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ESPN announced today that "MNF" for the '12 season will use Lisa Salters as a sideline reporter, "something it didn't bother with last year," according to Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY. The broadcast, after having two sideline reporters in '10, "didn't use it last year." ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Acquisitions John Wildhack said that the change from a three-man broadcaster booth to the two-man booth of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden this year "isn't behind resurrecting sideline reporting." Wildhack: "There's still 40 seconds between plays. It's not a factor." Instead, Wildhack indicated that Salters was "added partly because you can never throw too many bodies at ESPN's Monday hype ... not because ESPN has in mind some new type of reporting." Although Erin Andrews is at the end of her ESPN contract, Wildhack "wouldn't say whether she'd been offered the spot." Salters will continue to "stay on NBA sidelines" and will still contribute to ESPN's "E:60" (USA TODAY, 4/11).
A "bad cold" forced TV announcer Vin Scully to miss the Dodgers' home opener against the Pirates yesterday, and "could result in him missing more games this week," according to Tom Hoffarth of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. The 84-year-old Scully started his 63rd season with the franchise "when the Dodgers opened the season in San Diego last weekend, but the effects of the illness that had been going around the team's roster hit him Easter Sunday." The last time Scully "missed the Dodgers' first home game of the season was in 1977, when he just joined CBS' crew covering the Masters." He has been "part of the team's first home-game broadcast 61 of the past 62 seasons." Dodgers radio announcer Charley Steiner moved from the KLAC-AM booth "to do the call Tuesday on Prime Ticket" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/11). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes, "Dear Vin ... We missed you. You were absent for only your second home opener in 63 years, yet your voice here has never been louder." Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, "Just knowing Vin wasn't in the building was really strange. I really think it took something away from the afternoon" (L.A. TIMES, 4/11). In California, Jeff Miller writes opening day "without Vin Scully is like opening day without baseball, like baseball without the baseball, like the baseball without the stitches." Miller: "We pray Vin is OK and soon because there's already enough warped with the world and with baseball. ... Vin is a link to our past even more so than Albert Pujols is a link to the Angels' future" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/11).
MICHAELS TO RECEIVE AWARD: NBC's Al Michaels "will receive the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting" on May 10 in N.Y. The award is sponsored by Fordham Univ.'s WFUV-AM, which Scully helped form (AP, 4/10).
YES Network is launching a new online second-screen companion to its televised game broadcasts, "YES Network Game Connect," part of a larger suite of new digital products created for the '12 season. "YES Network Game Connect," a licensing of the Game Connect product introduced last year by Fox Sports Net, will feature live statistics, social media integration including contact with game broadcasters, and other content. YES collaborated with FSN and digital partner MLBAM on the product, with the parties participating in a revenue-sharing agreement and YES and FSN selling advertising against it. "This is a natural extension of where the website has been going," said YES Network VP/Business Development & Digital Media Michael Spirito. The "Game Connect" is free to users and accessible from YESNetwork.com. No special software is needed, as it is all based within the user's browser. Meanwhile, YES this season is introducing a redesigned YESNetwork.com, the site's first substantive refresh in three seasons, and a new mobile web destination. The online and wireless sites were developed by YES and MLBAM. YES additionally will unveil a Yankees-specific version of MLBAM's popular fantasy game, "Beat The Streak."
Yahoo Sports retained its typical top ranking in monthly comScore rankings of top U.S. sports destinations, posting 49.9 million unique visitors for March. But Turner Sports Digital held steady at the No. 5 ranking with 23.3 million uniques, even as March represented the first month of comScore reporting without the traffic assignment of Sports Illustrated's battery of online sites. Turner and SI dissolved their partnership over the business operations of SI.com last year. But Turner, predictably, saw significant traffic during the month related to the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
ESPN reclaimed the No. 2 slot after a fall to the third position in both January and February, posting 37.7 million uniques in March. FoxSports.com on MSN fell to third with 36.3 million uniques, and the newly reconstituted USA Today Sports Media Group again ranked fourth with 23.6 million uniques. SB Nation, meanwhile, jumped two slots to the No. 8 slot in March, growing from 9.08 million uniques in February to 10.87 million uniques last month.
TOP SPORTS SITES (BY UNIQUE VISITORS) FOR THE MONTH OF MARCHRANK
SITE/GROUP OF SITESUNIQUES (000)1 Yahoo Sports49,9112 ESPN37,7213 FoxSports.com on MSN36,3044 USA Today Sports Media Group*23,6485 Turner Sports Digital**23,3486 CBS Sports20,9507 NBC Sports14,7188 SB Nation10,8659 NFL Internet Group10,70810 SI sites10,13911 Sporting News on AOL9,94412 MLB9,75813 BleacherReport.com8,99014 Active.com sites6,86015 Big Lead Sports by FSV6,236