SBD/Issue 163/Sports Media

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  • ESPN Unveils Storm's Hiring, "SportsCenter" Rebranding At Upfront

    ESPN Formally Announces Hiring
    Of Storm During Upfront Presentation
    ESPN yesterday at its upfront presentation in N.Y. announced a "major rebranding" of "SportsCenter," including the hiring of Hannah Storm to anchor the 9:00am-12:00pm ET editions of the show, which beginning August 11 will air as part of a "nine-hour block of live shows" from 6:00am-3:00pm ET Monday through Friday, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Storm will be the "only talent hired from outside ESPN." ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper said that the goal is to "reach over 1 million viewers each morning." Noting the new "SportsCenter" editions will air the same time as ESPN2's "Mike & Mike" simulcast and "First Take," Skipper said, "We are completely committed to competing with ourselves." The early-morning "SportsCenter" will "mostly be a recap of the previous night's games," followed by Storm's edition, which will "include previews of that day's games and take advantage of Storm's strength as an interviewer." The 12:00-3:00pm shift will "incorporate live press conferences and morning news." Meanwhile, ESPN on April 9, 2009 will launch a "late-night edition" of "SportsCenter" from its new L.A studio. Additionally, ESPN newcomer Rick Reilly will host "ESPN Homecoming," in which he will interview "sports people in their hometown." One ESPN exec dubbed the show, which debuts in October, "Inside The Athletes Studio" (SI.com, 5/13). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds reported "Homecoming" will debut with an interview with TNT's Charles Barkley from Leeds, Alabama. Also in development for the net are "SportsNation," an afternoon show for ESPN in which hosts will "discuss topics selected" by viewers in polls, and "Time Line," a "late-night entry for ESPN2, during which the night's results and tomorrow's events will be examined." Meanwhile, actor Robert Redford will co-produce and play the part of former Dodgers GM Branch Rickey in ESPN Films' production about Baseball HOFer Jackie Robinson (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/13).

    STORM: In DC, Tim Lemke reports Storm after leaving CBS' "The Early Show" in December "did have discussions with CBS about staying on in some sort of anchor or reporting role," but Storm said that the "urge to return to sports ... was too strong." With Storm, ESPN has an "additional experienced anchor who can handle breaking hard news," to complement anchors Bob Ley and Trey Wingo, upon whom the net has "relied heavily" for big stories. ESPN Exec VP/Studio & Remote Production Norby Williamson said that ratings for the "recycled, hours-old versions of 'SportsCenter' were growing," but that it was "time to go live as viewers' appetite for up-to-the-second information increased" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/14). Williamson: "You innovate and drive from a position of leadership." Williamson added that the timing of the live launch is "perfect ... because the Beijing Olympics kick off the same day and excitement surrounding college and pro football surges" in August (CABLEFAX DAILY, 5/14).

    NFL NET: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports NFL Network "looked into hiring" NBC's Al Michaels as the play-by-play announcer for the net's NFL broadcasts. NFL Network President & CEO Steve Bornstein: "NBC was open to it, but it didn't work out from Al's point of view. We never got to the specifics" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/14).

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  • Flyers-Pens Game Two Becomes Versus' Most Viewed Telecast Ever

    Versus earned a 1.8 coverage area rating for Sunday's Flyers-Penguins Eastern Conference Finals Game Two. It was the net's highest-rated NHL broadcast as well as its most-watched telecast ever with 2.373 million viewers. The rating was second only to a 2.1 for the final stage of Lance Armstrong's last Tour de France in '05.  The game also marks the most-viewed NHL cable telecast (playoff or regular season) since the ’02-03 season, when cable rights belonged to ESPN/ESPN2. The following lists Versus' five all-time most-viewed telecasts (THE DAILY).

    TOP FIVE ALL-TIME MOST-VIEWED TELECASTS ON VERSUS
    DATE
    PROGRAM
    VIEWERS (000)
    5/11/08
    NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals:
    Flyers-Penguins Game Two
    2,373
    7/24/05
    Tour de France: Final Day
    1,725
    7/25/04
    Tour de France: Final Day
    1,371
    5/1/08
    NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Semifinals:
    Rangers-Penguins Game Four
    1,232
    6/1/06
    NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals:
    Sabres-Hurricanes Game Seven
    1,127 

    ON THE RISE: MEDIALIFE MAGAZINE's Toni Fitzgerald writes of NHL playoffs ratings on NBC and Versus being on the upswing, "There are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the presence of several of the league's most dynamic young talents in these playoffs," including Penguins C Sidney Crosby and Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin. The playoffs also "have featured the revival of some lovable losers, always a theme for TV viewers" (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 5/14).

    WILD NIGHTS: The Wild averaged an 8.2 HH rating on FSN North for three telecasts of the team's first-round playoff series against the Avalanche. Wild-Avalanche Game Six earned a 9.2 HH rating, making it the highest-rated game on FSN North this season and the ninth-highest-rated show in the net's history. For 48 regular-season telecasts, the FSN North averaged a 2.87 HH rating (Wild).

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  • Tony Kornheiser Accepts Buyout Offer From Washington Post

    Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser this morning on his radio show said that "he signed the papers" last night to take a buyout from the newspaper, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. Kornheiser said that he "still might contract with The Post to do his Talking Points videos and his Page 2 excerpts, and he said some people in the leadership asked him to stay but didn't really insist." Kornheiser has seven days to reconsider his decision, but he said, "I'll have somebody kidnap me and tie me down so I don't change my mind." Kornheiser will still appear on ESPN as an analyst for "MNF" and a co-host on "PTI" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/14).

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  • How Will Cablevision's Acquisition Of Newsday Affect Coverage?

    Some Question Whether Acquisition By Cablevision
    Will Change Newsday's Coverage Of Dolan
    Cablevision Monday agreed to purchase Newsday from Tribune Co. for $650M, and Newsday Editor John Mancini said that he was "not worried" that MSG Chair James Dolan "will dictate how [the] Knicks or Rangers are covered and thus diminish the paper's reputation," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. By acquiring Newsday, perhaps "all Dolan wants is a vehicle to cross-promote Cablevision products and he will not dictate the direction of the editorial product." But Sandomir writes Dolan is "not a man of half-measures or indifference." How will Dolan react when the Newsday sports staff "flays his Knicks or Rangers? Will Dolan the sports mogul kill a column or restrict a columnist's access if he or she is negative or caustic?" Stony Brook Univ. School of Journalism Dean Howard Schneider, a former Newsday Editor, said, "If there is any overt attempt by the Dolans to control coverage, it will demonstrate that this deal is a total failure." Newsday columnist Ken Berger said, "We can't expect special access or special treatment when we cover people who own us. And they shouldn't operate under the presumption that they can influence us." Newsday columnist Johnette Howard added, "I asked if we have to drop a line into stories that says, 'The Knicks, who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday'" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/14).

    IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM ... : HUFFINGTONPOST.com's Marvin Kitman, a former Newsday columnist, wrote perhaps the "most important reason for buying Newsday is to get the paper to stop all the criticism on the sports pages about the way [Dolan] has been running the Knicks into the ground. Not to mention the Rangers and [MSG]." With the acquisition of Newsday, there is "one less newspaper to harp on all the mistakes Jim Dolan has made in mismanagement, misfeasance and malfeasance in running the New York market's beloved franchises" (HUFFINGTONPOST.com, 5/13).

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  • Blog Hound: Spygate Takes Over The Blogosphere

    Discussion about Spygate and the Boston Herald’s apology has ruled the blogging world over the last 24 hours. Rounding out the Top Five topics are the latest on the O.J. Mayo scandal; Annika Sorenstam declaring she will retire at the end of the season; the Pistons eliminating the Magic from the playoffs despite Magic G Jameer Nelson’s Game Five guarantee and ESPN's Erin Andrews' interview in which she discussed her popularity with bloggers. Visit www.sportsmediachallenge.com for more info or see chart below.

     

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