SBD/Issue 222/Sports Media

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  • ESPN’s “MNF” Booth Gets Mixed Reviews In Preseason Debut

    Kornheiser (l), Tirico (c) And Theismann Make “MNF” Debut On ESPN
    Tony Kornheiser, in his debut on ESPN’s “MNF” last night, “left the game-calling to Mike Tirico and the analysis to [Joe] Theismann while carving out his natural territory as a snarky, but not irritating, commentator who will keep track of story lines and ask Theismann to explain term,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. Kornheiser’s “wit showed often but he had plenty of openings in a ho-hum preseason game” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15). In L.A., Larry Stewart calls Kornheiser the “one star” of the ESPN crew. He “came across as less obnoxious than Howard Cosell, and funnier than Dennis Miller” (L.A. TIMES, 8/15). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes Kornheiser “wasn’t funny. ... But he wasn’t annoying.” He “sounded like he’d done enough prep work to reasonably comment on what amounts to a glorified NFL practice” (USA TODAY, 8/15).

    THUMBS DOWN: Kornheiser’s WASHINGTON POST colleague Paul Farhi writes Kornheiser’s performance “was enough to make one yearn for Dennis Miller.” Kornheiser “played it safe,” making “few missteps but offering little for the highlight reel. It wasn’t exactly clear at times why he was there at all.” He “wasn’t especially witty, provocative or insightful. ... Kornheiser mostly spluttered, typically emphasizing the obvious and playing third fiddle” (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). In Phoenix, Bob Young writes the broadcast “left us wondering why ESPN didn’t just stick” with its old Sunday night team. Tirico is “fine as a play-by-play guy but certainly no better than Mike Patrick, who had terrific chemistry with Theismann and Paul Maguire” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/15). In West Palm Beach, Charles Elmore writes Theismann “plays the straight man a little too straight, instead of coming back with sharp humor” to Kornheiser’s comments (PALM BEACH POST, 8/15). The AP’s Douglas Rowe writes Tirico “sustained the [‘MNF’] tradition of solid, straightforward play-by-play men.” But Theismann “sometimes sounded too empathetic with the players,” and he also “came across as a little too self-serious, especially when he and Kornheiser clashed about how far removed from football new Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh was.” Walsh ran a bed and breakfast for seven years (AP, 8/15).

    FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE: The Mighty MJD writes, “I really think ESPN’s on the right track with the team they’ve assembled.” But the song for the “Tony Tony Tony” segment “has to go” (THEMIGHTYMJD.com, 8/15). The Sports Hookup writes if last night “was any indication, ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth crew has already developed a level of comfort and familiarity with one another, providing crisp commentary and entertaining banter and analysis” THESPORTSHOOKUP.BLOGSPOT.com, 8/15). But Hurkin’ Off wrote Kornheiser “is an even bigger nightmare than I expected.” And “if ESPN’s hiring practices aren’t bad enough, now it’s butchering the football graphics” (HURK.BLOGSPOT.com, 8/14).

    HE SAID IT: Here are some select quotes from Kornheiser’s “MNF” debut.

    On broadcasting “MNF”: “I’ve made it to it. But will I make it through it?”

    On the Vikings making personnel changes in response to several off-the-field incidents last year: “The ‘Sex Boat’ thing was a showstopper. As they say on ‘Seinfeld,’ ‘That’s gold, Jerry, that’s gold.’”

    On Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh running a bed and breakfast while he was of football for seven years: “Does that look like a guy who’s staying in football? It’s a B&B. He’s preparing menus and making beds. How is he back in football? Are you comfortable with that, Joe?”
    Theismann responded, “Actually, I am,” to which Kornheiser said, “Would you be comfortable if Bob Newhart were also hired?”

    Theismann mentioned the strong arm of Raiders QB Andrew Walter seconds before Walter threw a 67-yard TD pass, to which Kornheiser said, “Don’t you sound like a genius, Theismann, on that one play. People are going to say that we’re on tape delay and you knew it.”

    On Raiders DT Warren Sapp saying he took a “backseat” when he first arrived with the Raiders because there was already veteran leadership: “At his size, he’s the whole seat.”

    On Raiders S Michael Huff’s comments about the first time he walked onto an NFL field: “I liked hearing him say that he couldn’t breathe his first time out there. That’s how I feel tonight.”

    In the fourth quarter with the Vikings in range to kick a field goal that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime, Kornheiser said, “This is just a disaster for me. I am way past my bedtime. I assumed in the preseason that you didn’t have overtime.”

    Kornheiser also answered viewers’ e-mail questions, including one asking which team in today’s NFL deserved a “fun nickname”? Kornheiser: “I think ‘Snakes on a Plane’ would be a great nickname for some team out there.”

    Another e-mailer asked about the referee’s new uniforms and whether they looked like penguins instead of zebras. Kornheiser: “I love penguins having created the ‘Penguin Dance,’ which is sweeping the country, which I would do if there was a camera on me. Penguins look great. Zebras are done.”

    Another e-mailer asked Kornheiser, “Have you ever thought of filling your bald spot with advertisements as many boxers and poker players do?” Kornheiser: “I’d like to get GoldenPalace.com stitched on the top of my head for about $80,000 a week or something like that.”
    Theismann: “I’m very happy with what I have.”
    Kornheiser: “Yours is fake, though. That’s not real hair.”
    Theismann: “People are going to believe that now.”

    AD SALES: MULTICHANNEL NEWS’ Mike Reynolds cites ad agency execs as saying that ESPN “is selling an 8.8 cable rating” for “MNF.” Last season, ESPN averaged a 7.1 on Sunday nights. NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol said Sunday nights on NBC “will be a double-digit-rated show without any doubt. It will be in the top 10.” Former Clear Channel TV Chair Mike Trager said “MNF” is “ingrained in viewers’ NFL experience, so ESPN will do well. NBC’s over the air package will benefit from more viewers on Sunday night. It’s a win-win for the league with both packages” (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 8/14 issue).

    Print | Tags: ESPN, Minnesota Vikings, NBC, NFL, Oakland Raiders, Media, Walt Disney
  • Weather Report: Barberie Reportedly Out Of Fox’s NFL Show

    Fox’ NFL Pregame Show To Feature (l to r) Howie
    Long, Joe Buck, Terry Bradshaw And Jimmy Johnson
    Weathergirl Jillian Barberie “is no longer part of” Fox’ NFL pregame show, according to Tom Hoffarth of L.A. DAILY NEWS. With the show originating from the site of the net’s primary game each week, Fox sources said that Barberie “decided the travel wouldn’t work out,” as she co-hosts the weekday “Good Day L.A.” morning show on KTTV-Fox. Fox is “talking of hiring someone to do the in-game [weather] updates that are easier to handle from someone based in L.A. rather than the remote site.” Fox Sports Exec Producer Scott Ackerson said, "It's all a scheduling thing. Taking her on the road with us wasn't going to work with her other stuff. I didn't want the alternative, to put her in the studio to do the weather, because to me that interaction isn't there. And since that's the case, it's time to move on and go with something else" (DAILYNEWS.com, 8/14).

    ON THE ROAD: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Paul Gough writes the move to make Joe Buck the host of “Fox NFL Sunday” “gives Fox Sports the push it has needed to move the pregame show onto the road, where it occasionally has been during the postseason.” Fox Sports President Ed Goren: “It’s something that we’ve wanted to do forever” (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/15). Fox Sports TV Group Chair & CEO David Hill said that the show “will originate from stadium parking lots and cost only ‘marginally’ more than doing it from” an L.A. studio (MIAMI HERALD, 8/15). Buck joked about handling studio and announcing duties: “I think I’ll be bad in the first half, but the game is won and lost in the fourth quarter” (NEWSDAY, 8/15). Hill: “We’re all scared about doing this. It’s technically tough. It’s sweaty armpits at 2 in the morning and getting back on Maalox.” Former Fox NFL studio host James Brown left in the offseason for the same job at CBS, which Hill said “was a wake-up call for us — we’d gotten fat and lazy” (USA TODAY, 8/15).

    TERRY CLOTH: Buck and Fox’ Terry Bradshaw appeared on FSN’s “BDSSP” last night, where Bradshaw said, “When we’re through with this football season, (Buck will) be doing commercials, he’ll be doing movies.” After it was pointed out that Buck already appears in ads for Holiday Inn, Bradshaw said, “I forgot. He’ll be doing better commercials for more money.” Buck, on Bradshaw’s nude scene in the film “Failure To Launch”: “I think he did that to make everybody feel better about themselves” (“BDSSP,” FSN, 8/14).

    TEAM WORK: The following chart lists Fox’ six NFL broadcast teams.

    PLAY-BY-PLAY ANALYST SIDELINE REPORTER
    Joe Buck Troy Aikman Pam Oliver
    Dick Stockton Daryl Johnston Tony Siragusa
    Kenny Albert Brian Baldinger Chris Myers
    Sam Rosen Tim Ryan  
    Ron Pitts Terry Donahue  
    Matt Vasgersian J.C. Pearson Jay Glazer

    BUS RIDE: Steelers coach Bill Cowher said he was “very disappointed” by new NBC studio analyst and former Steelers RB Jerome Bettis saying during halftime of the Sunday night game that he thinks this will be Cowher’s last season coaching the team. USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes Cowher “didn’t flatly contradict Bettis,” who “passed the first test for TV rookie analysts: Being willing to rile up old compatriots” (USA TODAY, 8/15). SI.com’s Peter King praised Bettis for having “the guts right out of the box on national TV” to make the comment about Cowher. NBC Universal Sports & Olympics Chair Dick Ebersol during the game’s forth quarter walked into the production trailer and said, “Jerome Bettis, journalist!” (SI.com, 8/14).

    Ebersol Says NFL Smart To
    Put Games On Own Network

    TALENT NOTES: Former Texans GM Charley Casserly has joined CBS Sports as an “NFL Insider” for the net’s “The NFL Today” pregame show (CBS Sports)....Sterling Sharpe will join play-by-play announcer Spero Dedes for its coverage of two preseason games: Cardinals-Patriots on Saturday and Texans-Broncos on August 27 (NFL Network)....Rams RB Marshall Faulk, out with a season-ending injury, will serve as a weeknight analyst for NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 8/15).

    NFL NETWORK: Ebersol said of the NFL putting the eight-game Thursday-Saturday package on NFL Network, “Long-term strategic, it’s very smart on their part. Who knows where our world will be in six years? Will there be four aggressive network bidders, and if not, why not find out what kind of business you can develop on your own as a potential home for more than just those eight games.” A media investment banker said, “Their big risk is that cable operators just say no [to carriage]. Then you’ve given up $400[M] a year and have a network that’s just not big enough.” BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Grossman & Higgins write, “For the investment to be worthwhile at the end of six years, NFL Network would have to be generating around $300[M] in operating cash flow and around $1[B] in revenue. If the league can ram its license-fee hike through its current distribution of 41 million subscribers, NFL Network will generate around $850[M] a year in license fees. At 60 million subscribers, that figure grows to $500[M]; at 80 million, $675[M].” NFL Network Senior VP/Distribution Sales & Marketing Adam Shaw said that the “near-term goal is 80% national coverage.” Shaw: “We know it might take a year or two to get there” (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 8/14 issue).

    Print | Tags: Arizona Cardinals, CBS, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, NBC, New England Patriots, News Corp./Fox, NFL, Nielsen, Sports Illustrated, Media, St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Viacom, Washington Redskins
  • Cavaliers Leverage New Local RSN For Better FSN Ohio Deal

    LeBron’s Popularity Continues
    To Grow In Asian Markets
    FSN Ohio will pay the Cavaliers “an estimated $25[M] in its new broadcast contract,” more than double what the net paid under its previous deal and “one of the four richest TV contracts in the NBA,” according to Roger Brown of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. The presence of the Indians’ new RNS, SportsTime Ohio, “gave the Cavs a big hammer in their contract talks with FSN Ohio” (PLAIN DEALER, 8/14).

    SECOND COMING: In Cleveland, Mary Schmitt Boyer noted the Cavaliers F LeBron James’ popularity “has grown in Asia in general, and China in particular.” The Cavaliers “are exploring options” for Cleveland-based Erie Chinese News reporter Bao Renjun’s “involvement with their Web site.” Last season, he did a story on Chinese C Mengke Bateer, who tried to make the Cavaliers roster. Bao: “More and more Chinese media are interested in LeBron. ... Last season, I covered the Cavs and LeBron for almost all the Chinese media. Now, I am talking to the only national TV in China, CCTV. We are investigating the possibility of sending a live voice to China when they televise the Cavs home games.” More Bao: “Chinese can see LeBron’s commercials on TV for Nike and Sprite. ... Almost every [Chinese] sports Web site has a column or blog designed exclusively for LeBron” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/13).

    Print | Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, Coca-Cola, NBA, News Corp./Fox, Nike, Media
  • Media Notes

    ESPN Ringing Up Viewers With “The Contender”

    A source said that Warriors TV announcer Bob Fitzgerald will replace Basketball HOFer Rick Barry on KNBR-AM’s 12:00-3:00pm PT show. Barry, who had co-hosted the show with Rod Brooks for 1-1/2 years, parted ways with the station yesterday. KNBR Program Dir Lee Hammer said, “His contract is over, and we mutually decided it would be best to part ways.” Barry “stress[ed] that he was not fired, and that his situation had no hint of the tumult felt at KNBR,” including the firing of Larry Krueger last year (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 8/15).

    SOMETIMES A FANTASY: An L.A. TIMES editorial stated the ruling that fantasy baseball Web sites do not need an MLB license to use players’ names or statistics “struck a welcome note of restraint against baseball’s expansive interpretation of its rights. ... There’s nothing wrong with team owners running a fantasy league. ... What’s wrong is the league’s attempt to control the news from the playing field” (L.A. TIMES, 8/12). In California, Rick Hurd wrote of the ruling, “Greed is the brain, heart and soul behind just about everything baseball does. And though this does not make the sport unique in any way, it continues to amaze with the depths it’ll sink to exploit the customer. ... Thankfully, some sanity still exists” (C.C. TIMES, 8/13).

    NOTES: The two-hour debut of ESPN’s “The Contender” on July 18 drew 1.256 million viewers, but that number “has risen in each of the three subsequent weeks.” Of the 1.88 million viewers last Tuesday, 70% were in the 18-49 demo (DAILY VARIETY, 8/15)....Sources said that the Canucks have reached a deal with Rogers Sportsnet that will include 42-45 games this season. The renewal “was delayed by the club’s new ownership, which may have overvalued the rights” (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 8/15).

    Print | Tags: ESPN, Golden State Warriors, MLB, Canucks Sports and Entertainment, Media, Vancouver Canucks, Walt Disney
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