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Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Steelers WR Hines Ward, two former Super Bowl MVPs, will appear on NBC's Super Bowl XLVI pregame show. They will serve as guest analysts during the net's six hours of pregame coverage (THE DAILY). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes Sunday's pregame show, which will "include an interview with halftime singer Madonna, will follow the usual formula of getting less fluffy and more football-oriented as it gets closer to kickoff." But what "amounts to pregame programming, such as NBCSN's 'Turning Point' show ... begins days before game day." NBC's Bob Costas said, "Our job is to present fresh and engaging material that people haven't been beaten over the head with for two weeks" (USA TODAY, 2/1). In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce reports Costas "admitted he won't be interested in all the entertainment aspects" of the pregame show. However, he said there will be elements that "will be of interest to both avid football fans and the casual viewers who fill out the audience." Costas: "There has to be a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek and there has to be a little bit of winking at the audience. The entire six hours will not be, from my perspective, a 10-out-of-10 in terms of what I would be interested in. But some of it may be to someone else. That’s just the way it goes down. You try to do as professional job as you can” (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/1).
ONLINE STREAMING: The AP's Anick Jesdanun noted he had the chance to test NBC's live online streaming of games and wrote, "I have found the experience decent so far, but no substitute for the big screen." The video quality was "adequate over a cellular connection." Some of the players "looked more like video game characters than real people." Video on the phone "lagged the TV broadcast by about 30 seconds," and online video "lagged the TV broadcast by a full minute." Jesdanun noted Verizon will "block the video in and around the stadium to avoid overrunning its network" (AP, 1/31).
PIONEER DAYS: NFL Network’s Rich Eisen appeared on NBC’s “Last Call With Carson Daly” last night, and Eisen said, “I was here from day one and it was an honor then, just as it is now. The league has gotten bigger and bigger, and thank goodness we're in more homes, and more and more scrutiny is upon us.” Eisen said of the Super Bowl ratings growing every year, “In this world of reality television, there's no greater reality than live sports. And there's no greater live sport right now than the NFL. It's a perfect convergence of the gladiator nature that everybody in America loves to see on display" (“Last Call With Carson Daly,” NBC, 2/1).
HBO Sports President Ken Hershman "promised not to be consumed" by a prospective fight between boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, which "could be the most profitable ever," according to Mitch Abramson of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Hershman yesterday said, "I don't think it's imperative. I don't think it's anything the sport needs in terms of saving." He added that the "best strategy for ensuring the fight happens is for HBO to stay out of the negotiations." Abramson notes Hershman's stance is "in contrast from the one that was taken by his predecessor at HBO, Ross Greenburg, who was reportedly forced to resign in July, in part because of a fractured relationship with Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum." Greenburg "desperately wanted that fight to happen, and acted as a mediator between the two camps during negotiations that took place in the summer of 2010 that ultimately broke down" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/1). On Long Island, Greg Logan notes Hershman "expressed his admiration" for Mayweather and Pacquiao. However, he said that "neither needs the other to enhance his legacy." Hershman: "I do believe there is a 'sell-by date' by which time this would become not what it should be, which is the biggest boxing event in history." He "expressed hope that Mayweather and Pacquiao will meet by the end of this year or early in 2013." Hershman noted, "After that, it's going to get less and less relevant" (NEWSDAY, 2/1).
LOTS OF RESPONSIBILITIES: ESPN.com's Dan Rafael wrote Hershman, who joined HBO in October, is "starting to delve more into programming the network's fights for the second quarter and beyond." Besides boxing, Hershman also oversees "a critically acclaimed sports documentary department" that produces "24/7" and news magazine show "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel." But Rafael noted boxing "is the foundation." Hershman is keeping his plans "close to the vest," but did say that he "likes the idea of continuing to do tournaments." He also is "open to more heavyweight action, especially involving champion brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko." But Hershman said that he "sees no big-time matchups on the horizon" (ESPN.com, 1/31).
The founders of sports media company the Whistle have a “single aspiration: create an ESPN for kids,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. ESPN’s "many spin-offs include none for the 6- to 16-year-olds in the Whistle’s sights." Rather than build an “old-style brick-and-mortar cable network,” Whistle is "plotting its digital domain out of its Web site; a channel on YouTube; channels that it hopes to occupy on the major gaming consoles; and time that it is buying on the NBC Sports Network." Whistle execs believe that their "audience can be found among the tens of millions of children who play organized sports and who navigate with increasing ease between televisions, computers, tablets, cell phones, apps and social media.” Whistle Chair John West founded the company with former Gatorade Senior VP/Sports Marketing Jeff Urban and former Nickelodeon Exec Producer Kit Laybourne. The company's website, thewhistle.com, is scheduled to make its debut Friday. The programming “will not resemble ESPN’s cut down to child’s size.” It will put “youngsters at the center of the mix, inviting them to upload their videos of backyard and organized games; to interact with pro athletes like DeMarcus Ware; to become sportscasters; and to re-enact some of the greatest plays in sports history.” It will also “provide games, instructional and animated shows, and programming created from footage leased from leagues and other entities.” The "first league agreement, with the NFL, is expected to be announced this week." The two-year deal lets the Whistle “use NFL Films content and develop original shows” with the league. If the "arrangement works, the NFL has the option to become a minority owner.” The Whistle’s deal to "carry its programming on a YouTube channel, which will be able to make use of the sports videos on the site, is to begin in April.” It will also have a half-hour block on Saturdays starting in September on the NBC Sports Network that is “designed to be an incubator for new ideas.” The venture’s investors include Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning, Mia Hamm, former MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy and Clear Channel Communications Chair of Media & Entertainment Platforms Bob Pittman (N.Y. TIMES, 2/1).
IOC Finance Committee Chair Richard Carrion said that the IOC "is in no rush to sign a Canadian broadcast deal for Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 after reaching an impasse with the only known bidder," a collaboration between Bell Media and the CBC, according to Bob Mackin of AROUND THE RINGS. Carrion said, “We got an offer that was unacceptable, and we will not be focusing on Canada in the near term. Right now, our main focus is on two negotiations that are active in Asia and that should occupy the first half of the year.” Carrion’s comments follow a report that quoted industry sources as saying that the Bell/CBC bid "offered the IOC only $70 million in part because of the National Hockey League’s reluctance to release players to compete at Sochi 2014" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 2/1).
U.K.-based digital sports outfit The Perform Group has signed video content partnerships with the L.A. Times and Sporting News, expanding its profile for its ePlayer product. Perform syndicates official highlights from numerous sports properties, including the NBA, MLB, NASCAR and NHL, and now has distribution deals with more than 1,000 publisher websites in 20 territories around the world. The Times deal gives Perform a strong foothold in the No. 2 U.S. media market, while Sporting News marks a major national outlet to supplement its more local and regional base of media partnerships. Sporting News is owned by American City Business Journals, parent company of THE DAILY and SportsBusiness Journal. "These are big steps toward filling in the puzzle of distribution, and allows us to keep going after ad budgets in a much stronger way," said Perform Americas Managing Dir Juan Delgado. The new deals arrive just as Perform marks one year since the launch of the ePlayer in the U.S. Since then, Perform has signed distribution deals with more than 300 sites, struck an ad sales partnership with Silver Chalice New Media's Season, risen to third among comScore's most-watched online sports video destinations and created an online network of college sports programming called Total College Sports. "We're in line with where we want to be at this point, but there's certainly more programming we want to have available (including the NFL)," Delgado said.
On Long Island, Neil Best writes WFAN-AM host Mike Francesa and Sirius XM Mad Dog Radio host Chris Russo yesterday had "an impromptu reunion" during Super Bowl media day. Russo was standing near the WFAN table when Francesa "invited him to come on" the show. What followed "was a 20-minute reminder of their 19-year run together from 1989-2008, a frantic, wide-ranging catching-up session that covered everything." It was their "first such on-air reunion since Russo went on Francesa's show and vice versa" during the '09 ALCS. Francesa "returned the favor again Tuesday night by appearing on Russo's show." Francesa said of the experience, "It was fun" (NEWSDAY, 2/1).
TAKE A NUMBER: In Toronto, Joe Warmington writes the CBC's Don Cherry is "not impressed Brian Burke 'went behind my back' to complain about him to the CBC and says the Maple Leafs' president did it to 'deflect' attention away from his team's losing ways." Burke said that he "'raised the issue quietly and professionally,' and while he likes Cherry, his weekly 'vicious and cutting' remarks on players and Leafs coach Ron Wilson have 'got to stop.'" But Cherry said that he "will not be muzzled, adding 'if it's true' Burke went to CBC management, then 'he's got to get in line to get me.'" Burke "called the fact that there was a 'leak' of his private concerns 'nuts'" (TORONTO SUN, 2/1).
MADE FOR TV: SPORTSGRID.com's Frances Martel wrote under the header "Dan Le Batard Is Highly Watchable." Martel wrote no program on national TV "has quite captured the Cuban family experience in as delightfully confusing a way" as ESPN2's "Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable." Martel: "Further viewing did not erode my first impressions of the show as a work of genius, intended to thrust upon the audience [an] imposing and chaotic cultural background that makes it difficult for those unacquainted to realize there is serious talent here." Le Batard is "one of the best interviewers on television." He "doesn’t even bother to entertain the idea that he cares about what his guests do for a living and instead corners them into talking about their personalities and attitudes, and the experiences that shaped them to be who they are" (SPORTSGRID.com, 1/30).
ALL SOCCER, ALL THE TIME: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Tim Goodman noted GolTV is "24 hours of soccer with a few studio highlight shows and specials mixed in -- the exact opposite strategy of most American sports channels that believe in talking heads above all." Goodman: "I’m wondering why ... American sports channels don’t copy the format a little more aggressively. ... For home-turf sports networks, I’d say look to Europe for guidance. Stop talking about the games and show the games. It’s a pretty simple formula" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 1/30).