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Suspense is "making a comeback at the NFL Draft," as execs at both ESPN and NFL Network pledged that broadcast cameras will "no longer show first-round draftees on the phone with their teams before being selected," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer for the NFL Seth Markman said, "The league, the NFL Network and ESPN have recognized that it has probably tilted too far in taking some of the suspense out of the draft. Part of the problem in this world of instant news and social media is that you can't hold the news. But I think we do need to find a way ... to bring back some of the suspense of the commissioner making the announcement." NFL Network Exec Producer Eric Weinberger added, "We realized that we have been doing the viewer a disservice in that we have lost some of the excitement of when the commissioner walks up to the podium and announces the pick for the first time." Markman noted, "Are we supposed to just hold that information and wait? I don't think so, but I do recognize that for the viewer sitting at home, I think there is some animosity toward us about tipping the pick, especially on camera. But if our information guys have information, I don't think we will hold back" (SI.com, 4/23). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “When you’re showing on television the phone call and the teams getting into the last minute of their pick, it’s pretty clear that they’ve chosen that individual. As he’s going through his congratulations with his family and friends. ... Hopefully we’ll be able to keep that suspense right through to the final moment” ("The Rich Eisen Podcast," NFL.com, 4/25). ESPN's Chris Berman, who hosts the net's Draft coverage, said the decision is "long overdue." Berman: "I talked to producers for years about how they were ruining the draft. I’m not saying we should suppress the news. I don’t mean fake things, but there should be some suspense" (USA TODAY, 4/25). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote the old system of showing players on the phone before the pick was announced "was a buzz-killer." Now at least viewers have a "fair chance to be surprised, assuming the teams stick with the program and don't leak the news on Twitter -- another recent development that has annoyed fans" (NEWSDAY, 4/24).
CALLING THE SHOTS: Berman has hosted ESPN's draft coverage since '89 despite calls for a change, but Markman said, "It's not even a debate for us." Markman: "It's not even a discussion in this building. He is the face and voice of the NFL on ESPN. He is as knowledgeable as anyone I have been around and as passionate as anyone I have been around about football and the draft. ... I would not want anyone else to host this thing." This year marks the eighth time Eisen has hosted the Draft on NFL Network, and Weinberger responded, "He is just so well-versed with the players but also with the direction [NFL Network analyst Mike] Mayock is going. His stamina at this event is unmatched. He does all three days and he always has. ... Not only that, he is not afraid to share his point of view and that comes across with the viewer. Because of his knowledge base and confidence in this topic, he can also become a voice" (SI.com, 4/23). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes ESPN analyst and former Colts GM & VP/Football Operations Bill Polian is a "rarity among TV sports analysts, a field crowded with ex-players, coaches and managers but few former general managers or team presidents." Markman said, "We were missing that perspective. But we didn’t want to hire just anybody." Sandomir notes Polian’s role at the draft is to "act as if he were still" a GM. NFL Network has also "plucked analysts from the front office," like former Redskins and Texans GM Charley Casserly and longtime NFL exec Mike Lombardi (N.Y. TIMES, 4/26).
INFORMATION OVERLOAD? In California, Scott Bair wrote it would be easy to call the "information tsunami" that precedes the NFL Draft "excessive, but it wouldn’t be provided if it weren’t popular and profitable." ESPN posted a 3.8 rating for the '11 NFL Draft’s first round, a "heavy number, especially considering the draft is simulcast on NFL Network." All this for a "non-event with no score." It is an event that "captivates a nation, where the popularity of college football and the NFL merge." NFLdraftscout.com senior analyst Rob Rang said, "Certainly the popularity of pro and college football is the biggest reason why the NFL draft has taken on a life of its own. However, I believe our country’s fascination with reality television is another reason for the draft’s popularity having grown to this level" (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 4/23). In Akron, George Thomas wrote there is a reason the draft has "blossomed into the behemoth that stretches across three days -- football is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, king of sports leagues." Thomas: "Draft coverage? It remains compelling despite two networks devoting resources to it simultaneously with little effect on the other." In '11, the NFL Network had its "best draft audience, averaging" 566,000 over three days, which "included its best first round, averaging more" than one million viewers (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 4/25). SI's Deitsch said moving the draft to primetime "shows how confident the folks at NFL are" in attracting eyeballs (MARKETWATCH.com, 4/25).
NBC today announced the on-air lineup for its coverage of the London Games. Bob Costas will return as the primetime host -- the ninth time he will serve in that capacity. Dan Patrick will make his Olympic hosting debut during NBC's live weekday and weekend daytime coverage. Al Michaels will also return to that role. Mary Carillo will revive her role as the NBC late night show host. Carillo also will serve as an Olympic correspondent during NBC's primetime coverage, along with media personality Ryan Seacrest, tennis player John McEnroe and former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi (NBC).
BBC OUT IN LARGE NUMBERS: The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson reports the BBC will employ a staff of 765 people to cover the London Games, a larger team than the 550 athletes who will represent Team Great Britain. The broadcaster "will deliver a record" 2,500 hours of live action from the Games, including 26 channels "dedicated to each sport." The BBC had 493 staff members covering the '08 Beijing Games. BBC London '12 Dir Roger Mosey said that the increase "was inevitable given the increased output, with four times as many TV channels and an extra radio station compared" with '08. Mosey "pointed out that the contingent at the London games from US broadcaster NBC would number" 2,800 and that Sky Sports had a staff of 130 for a single EPL game (GUARDIAN, 4/26). The BBC "declined to disclose the cost of covering the Olympics, claiming that it was commercially sensitive" (LONDON TIMES, 4/26). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Stuart Kemp notes the BBC's "planned coverage already includes 24 digital HD channels, a new, albeit temporary digital radio station and 33 hours a day across the BBC’s bouquet of channels including BBC One, Two, and Three." Mosey said releasing the staffing levels was part of the BBC's "commitment to being completely transparent about what we're up to" ahead of the Games (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/26).
RECORD-SETTING BROADCAST DEALS: Games organizers said that global broadcast deals for the Paralympics are "set to raise a record" US$16.2M. LOCOG and the Int'l Paralympic Committee are "banking on unprecedented levels of exposure in coverage led by Channel 4 in the UK and China's CCTV which is the world's largest national broadcasting network." There is "also NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation and the nation's only public broadcaster." It has "signed up to showcase the Paralympics to the national population of more than" 125 million. It is "hoped that the deal with Globo TV will help reach many" of its 190 million users in Brazil (London TELEGRAPH, 4/26).
ESPN Radio today announced it will move its N.Y. station “to 98.7 FM, replacing the long-time R&B powerhouse KISS-FM,” according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. The move from the AM dial will begin Monday. ESPN had been “looking for an FM home for its ratings-challenged New York outlet for several years.” ESPN did not buy the channel from Emmis Communications but “rather struck a deal to rent it for 12 years.” The “hope is that a spot on the more popular FM band -- and a clearer signal -- will help the 10 1/2-year old station better complete with long-time market leader WFAN.” ESPN Radio will “continue to be heard on 1050 AM until September, when it will become an all-Spanish sports station under the ESPN Deportes banner.” ESPN intends to “bid aggressively for Yankees rights after the team’s deal with CBS Radio expires following the current season.” CBS’ deal with the Mets expires after ’13 and it is “possible CBS will seek to keep the Yankees and move them from WCBS to WFAN” (NEWSDAY.com, 4/26). ESPN Senior VP/Production & Business Divisions Traug Keller said, "Opportunities like this don't come along too often and it's tremendous that we were able to conclude a deal that will enhance our mission of serving sports fans in not just English but Spanish as well" (ESPNNY.com, 4/26). In N.Y., Bob Raissman reports host Stephen A. Smith will "move from his nightside gig to the 1 p.m.-3 p.m. slot joining Ryan Ruocco." Sources said that Smith is "close to signing a deal." Tennis analyst Patrick McEnroe is also "expected to join 1050’s team to bolster the station’s weekend roster" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/26).
Tuesday’s Chelsea-FC Barcelona UEFA Champions League semifinal second-leg match "broke the tweets-per-second record for a sporting event," peaking at 13,684 messages per second, according to Sam Mamudi of MARKETWATCH.com. That tops the previous record for a sporting event of 12,233 tweets per second during the end of Super Bowl XLVI in February. The Super Bowl drew a total of 13.7 million tweets, though a Twitter spokesperson indicated that the company "didn't calculate the total number of messages sent during Tuesday's soccer match" (MARKETWATCH.com, 4/25). BRAFTON.com notes yesterday's Bayern Munich-Real Madrid semifinal "more than likely ... will be among the most discussed as well," while the May 19 championship game "will draw its own share of attention." Major sports events "consistently prove to be trending web topics, and internet marketers should take note" (BRAFTON.com, 4/26).
LOWE AND BEHOLD: Actor Rob Lowe appeared on CBS' "Late Show" last night and discussed a tweet he sent several months ago regarding Peyton Manning's status with the Colts that became national news. Host David Letterman said, "People were concerned and guessing and wondering about the future of Peyton Manning ... and then you on your little tweet device mention ... that you know pretty certainly that he’s retiring. Now what happened there and did you know anything?” Lowe: “As a Colts fan, I got it right. We’re never going to see him play for us again.” Letterman replied, “But the tweet was he was retiring, wasn’t it?” Lowe noted he has family "in the Midwest" and he “got a call from one of the doctors that examined Peyton who said, ‘I think he’s done.’” Letterman said, “No, no, that didn’t happen. Now Rob, you’ve got to be honest with me. ... That’s a violation of patient/doctor confidentiality. You don’t just, ‘Hey, guess who was in here. Oprah was in here.'" Lowe: “As you know David, people never do that with celebrities.” Lowe said he is a sports fan, so he tweets about various sports topics. Letterman: “You’re like a one-man ‘SportsCenter.’” Lowe: “A one-man ‘SportsCenter’ who sometimes forgets the power of Twitter and that people give a crap. I literally tweeted it driving into the entrance of Laurel Canyon in L.A. By the time I got to the other side of Laurel Canyon CNN, ESPN, Fox News were on my butt about it” (“Late Night,” CBS, 4/25).