but PR expert Bob Dilenschneider head of the Dilenschneider Group, New York, said: "To me it is erroneous to suggest for one instant that the judge, jury or even a sequestered jury is not receiving some of the media hype. [The way the opposing legal teams have been using PR] flaunts the basic use of PR.'

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