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Bratches Very Encouraged By
ESPN 3D's Affiliates, Direction
ESPN Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches yesterday said the net is "very encouraged with the state of affiliates we have going into the marketplace with ESPN 3D," according to Kent Gibbons of MULTICHANNEL NEWS. ESPN 3D "will launch on the top cable operator (Comcast) and the top satellite-TV provider (DirecTV) on June 11 with access to more than 40 million homes," and Bratches said the net is "continuing to move on" landing new affiliates. Bratches, in a Q&A at a 3DTV conference, said that by '19, ESPN "thinks penetration of 3D sets in the home will be below HD sets but above digital video recorders." Bratches said that ESPN 3D "will only take 3D commercials," but that the net is "pitching 3D-related advertising across its platforms, and that's where the biggest revenue potential lies." Gibbons noted ESPN "has already produced its first 'This is SportsCenter' spot in 3D, and Sony will have a 3D commercial on the new network when it launches" on June 11. Meanwhile, Bratches emphasized that while ESPN "has shown 3D events on an experimental basis in theaters, ESPN 3D will be focused on 'the home experience' to suit distributors and advertisers needs." Bratches: "We don't want to do anything to circumnavigate the price-value relationship of ESPN to our affiliates." Bratches added that ESPN is "working with arenas around the country to find the best camera angles to suit 3D." The net "plans to bring in semi-pro football players later this week to a field in Hartford, Conn., to work on covering different down-and-outs, fly patterns and other passing maneuvers" during 3D broadcasts. Bratches: "We're really digging our cleats in to make sure that the consumer experience is second to none." Bratches said that ESPN 3D "likely will launch with a roster of about 100 events, up from the previously promised 85" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/25).
SLOW ADOPTION: MULTICHANNEL NEWS' David Tanklefsky wrote consumer adoption of 3D TVs "still has a very long way to go before the emerging technology comes close to approaching critical mass." HDMI Licensing President Steve Venuti: "This definitely is the year that everybody's converging on 3D except for one person and that's the consumer." But panelists at the 3DTV conference said that the 3D viewer experience is "so compelling, it is just a matter of time before the standard becomes an accepted entertainment medium" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 5/25).
Versus plans to telecast "Hockey Central" following NBC's Stanley Cup Final games, marking the first time the network will produce a postgame show around an event on another network. The show will be produced from Versus' Stamford, Conn., studio. "Hockey Central" will be on location at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center following Games Three and Four, which are being carried by Versus. Bill Patrick hosts the show, with Keith Jones and Brian Engblom as analysts (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
Cubs Agree To Allow WGN-AM To Air
Entire Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals
CUBS BOUNCED FOR BLACKHAWKS: In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal reports the Cubs have agreed to allow WGN-AM to air the entire Flyers-Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals, "including three games in the best-of-seven playoff that conflict with scheduled ballgames." The Blackhawks games typically would have aired on the "weaker signal of WIND-AM," but the Cubs are waving their "power-play status on the 50,000-watt flagship station they share." The June 2 Cubs-Pirates and June 4 Cubs-Astros games will air on WIND, enabling Games Three and Four of the Flyers-Blackhawks series to air on WGN, "which will produce Cubs broadcasts as usual." If the series "must return to Philadelphia" for a Game Six, the June 9 Cubs-Brewers game "will go to WIND, allowing the potentially decisive game to air on WGN" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/26).
WILL SERIES CAPTURE CASUAL FANS? Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said the Flyers-Blackhawks matchup will be a “great series,” and the Flyers “have a strong fan base (and) the Blackhawks have revived their fans who had lost it for awhile.” But Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "Outside of Chicago and Philadelphia, no interest at all, no superstars, no sizzle." FanHouse.com's Kevin Blackistone: "It's all about star power … and unfortunately, the NHL stars are not in this final. … It's not going to have that much sizzle nationwide" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/25).
NFL Network Turns Another
Non-Sports Event Into A TV Success
The NFL with yesterday's vote to determine the host of Super Bowl XLVIII "turned another non-sports event into a TV spectacular," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. Perhaps the "strangest thing about the NFL Network's special" surrounding yesterday's vote was "that it didn't seem all that strange." The coverage "came with all the now-familiar trimmings of draft day, including reports from each of the bidders' 'war' rooms and word that each group was 'on the clock' when it was time to present." With other media outlets "left to follow the action on the league-owned channel, it did provide some interesting glimpses of a process that previously was conducted behind closed doors," especially when Giants Treasurer Jonathan Tisch "grew emotional when discussing" late team owners Bob Tisch and Wellington Mara (NEWSDAY, 5/26). As the owners were shown on camera handing in their secret ballots to determine the site of the game, NFL Network's Rich Eisen said, "You are again watching an unprecedented sports television event" (NFL Network, 5/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes, "We had really thought the NFL had reached its fetishistic TV nadir with endless live coverage of its draft, but Tuesday's owner's deliberations at the Omni Mandalay in Texas made the draft feel like 'The Bourne Identity.'" Eisen during the coverage said, "You're watching the sausage get made right now." Gay writes, "How we wish, Mr. Eisen! A sopressata's genesis is downright exhilarating compared with moguls slowly rising from oversized easy chairs to deliver ballots" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/26).
Sheckler Says Decision To Stop His Popular
MTV Show, "Life Of Ryan," Was 100% His
Skateboarder Ryan Sheckler's "successful-yet-sappy MTV show 'Life of Ryan' ... alienated many core skate fans," so he "chose to turn his back on the television show last year," according to Chris Nieratko of ESPN.com. The show made him a "heartthrob to a nation of television-obsessed teenyboppers." But Sheckler said the decision to stop the show was "mine; 100 percent mine." Sheckler: "When I started the show I said, 'If it gets me away from my actual skateboarding fans and gets me away from skateboarding, then I'm not going to do the show anymore.' That's why our third season was only six episodes; we cut it in half. I was, like, 'I can't do it anymore! It's going to be more detrimental to my career than positive.' We just quit. We stopped it." Sheckler added the easing up of negative feelings toward him "has something to do with" not doing the show. Sheckler: "The only reason I think it does is because with the show off the air I haven't been in everyone's face as much. So, they don't know what I'm doing and everyone is like 'Ok, cool. Maybe he's living the normal life,' which I am." Sheckler noted he is now doing "Red Bull Skate Life" episodes on his website in lieu of the show. Sheckler: "Whatever we do or whenever we go on a trip or anything that seems like it would be interesting for our skate viewers we just film it and try to put together six-minute clips every month just to keep the fans informed of what we're doing" (ESPN.com, 5/24).
IRL CEO Randy Bernard said Versus has "great potential" and Comcast's pending acquisition of NBC "will be a big plus for us." However, he said "It's going to take time, and we have to grow that." Bernard: "Seventy-five million homes is not enough. We need to be in 120 million homes, and that's what sponsors and advertisers want to see" (Fox Business, 5/25). Bernard said "everybody loves that production value" that Versus provides, but the league "just need more homes" ("Indianapolis 500 Qualifying," Versus, 5/23). The IRL is currently in the second year of a 10-year deal with Versus that was signed in '08 (THE DAILY).
GRIDIRON SERIES: In Dallas, Laken Litman reported the Big 12 and Pac-10 have "talked about forming a football scheduling alliance for TV, similar to the conferences' basketball Hardwood Series." Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said that he and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe "like the idea of creating a football TV package of non-conference games between the two leagues because it would create national exposure and provide the financial growth both conferences are looking for in their next TV deal" (DALLASNEWS.com, 5/25).
KICK-STARTING COVERAGE: ESPN2 on June 10 will broadcast complete live coverage of the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Celebration Concert beginning at 2:00pm ET. The concert, celebrating the arrival of the World Cup in Africa, will take place at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, and Alicia Keys, the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Shakira and Juanes will perform live during the broadcast. ABC will air a highlight presentation of the concert on June 11 at 8:00pm (ESPN).