SBD/Issue 205/Sports Media

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  • ESPN Hires Longtime Producer Don Ohlmeyer As Third Ombudsman

    Ohlmeyer Becomes
    ESPN Ombudsman
    ESPN has hired former sports producer Don Ohlmeyer as its third Ombudsman for an 18-month term that begins in August. Ohlmeyer has served as a producer, director and writer for sports and entertainment programming since '67, including as NBC West Coast President until '99. Ohlmeyer worked for NBC as a producer from '77-82, then returned to the net in '93 as President, where he oversaw all of the company's entertainment-related business. Prior to his work with NBC, Ohlmeyer produced and directed three Olympics for ABC, as well as "MNF" and "Wide World of Sports." He also previously served on ESPN's BOD. Ohlmeyer succeeds former N.Y. Times Sports Editor Le Anne Schreiber as ombudsman, whose term ended in March. Former Washington Post Sports Editor George Solomon was ESPN's first ombudsman from '05-07 (ESPN).

    MEDIA REAX: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Brian Powell writes, "It seems like a great hire on the surface, and while hiring Ohlmeyer is certainly a splash, you can't help but remember some of his more famous hires for Monday Night Football. Namely one, Dennis Miller. ... His credentials are obviously there, and while I would have rather ESPN hire someone who wasn't once on their board, he'll certainly know what he's talking about" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 7/14). FANHOUSE.com's Michael David Smith writes Ohlmeyer is "well respected in the sports media world," though he is "known to many as the man who was savaged by Norm MacDonald and David Letterman during a hilarious 'Late Show' interview" in '98 (FANHOUSE.com, 7/14). The Washington Times' Tim Lemke on his Twitter feed writes Ohlmeyer's "most notable accomplishment in broadcasting has to be the hiring of Conan O'Brien in '93" (TWITTER.com, 7/14). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio notes the ESPN ombudsman "typically posts a monthly column, which sometimes gets lost in the alphabet junkyard known as ESPN.com," but perhaps Ohlmeyer's "reputation and profile will prompt ESPN to publicize his work more aggressively" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 7/14).

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  • IMG Announces Deal To Sell NFL TV Rights In Select Int'l Markets

    IMG Will Sell Local Language TV Rights For
    NFL Games, Including Super Bowl, Pro Bowl
    IMG Worldwide yesterday announced that it has reached a three-year agreement with the NFL to be the exclusive agent to license NFL television rights in certain international markets through the ’11 season and playoffs. IMG will sell local language TV rights for NFL games, including the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, and NFL Films content. IMG will also license the international distribution of NFL Network and NFL Sunday Ticket in certain countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. IMG Exec VP/Media Sports Programming Barry Frank negotiated the deal (IMG).

    WORLDWIDE LEADER: In Manchester, Owen Gibson writes ESPN, "due to launch a new UK channel in time for the beginning" of the EPL season, is "poised to sign a vital production deal." ESPN "will commission IMG Sports Media ... to make the studio shows and ancillary programming for its Premier League coverage and any other rights it wins." Sky TV cameras "will provide its on-pitch coverage but IMG will take responsibility for other content, some of which is also likely to be shared with its ESPN Soccernet website." The deal is the "latest manifestation of ESPN's efforts to keep costs down by outsourcing retail, customer service and production to third parties." The outsourcing is also "expected to extend to programming around other rights that ESPN is seeking" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 7/14).

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  • Open Sports To Build, Operate Fox Sports' Fantasy Offerings

    Fox' Fantasy Games Will Be Promoted
    During Tonight's MLB All-Star Game
    Fox Sports has struck a multi-year partnership with Open Sports in which the Mike Levy-led online startup will build and operate the network’s fantasy games, beginning with a suite of fantasy football games that will be promoted during tonight’s MLB All-Star Game. The games, which will be sold and marketed by FoxSports.com, include a standard commissioner-style game that seeks to improve upon prior offerings from the company -- Fox Fantasy Live, a commissioner-style game that allows for real-time substitutions during the course of NFL games; and a shorter-form game called Fox Fantasy Quick Challenge that plays without a seasonal commitment. Each of the games will have extensive free-to-play options. The Open Sports deal will then expand into fantasy baseball for '10, with other sports scheduled to follow later next year. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal involves both a revenue-sharing component and an equity provision in which Fox Sports will eventually become a part-owner of Open Sports. "This is an important partnership for our business, as fantasy is a critical part of what we do,” said Fox Sports Interactive Senior VP/Operations Jeff Husvar. "We’re looking to make a very big statement to the marketplace." The new games will be promoted with a 20-second ad scheduled to run during tonight’s game, with a companion on-air mention and graphic display also possible. From there, promotion of the new games will involve Fox Sports Net regionals, Fox Sports Radio, and FoxSports.com itself. Husvar said he is also discussing with Fox Sports Chair & CEO David Hill how to integrate the expanded fantasy football presence into the network’s NFL studio programming this fall. The move comes as Fox, like other competitors, tries to break into the top three market positions of fantasy game operators typically occupied by Yahoo, ESPN and CBS Sports. “We may not make it into the top 3 in year 1 of this, but certainly expect to be there in a short period of time,” said Husvar, who reunites with former CBSSportsLine.com colleague Levy in the deal.

    WEB SITE RESTRUCTURING KEY TO DEAL: Levy credited the recent restructuring of FoxSports.com in which the operation reports directly to the network’s broadcast sports component instead of Fox Interactive Media as a significant breakthrough to striking the deal. Levy: “That was big. And you look at all the assets they bring to bear between the national reach, the regionals, the Web site and so forth, I think we reach 100% of football fans in the country now. So that’s absolutely huge for us. We think we can do great things together.” Open Sports, meanwhile, is completing a $4M private placement that will add to a prior $10M round of venture capital used to start the company. The new money comes from the original Open Sports investors who were asked to re-invest at 40% of their prior commitment.

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  • MLB People & Personalities: Reds' Brennaman Sees Long Future

    Brennaman Plans To Keep
    Working Through '13
    Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman said that he "envisions calling Reds games fulltime through 2013 and part-time thereafter." Brennaman: "I can see myself working indefinitely, as long as I have my health." He added Reds Owner Bob Castellini "said to me four years ago, 'You can work as long as you want to. You tell us when you want to retire.'" Brennaman, the team's radio voice since '74, has a contract through the '10 season (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/11). Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Tom Groeschen noted changes in the Reds' TV and radio announcing crews have "brought different faces to the broadcasts in recent years." Brennaman said, "We have gotten very little negative feedback" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/11).

    KIND OF BLUE: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin wrote Rogers Sportsnet's Blue Jays broadcasts, led by play-by-play voice Jamie Campbell, are "unsatisfying." Campbell has "staked no claim to the team with either a flair for language or his keen insight into baseball," and the "patter with his analysts is painful." Perhaps a "permanent sidekick would help." The rotation of Pat Tabler, Rance Mulliniks and Darrin Fletcher as analyst is "tough enough for viewers; how must it be for Campbell to frame each analyst properly?" (GLOBESPORTS.com, 7/12).

    RUFFLING FEATHERS: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar notes FS Midwest analyst Al Hrabosky “remained angry Monday that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had blasted him for critical on-air comments" about Cardinals C Yadier Molina not running out a pop fly during Friday's game against the Cubs. La Russa on his KTRS-AM program Sunday said Hrabosky “should be ashamed of himself.” Hrabosky said that he was “merely doing his job by bringing up the fact that Molina had stopped running, with bat in hand, on a popup that was dropped and resulted in a forceout.” Hrabosky said that he "hasn’t discussed the matter with La Russa since, and probably won’t do so until the Cards return to action Friday” (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/14). La Russa said of Hrabosky criticizing Molina, "I think it's a bunch of malarkey. ... Nobody gives more effort than Yadier Molina" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/13).

    NOTES: WGN-AM Cubs radio broadcaster Ron Santo missed the team's weekend series against the Cardinals after leaving Friday's game "with what later was diagnosed as a gall bladder infection." Santo is slated to return after the All-Star break (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 7/12)....In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote ESPN's MLB broadcasting crew is "full of mediocre talent." Fox' Tim McCarver is "probably the best in the bunch," and Fox' Eric Karros is "closing fast" (TAMPABAY.com, 7/12).

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  • Media Notes

    In Boston, John Powers writes while the USOC's new U.S. Olympic Network is a "worthy idea, the timing of last week's announcement is terrible." There was "no need to break the news now, not with the vote for the 2016 Games coming in October and before the awarding of the TV rights." With the USOC and IOC "still wrangling over distribution of those and other sponsorship fees, it was silly at best to provoke the Lords of the Rings, who now have a legitimate reason for another American smackdown, especially with Chicago a leading 2016 contender" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/14).

     
    NFL ON THE GO: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Andy Fixmer reported DirecTV will allow NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers to watch games during the '09 season "on mobile phones as part of a $100 package" that also provides "computer access and additional TV features." Fans for $280 also can "add access to handsets including" iPhones. The offer ends July 31. Fixmer noted a Wi-fi link or "access to a so-called 3G high-speed wireless Internet service is required," and software "will be provided on Apple's iPhone AppStore by September" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/13).

    DYNAMIC DUO: GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann wrote NBC and ESPN during their coverage of the U.S. Women's Open "gave viewers plenty of action, and that's never a bad thing." NBC's pairing of Dottie Pepper and Johnny Miller in the main studio was reminiscent of the net's "paradigm-shifting college basketball team of three decades ago: Billy Packer, Al McGuire and anchor Dick Enberg." Viewers are "not likely to see Pepper and Miller together again anytime soon, but they made for a winning combination" (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/13).

    EARNING KUDOS: ESPN's Bob Ley examined South Africa's readiness for the '10 FIFA World Cup at the one-year-out mark on Sunday's "Outside The Lines," and SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote, "Full marks go to features producer Nancy Devaney, who won't be seen on camera but whom Ley said was a vital part of an informative and visually sumptuous 30 minutes of broadcast journalism" (SI.com, 7/13).

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