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ESPN and The Poynter Institute Thursday announced The Poynter Review Project, an expansion of ESPN's traditional ombudsman role. For the 18-month tenure of the deal, a panel of Poynter officials will review ESPN content across all platforms and publicly comment on the outlet's efforts. This will include monthly essays and other more time-sensitive responses. The commentaries will be posted on ESPN.com beginning next month (ESPN). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports ESPN "will pay Poynter, as it paid" its three previous ombudsmen: George Solomon, Le Anne Schreiber and Don Ohlmeyer. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed. ESPN Exec VP & Exec Editor John Walsh said, "When we started the ombudsman, people thought it was crazy and different. This is a little different from the different." Walsh said he believes there is a consensus at ESPN that the ombudsman "made us better at what we do" and "made us reflect more upon the execution of an idea that might have been controversial" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/25). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the Poynter project is a "break from naming individuals to the internal watchdog role" (USA TODAY, 2/25). DAILY VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote, "Give credit to ESPN ... for reaching out to the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalistic ethics and training facility in Florida, to weigh in on the channel's content across various platforms" (VARIETY.com, 2/24).
Versus plans to produce its March 3 UFC event in 3D, making it the first time a UFC match will be presented in that format. The telecast, which will be sponsored by Comcast Xfinity, will be shot from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville at 9:00pm ET. The 3D telecast will have a completely different production crew and equipment from Versus' regular HD production. Todd Harris and Kenny Florian will be the announcers on the 3D broadcast. Versus also plans to run several commercials on its HD telecast in a split-screen format alongside footage from the locker rooms and the fighters' entrance to the Octagon. It was made available to all distributors, and so far Comcast, Cox, Verizon, Massillon Cable, Blue Ridge and Armstrong have signed up to take the 3D telecast. Meanwhile, ESPN Thursday announced that ESPN 3D will expand its scheduled programming to include the NBA Finals, marking the first time the event will be presented in 3D.
In Boston, Chad Finn notes it appears the Patriots’ radio broadcast team of play-by-play announcer Gil Santos and analyst Gino Cappelletti “will remain in tact next season.” The two have been “partners for 27 season overall and the last 20 in a row,” and both indicated recently that they “plan on returning.” CBS Radio Boston Senior VP & Market Manager Mark Hannon said that his “approach is that if Santos and Cappelletti want to return, they will.” Finn writes although Santos and Cappelletti “aren’t as sharp or incisive as they once were … it would be challenging to come up with superior replacements, particularly for Santos, who still have his voice-of-the-autumn pipes” (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/25).
LEARNING ON THE GO: New MLB Rangers TV announcer John Rhadigan said that he “will approach the Rangers’ job like he has other sports assignments for Dallas NBC affiliate KXAS-TV, which he joined in 1990, and then FSN, as a ‘modern-day storyteller.’” Rhadigan will be “learning on the job” as he has “broadcast only a limited number of events.” He said that he has “done about 15 practice games by using video from past Rangers games and plans to work three webcasts” with analyst Tom Grieve. He will “make his debut on the Rangers TV network” during the March 12 Rangers-White Sox game and then on FS Southwest for the March 13 Giants-Rangers game (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 2/25).
FIVE STAGES OF GRIEVING: In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes announcer Gus Johnson in October parted ways with MSG Network as the Knicks play-by-play announcer but he is “working now more than ever.” Johnson is an announcer for the Big Ten Network, calls NFL and college basketball games for CBS and is the voice of EA Sports' "Madden NFL 11" video game. Johnson: “All that hasn’t made this (leaving the Knicks) any easier. It was a painful process for me. It was like losing your wife or your girlfriend. All of a sudden you wake up one day and you are no longer attached, you don’t have any contract.” He added, “I miss the Garden, I miss the people I worked with. I miss being around the New York Knicks” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/25).
RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL SON? On Long Island, Neil Best notes Stephen A. Smith returned to ESPN earlier this month “in what seemed a surprisingly modest role.” But Smith said that he is “happy to be back and happy with the role.” Smith: “You know me. This is just the beginning. I don’t plan on stopping. I’m just getting started.” Best notes Smith left ESPN in ’09 after he was “unable to reach an agreement on a new contract and interested in stretching himself with, among other things, political commentary on cable news channels.” Smith said that he “feared that if he remained at ESPN for another five or 10 years, he would be typecast.” Smith is in “no rush to expand his current state.” He also has a deal with Showtime that is “believed to limit what he can do for now” (NEWSDAY, 2/25).
CHERISHING THE MOMENT: In California, John Maffei writes if CBS viewers “ever wondered why Verne Lundquist is a high-quality announcer, it was driven home at the end of last Sunday’s Ohio State-Purdue game.” With Purdue’s home crowd “going crazy,” it “rallied for a last-second win.” Lundquist said, “Boilermakers win it,” then “went silent for a minute, letting the cheering fans tell the story” (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 2/25).
The chart below lists final Nielsen ratings from recent sports telecasts. All ratings listed are U.S. ratings. Figures for CBS and ABC were unavailable at presstime (THE DAILY).
TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT. NASCAR Sprint Cup: Daytona 5002/20Fox1:00-5:00pm8.7 Figure Skating: "Riverdance on Ice" (tape)2/19NBC4:00-6:00pm1.1 NHL: Penguins-Blackhawks2/20NBC3:23-6:30pm1.1 NHL: (regional)2/20NBC12:30-3:23pm1.0 FIS World Alpine Championships (taped)2/19NBC3:00-4:00pm0.5 U.S. Snowboardcross Nat'l Championships (taped)2/19NBC2:00-3:00pm0.4 TELECASTDATENETTIME (ET)RAT.VIEWERS (000) NBA All-Star Game2/20TNT8:46-11:41pm5.29,093 NBA All Star Saturday Night2/19TNT8:30-11:18pm4.48,130 "NBA All-Star Game Tip Off"2/20TNT7:00-8:46pm2.74,709 NASCAR Nationwide Series:
"NBA All-Star Game: Lost Dunks"2/19TNT7:00-8:00pm1.62,519 NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge2/18ESPN7:00-9:02pm1.52,358 NCAA Basketball:
Michigan State-Ohio State2/15ESPN9:12-11:03pm1.52,142
NBA: Spurs-Bulls2/17TNT8:16-10:49pm1.42,035 NASCAR Sprint Cup:
CALLING ALL STARS: TNT ranked as the No. 1 basic cable network in primetime for the week ending Feb. 20 in total viewers, and among adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 with the net's coverage of the NBA All-Star Weekend leading the way. TNT also ranked as the No. 1 network on TV in Saturday and Sunday primetime among adults 18-34 and 18-49, as well as in Saturday primetime delivery of total viewers. The NBA All-Star Game on Sunday ranked as the No. 1 basic cable program for the week with 9.093 million viewers. Meanwhile, NBA.com received nearly 83 million video streams and nearly 170 million page views during the NBA All-Star Weekend, up about 350% and 140%, respectively, from last year's record totals. The video streams included an all-time single-day mark of more than 28 million video streams by fans on Saturday (Turner).
FAB, MELO: MSG Network earned a 6.75 local rating and 507,285 HHs for Carmelo Anthony's debut with the Knicks Wednesday night against the Bucks. That marks the highest-rated regular-season Knicks game on the net since March '95, when Michael Jordan scored 55 points in his return to MSG following his first retirement from the NBA (MSG).
I WANNA GO FAST: Fox and Speed saw a 2% uptick in overall impressions during last week's Speedweeks coverage across the two networks. Fox and Speed generated 67.2 million impressions, compared to last year's 65.6 million. When FoxSports.com's coverage is added, the overall number of impressions for all three outlets hits 72 million (John Ourand, THE DAILY).
TSN announced Thursday that it has "grabbed the Canadian broadcast rights" to the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and will show games on both TSN and TSN2 starting March 17. In addition to game coverage, TSN also will "produce original studio shows along with live cut-ins to games." Newly signed analyst Dan Shulman is expected "to have a role" with the broadcasts. The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes it is a "bitter loss for The Score, which had clung to the tournament as a centrepiece franchise even as its other properties disappeared" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/25).
TALK IS CHEAP: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar reports the MLB Cardinals will bump syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh from his spot on KMOX-AM next month as the team returns to the radio station "after a five-season absence." KMOX will "carry the full schedule" of Cardinals games that are broadcast during Spring Training. KMOX Sports Dir and broadcaster Ron Jacober said pre-empting Limbaugh for Spring Training "never would have happened before." But Caesar notes part of the Cardinals' deal to return to the station "includes the provision that the exhibition games air live" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/25).
MISSING THE TURN: In San Diego, Jay Posner writes Fox "had some good sound and pictures during last week’s Daytona 500," but the network "totally mangled the post-race analysis, mainly because it didn’t have any." Showing winner Trevor Bayne's "emotion was great, but at some point Fox needed to remember this was a sporting event and fans wanted to see just how Bayne won." Posner: "If that had been a baseball or NFL game, we would have any number of replays. In this case, we got zero" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/25).
WITH THIS RING... NASCAR Media Group has reached a distribution agreement with the Style Network for a behind-the-scenes special chronicling driver Kyle Busch's wedding. The show, "Fast and Fabulous: A NASCAR Wedding," will premiere on Style March 5 at 8:00pm ET. It will follow Busch's fiancee, Samantha Sarcinella, from her search for a wedding dress to her walk down the aisle. It also will show moments from Busch's and Sarcinella's bachelor and bachelorette parties. Busch and Sarcinella approached NASCAR Media Group about filming the lead-up to their nuptials. NASCAR Media Group spoke to several networks before reaching a distribution agreement with Style late last year (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal).