SBD/August 11, 2011/Media

ESPN Criticized For Sticking With LLWS Instead Of U.S.-Mexico Kickoff

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ESPN pushed start of U.S.-Mexico to ESPNews, airing finish of LLWS game
ESPN treated last night's U.S.-Mexico men's soccer friendly "like a big game before it started," but subsequently "undermined everything by shunting the first 20 minutes of the game over to ESPNews so that a Little League World Series *qualifier* could finish on ESPN2," according to Grant Wahl of SI.com. ESPN may have "policies that call for such measures, but it sure came off as a statement that this game didn't mean much at all." The game coverage "was strange," particularly since it appeared ESPN "was sort of overhyping this friendly." The network's "SportsNation" crew was at Lincoln Financial Field prior to last night's game, and a "cavalry of a half-dozen ESPN broadcasters was also on-hand." With yesterday's announcement that NBC Sports has signed a deal to broadcast MLS and U.S. national team games, it will be "curious to see how the presence of NBC Sports impacts ESPN's soccer decisions" (SI.com, 8/11). BROADCASTING & CABLE's Ben Grossman writes ESPN had "mixed messages for soccer fans" yesterday. Leading into the game, ESPN "turned its ample promotional muscle to an exhibition match," but then elected to start it on ESPNews. Grossman: "What’s the point of playing up this game like it is so big, and then not even airing it from the start where it was scheduled to air?" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 8/11). ESPN Senior Dir of Communications Bill Hofheimer today wrote on Twitter, "Starting US-MEX on ESPNEWS was unfortunate circumstance but this is one of the challenges of back-to-back live events. ESPN almost always sticks w/ the live event until it ends. Soccer fans would want the same if a match ran long. Fans were alerted of sched change and match was still available in HD and on ESPN3. Otherwise, hope you liked ESPN’s unprecedented commitment to this friendly."
 
LONG DAY AT THE OFFICE: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Ben Koo writes under the header, "Rough Day For ESPN Soccer." The network's soccer coverage "trudged through a very long day," first with the NBC announcement and later with its decision to move the start of last night's game. Then, during the second half of the game, ESPN missed the "majority of the setup work" on the U.S. goal because it was "showing replay of the previous attack." Koo writes, "The missed goal setup, the ESPN News kickoff, and NBC's foray into soccer all combine for a pretty rough day for a network that has had nothing but high marks over the last year or so broadcasting the world's most popular sport." ESPN already has its "soccer package and it's considered the top package, but the long term implications are a bit ominous" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 8/11).

THE TWITTER WORLD EXPLODES: ESPN's decision to stick with the LLWS game instead of shifting to U.S.-Mexico was met with plenty of Twitter criticism last night. Houston Dynamo President Chris Canetti wrote, "US-MEX start bumped off ESPN2 to ESPNews b/c Little League baseball running late. C'mon!! Should be other way around." The Schenectady Daily Gazette’s Ken Schott wrote, “Epic fail by ESPN. U.S.-Mexico soccer looks like it will start on ESPNEWS because of Little League Baseball. A Southeast Regional semifinal game is running late. Emphasis on semifinal.” AP’s John Krawczynski: “Soccer getting bumped on ESPN for Little League? Sounds about right.” Washington Post’s Steve Goff: “USA soc being preempted on ESPN2 by Little League REGIONALS. Bring back FSC!” Broadcasting & Cable’s Ben Grossman: “Shame on you ESPN. Awful.” The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre: “What an embarrassment for ESPN. I hope you guys have ESPNews.” Freelance journalist Kyle Stack: “Is Little League baseball that important to ESPN that it can't bump *that* to ESPNews so that USA/Mexico can be shown on ESPN2?” SI’s Richard Deitsch joked, “Seems Jurgen Klinsmann has magically transformed into a 12-year-old Little League pitcher...”
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