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SBD/April 13, 2011/MediaPrint All
Millman will become Editor-in-Chief
of ESPN The Magazine on June 15
WHO'S COMING WITH ME? In N.Y., Keith Kelly reports Walt Disney Co. "appears to be having a heap of trouble convincing the New York staff of ESPN the Magazine to move three hours north to the corporate campus in Bristol." Nearly half the staff of close to 100 is "quitting the twice-a-month sports magazine rather than make the move." An ESPN spokesperson said, "There will be roughly 35 open positions when they move to Bristol" (N.Y. POST, 4/13).
ESPN has “dramatically reduced the number of front-facing staffers who will work the first two days of the NFL Draft,” according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Only Chris Berman, Jon Gruden and Mel Kiper Jr. “will be on the main set" for ESPN's coverage on April 28 and 29. ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Jay Rothman said, "Chris is the face of the NFL studio shows. He has a passion for the draft; he's done it for 30 years. ... I don't have to sell you on Mel, and Jon is more dialed in than any analyst I have worked with." The main set talent covering the remainder of the Draft on April 30 “will consist of host Trey Wingo and analysts Trent Dilfer, Kiper and Todd McShay.” Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen will “serve as reporters on a separate set at New York City's Radio City Music Hall for Rounds 1-7, while Suzy Kolber will do Green Room interviews for Rounds 1 and 2 and then move to Bristol to anchor a set consisting of Herm Edwards, Tedy Bruschi and Ron Jaworski.” Rothman said that coverage of the “first and second rounds will not be bogged down with post-pick interviews.” Deitsch noted Saturday coverage will “focus heavily on team evaluations, so expect plenty of coaches and executives to pop on.” Meanwhile, Rothman said the ongoing NFL labor situation will be "fair game" for ESPN analysts because it "affects the draft." Rothman: "If there is no free agency, teams that were filling spots with free agents now have to draft with that in mind. The latter rounds become that much more important." He added he hopes ESPN "will have a presence" at the NFLPA's event in N.Y. that coincides with the Draft (SI.com, 4/12).
LISTEN ALL OF Y'ALL, THIS ISN'T SABOTAGE: NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello yesterday denied a CBSSports.com report "alleging that league employees are attempting to sabotage” the NFLPA’s planned event in N.Y. around the Draft. The report alleged that NFL team officials are telling agents to “stay away from the NFLPA event.” Aiello noted that the report “likely is referring to Gil Brandt, who has assisted the NFL since 1995 in inviting the top prospects” to the draft. Aiello spoke to Brandt and is confident Brandt “never told any of the players they would not be allowed to attend the draft,” as the report claims (NFL.com, 4/12). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I thought it was really wrong for the NFLPA to say that players coming into the league should boycott the draft. This is equally wrong if it's true. It's small, it's petty. The NFL should disassociate itself immediately from all of this because you're taking it out on players. ... Both sides are acting in a petty manner." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Stop using these guys as pawns." Kornheiser said of the lockout in general, "Settle this stupid thing already! Both sides are making money!" ("PTI," ESPN, 4/12).
EA has sold 225,000 units
of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12"
LATER RELEASE DATE FOR "MADDEN": EA Sports yesterday disclosed it will shift the usual release date for "Madden NFL 12" by three weeks to Tues., Aug. 30. The move away from the game's typical release schedule each year on the second Tuesday in August will position the game closer to the start of the NFL season, if it starts on time, and gives more room alone in the market for the publisher's other football simulation video game title, "NCAA Football," which is typically released in July. EA Sports has steadfastly said it will release a new, fully featured version of "Madden" this year, regardless of the status of the NFL labor situation, and an ongoing fan vote for the cover athlete is now down to the final four candidates. Several of EA Sports' other simulation titles are released near or at the start of the respective sports' regular seasons (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
49ers radio analyst Gary Plummer was dropped by the team "just as a very off-color podcast began circulating in which he recounts his former teammates' sex-capades, as well as his own," according to Matier & Ross of the S.F. CHRONICLE. The podcast was "taken from a late-night interview back on Super Bowl Sunday in February on a show called 'Lady Brain' that aired locally on KSJO-FM in San Jose." Plummer during the interview "talked about his own open marriage, how best to give oral sex, and how the 49ers' staff used to line up women for the players." Matier & Ross cited sources as saying that "just days after the interview aired ... Plummer phoned the show's two female hosts and asked them to take down their podcast -- which they reluctantly did." But Internet users "can still find it." Plummer though said the interview is "not the sole reason for the firing." He indicated that his "criticism of how badly the Niners played at times had a lot to do with why the team let him go with a year left on his contract." Plummer: "They talked to me four or five times during the year about being too hard on the team, and they needed to fill the stadium. I don't think that's my job as an analyst. My job is to state the facts." Plummer played four seasons with the 49ers. Matier & Ross noted Plummer was replaced by Eric Davis, "another former 49er who has worked for Comcast and in other broadcasting jobs since retiring" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/13). In San Jose, Daniel Brown reports Plummer confirmed that the 49ers "cited the racy interview as the reason for his dismissal -- but he said he isn't buying it." Plummer: "It was a convenient excuse to get rid of somebody who told the truth." The 49ers have "dismissed the suggestion that they fired Plummer for his on-air assessments, noting that he had been just as blunt in prior seasons and was always welcomed back." Brown notes Deadspin.com posted the Plummer interview yesterday (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/13).
A group of high-profile former athletes are launching a broadband website in two weeks called TXNSports.com. Network broadcasters Cris Collinsworth, Boomer Esiason, Nick Faldo, Howie Long, Cal Ripken Jr. and Phil Simms are launching the site April 26 with 16W Marketing. Frank Vuono, a partner with 16W, said the group is looking to add more talent, particularly with college football and basketball. Its first deal is a partnership with Big Lead Sports to produce a show for the NFL Draft. Big Lead Sports and TXNSports will jointly sell that programming, Vuono said. Big Lead Sports CEO Chris Russo said his network of websites will benefit from the partnership. "Working around the draft was a great way to get access to this talent," Russo said. "We might explore other things going forward." Vuono said he is using the model for the old NFL Quarterback Club, when he was the head of licensing for the league. "We can put all of our guys together and market them as a group and, frankly, launch our own network because our guys are prolific," Vuono said. "They provide a lot of content to a lot of other people. It would make sense to bring that all together and take all the content they provide on a regular basis, put it onto one site and repurpose it and come up with some original programming." That will lead to endorsements, appearances, voice-overs and testimonials. Programming will be based around TXN's deal with Turner/SI.com and Allstate to produce a series of Web vignettes called Behind The Mic. Vuono said he is open to partnering with additional websites. "We're kind of Switzerland," he said.
MLB's At Bat 11 app for the iPad is a "near-perfect home and away combination" for baseball fans, according to USA TODAY's Mike Snider, who reviews the digital offering and awards it three out of four stars. The app, available for $14.99, offers fans of all 30 teams "game day treatment of a graphic representation of each ball and strike thrown." It is a "home run when paired with an MLB.TV subscription that lets you watch all games except those under blackout restrictions." The At Bat app "would be an extra-base hit on its own if it had an option to purchase individual games without subscribing to the entire season, or maybe offered one free game broadcast per week" (USA TODAY, 4/13). In Toronto, Raju Mudhar reviewed the At Bat app and noted MLB is "at the forefront of all pro sports at exploring and using new tech to appeal to fans." Given "how far baseball has fallen in terms of popularity over the past two decades, it’s smart to try and get in front of people however they would like." It also means MLB is "the furthest ahead in monetizing it" (TORONTO STAR, 4/10). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Dennis Tang wrote the At Bat app, combined with MLB.TV, gives fans the "absolute on-the-go nerve center for your baseball addiction." Tang also reviewed the FanGraphs app, available for $3 on the iPhone, and wrote, "Only stat junkies need apply." In addition, the "Baseball Cards" app, $1 on the iPhone, is "as simple as its name: 2,100 baseball cards from 1887 to 1914 from the private collection Benjamin K. Edwards, donated to the Library of Congress" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/9).
IN THE SWING OF THINGS: ADWEEK.com's Mike Shields noted during The Masters last week, Sports Illustrated's Golf Group "rolled out Front9," a paid iPad and iPhone app. Front9 was "built using a template" that Time Inc. sibling Entertainment Weekly designed for its "Must List" app. SI Golf Group Publisher Dick Raskopf: "There’s no question EW made a sizable investment in the Must List app that we were able to take advantage of. This was their first app, and after it came out we were able to grab their learnings right out of the gate. That’s good for Time Inc.” But Shields noted the EW app is free, so "why charge $2.99 for the Front9 app?" Raskopf noted that the SI Golf Group "enjoyed 20 percent ad revenue growth" in '10, and the company has "landed Fidelity, TaylorMade and Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday as sponsors for Front9" (ADWEEK.com, 4/11).