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Turner Sports today announced that Keith Olbermann will anchor TBS’ MLB postseason studio coverage alongside analyst Dennis Eckersley. The deal brings Olbermann’s career full circle, as he started his TV broadcast career on a local Turner affiliate. It also marks the baseball enthusiast’s third foray into broadcasting the MLB postseason on a different network, following stints as a studio host for both NBC’s and Fox’ postseason coverage. Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy said of Olbermann, “He has great appreciation for the history of baseball. When you combine that with his studio experience, insights and enthusiasm for the sport, he will be a strong addition.” Turner in the past year has branched into the sports realm with a show hosted by Rachel Nichols. But Levy said Olbermann’s appointment is purely about the MLB postseason. “Let me make this perfectly clear, this is a Turner Sports arrangement with Keith and we’re extremely happy to have him. This has nothing to do with CNN, this is not a start to one thing to lead to another. This is about postseason baseball and doing what Keith does best.” Olbermann’s career has drifted from sports to politics and back again numerous times. But Olbermann stressed he is focused on the task at hand. Olbermann: “This is it. I have been so bad at predicting my career future -- as everybody else has -- it would be useless to make any predictions at this point.” When asked about failed relationships with his past employers, Olbermann quipped, “The safety valve here is that my season is about a month long. If you go through the 37 pages of my resume, you will notice that every one of my jobs has lasted at least one month.”
DARLING STICKING AROUND: Turner today also announced it has reached a long-term extension with Ron Darling, who will continue to serve as an analyst for a portion of the net’s “Sunday MLB on TBS.” In addition, the company announced its broadcast pairings for its postseason coverage. Cal Ripken Jr. will transition from the studio to the broadcast booth full time, serving alongside Darling and Ernie Johnson. Brian Anderson and John Smoltz will make up a second broadcast team.
TNT finished with a 7.1 U.S. rating and 11.5 million viewers for the Heat's blowout win over the Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night from 8:31-11:24pm ET, marking the best audience for any NBA game telecast in the net's 29-year history with the league. The 11.5 million viewers also mark TNT's third-best audience for any program in the net's history. Despite the record-setting TNT audience, Heat-Pacers Game 7 is down 8% and 14%, respectively, from a 7.7 rating and 13.3 million viewers for the comparable Heat-Celtics Game 7 last year, which aired on ESPN on a Saturday night. Monday night's telecast peaked at 13.1 million viewers during the 10:00-10:30pm window. The game also topped NBC's "The Voice," which drew 11.3 million viewers (7.1 rating) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In Miami, Barry Jackson writes of the 37.1 local rating in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market for Game 7, "Not only did it smash the local rating for Game 7 of the Heat-Celtics Eastern finals last June (a 25.0), but it wasn't far off from CBS-4's 40.7 for this year's Super Bowl" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 6/5).
CONFERENCE FINALS WRAP: TNT finished with a 5.2 rating and 8.4 million viewers for the seven-game Eastern Conference Finals, up 4% and 8%, respectively, from the net's 5.0 rating and 7.8 million viewers for the six-game Thunder-Spurs Western Conference Finals last season. TNT led all networks (cable and broadcast) among key adult male demos during each night of the series. Meanwhile, ESPN and ABC finished with a 3.1 rating and 4.9 million viewers for the Spurs' sweep of the Grizzlies. Last season, the net averaged a 6.2 rating and 10.1 million viewers for the seven-game Heat-Celtics series. Through the Conference Finals, NBA games have averaged a 2.7 rating and 4.2 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, TNT, ESPN2 and NBA TV, down 16% and 15%, respectively, compared to the same period last year (Karp).
STEP UP TO THE MIC: ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy yesterday discussed NBA coaches being required to do in-game interviews and whether it is just a gimmick for TV. Van Gundy: "I think there's no coach that looks forward to it. I think some hide it better than others. I don't consider it a gimmick." He added, "Because they are distracted, I don't think those are particularly revealing." Van Gundy: "I used to like it when they had the boom mics in the huddle because you didn't have to do anything different." In lieu of interviewing coaches, Van Gundy said, "I think what would be as good is interviewing the head official; what does he see, what's happening in the first quarter. You know, what are they looking for; what is the scouting report on these two teams" (THE DAILY).
Longhorn Network will televise two of the Univ. of Texas’ first three football games this fall -- the Aug. 31 season opener against New Mexico State and the Sept. 14 game against Ole Miss, according to Mark Rosner of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The Kansas-Texas matchup on Nov. 2, also “may be carried as well.” A KU official last week said that discussions “are ongoing.” But the Ole Miss-Texas matchup is “arguably bigger, as the Rebels are “regarded as a borderline top-25 team.” TV rights to the game are “controlled by the Big 12 Conference because it’s a Longhorns home game.” An ESPN spokesperson said that the net’s contract with the Big 12 “allows for the cable network to be carried on LHN.” Big 12 Associate Commissioner/Communications Bob Burda said, “They exercised their prerogative. A conference game requires consent from both schools and the conference. A non-conference game does not.” Rosner notes fans in Mississippi “could possibly have access to the Texas-Ole Miss game on local television.” Iowa State’s conference game at Texas last season “was televised by LHN, but also was made available on ABC affiliates serving much of Iowa” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 6/5). In Dallas, Trey Scott notes in addition to the Iowa State game, LHN last year broadcasted "two low-marquee non-conference games," but this year's Ole Miss game "will be the biggest assignment the network's had yet" (DALLASNEWS.com, 6/5).
DESPERATE ACT? CBSSPORTS.com’s Jerry Hinnen wrote LHN at this stage has “precious little leverage in its carriage distribution battle, and handing it the Longhorns' biggest nonconference matchup of the season ... appears to be the strongest card left in the LHN's increasingly limited deck.” Hinnen: “All of that is also simply the harsh reality of the corner into which the LHN -- and the Longhorns -- have currently backed.” Meanwhile, it is “good news that there should be some workaround" that will allow Ole Miss fans to watch the game "other than trying to make it out to the local sports bar, which might not have LHN either.” It “remains to be seen exactly what these ‘accommodations’ might be," but an "expensive pay-per-view option might not be a dramatic improvement” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/4).
YES Network for its broadcasts of Yankees' home games has "begun using YES View, an advanced panoramic replay device," according to Eric Fisher of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The technology "provides a 360-degree view of key game moments, such as close plays at the plate or home runs." YES View "bears some similarity to EyeVision, the 360-degree replay system prominently used by CBS in Super Bowl XXXV" in '01. But "unlike that technology, YES View provides full-motion, high-definition panoramic replays; offers a deeper, almost 3-D-like viewing experience without the need for a special TV or glasses; and has much more flexibility in the angle and tilt of the camera rotation." YES View "uses nine cameras positioned around Yankee Stadium." The cameras use proprietary algorithms to "collectively create a blended replay image, somewhat akin to principles of animation." The system was "tested last year during the global feed of gymnastics competition" for the London Olympics, but the YES alignment "represents the first regular deployment of the technology" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/3 issue). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds notes with YES View, nine "static cameras have been positioned and calibrated in Yankee Stadium’s 200 level along the first base line, extending from just to the right of home plate to the grandstand in right field." Testing of YES View "began during home games throughout April before the RSN unveiled the upgraded replays on-air during a series in early May" against the A's. YES Network Senior VP/Broadcast Operations & Engineering Ed Delaney said that since then, YES has been "enhancing its home telecasts with three or four YES Views per contest." Delaney said that the technology is "a significant investment that has been offset to some extent because its deployment at Yankee Stadium is being used by the vendor as a marketing tool of sorts." Delaney: "A lot of people are coming by to see the replays," including MLB Network, NBC Sports and Fox Sports (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 6/3 issue).