SBD/Issue 93/Sports Media

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  • Vancouver Games Could Help NBC Move On After Messy Conan Spat

     
    A "solid Olympics performance" in Vancouver next month "could go a long way toward rehabilitating" NBC, according to David Bauder of the AP. The "past few weeks of bad publicity haven't helped" with the dispute between the NBC and former "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien, and the network's "struggling prime-time ratings hinder its abilities to promote" the Vancouver Games. N.Y.-based Carat USA analyst Shari Anne Brill: "The squabbling over late night has really overshadowed anticipation for the games." Chicago-based Campbell & Mithune analyst John Rash said that NBC's primetime troubles "hurt its ability to get people excited about the games and emboldened rival networks to program more aggressively against the Games." But TNS Media Intelligence Senior VP/Research John Swallen "cautioned against connecting NBC's other problems with interest in the Olympics." Swallen: "Ultimately, it's the competition and the personalities of the athletes involved in the competition that makes the difference between a ratings bonanza and a ratings disaster. And you can't predict that until the games unfold." Bauder wrote NBC "has work to do this February," as the network "must remind viewers that Jay Leno is returning to 'Tonight' and demonstrate it is back with new programming at 10 p.m., including Jerry Seinfeld's new reality series, 'The Marriage Ref.'" NBC said that it will take "no financial shortcuts in its Olympics coverage that would cheat viewers," rather the network is "saving money with other efficiencies." NBC Sports & Olympics VP/Communications Chris McCloskey noted that the network "will have 600 fewer employees in Vancouver than it did in Turin" (AP, 1/26).

    CLEANSING PERIOD: NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chair Jeff Gaspin yesterday said that he "hopes the two weeks of Winter Olympics coverage beginning Feb. 12 will be a 'cleansing moment' ... that will allow the network to move past being the butt of jokes" for the late-night situation. Gaspin admitted that NBC is "now in the process of rebuilding many key relationships in the creative community after the turmoil of the Leno decision and other moves." Gaspin: "You want the (creative) community to want you to succeed" (DAILY VARIETY, 1/27). While GE has said that NBC expects to lose $250M on the Vancouver Games, Gaspin contends that he is "glad the network has the event, particularly now." Gaspin: "I look at it as a cleansing moment for NBC to reset its schedule. We'll come out of the Olympics with a new 10 p.m. and a new late night. We have the Olympics as a platform to promote these changes. We have between now and March 1 to re-launch our schedule. It's great timing for us. Whether that's worth $250[M] -- it is for me, it is for NBC." Gaspin added, "I think there's great value to the Olympics. I would love to see us a part of the process but it has to be for the right economics" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 1/26).

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  • Image Is Everything: HBO Airs Debut Episode Of Johnson's "24/7"

    HBO Receives Praise From Media Members
    For First Episode Of "24/7 Jimmie Johnson"
    HBO last night aired the debut episode of "24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona," which narrator Liev Schreiber described as "four weeks inside a legend's inner circle, unrivaled access to an unparalleled man, preparing for an event so venerated it's known simply as 'The Great American Race.'" The episode begins with Johnson starting his morning with some juice and an apple, with Schreiber saying, "A man and his clean-cut image: An uneasy alliance." NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson: "Coming up through the ranks, the only opportunity I had was to fit in corporate America. I almost had two lives. I had to separate myself and be so clean, polished, all those different things to get the opportunities. I'm corporate America's dream, and then at the same time, a fan base's ... nemesis of that. I guess I do a bad job of showing 'dumb Jimmie,' ‘crazy Jimmie,' whatever that exact phrase is. … I work hard, I play hard." Schreiber: "While Jimmie Johnson's public face may not mirror his private life, one thing remains clear: The 34-year-old California native knows how to drive a race car." In transcending his sport, Johnson “has struggled with more than just his image. Some question the very nature of his achievement." Johnson: "The thing through it all that's frustrating and pisses me off more than anything is to not have the respect for what we've done and to not be considered an athlete" ("24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona," HBO, 1/26).

    POSITIVE REACTIONS: SceneDaily.com’s Bob Pockrass wrote on his Twitter account, “Overall first Jimmie Johnson 24/7 was really good. Production quality awesome. A little dramatic but supposed to be.” Former NASCAR Scene writer Jeff Gluck: “NASCAR has never, ever, ever looked cooler than on this HBO show. Even if you don't like Jimmie, gotta love this show if you like racing.” USA Today’s Nate Ryan: “With best reality TV, you learn stuff you don't expect & that was case w/HBO's 24/7. Good production from this amateur's view, too.”

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  • Media Notes

    Saints-Vikings Helps Fox Garner Monster
    Rating Last Week In Adults 18-49 Demo
    DAILY VARIETY's Rick Kissell reports Fox scored "one of the most lopsided victories on record last week," winning "all key measures for the week of Jan. 18-24, including a monster" 8.8 rating in adults 18-49, in part due to the ratings for the Saints-Vikings NFC Championship game. The 8.8 rating is the "biggest in-season rating for any net since the week Fox covered the Super Bowl two years ago." Fox topped the "combined delivery of the five nets closest behind it: CBS (2.4), ABC (2.1), NBC (1.7), Univision (1.4) and USA (1.0)" (DAILY VARIETY, 1/27).

    CLEARING THE AIR: Canucks GM Mike Gillis yesterday said that team officials "plan to meet with staff of the CBC's 'Hockey Night in Canada' over its criticism" of LW Alex Burrows. Gillis: "We're going to meet with them and we're going to see what their reaction is and go from there." The GLOBE & MAIL's Matthew Sekeres notes the Canucks "refused CBC interview requests" during last Saturday's "HNIC" game against the Blackhawks. Gillis said that the CBC "asked for the meeting, and that the team would likely drop its 'Hockey Night' boycott so long as it receives assurances that its players and officials will be treated fairly by the broadcaster." Gillis added that the Canucks are "not looking to extract an apology" from CBC host Ron MacLean. A Canucks spokesperson said that the meeting is "planned for Friday." Sekeres noted "HNIC" staff "would be in several remote locations because of the program's Hockey Day In Canada special" on Saturday (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/27).

    EXTENDING ITS LIFT TICKET: The Ski Channel has extended its rights agreement with Bonnier Mountain Group, the parent company of ski film producer Warren Miller Entertainment. Ski will continue to air Warren Miller films, as well as the series "Spills and Thrills." Ski and Bonnier said that they also are in discussions on a more integrated partnership (The Ski Channel). Ski currently reaches 23 million HHs through distributors including DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable, but the network "still does not have a deal with Comcast, which serves many of the Colorado-Utah skiing areas" (DAILY VARIETY, 1/27).

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