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An "emotionally devastated" Jerry Remy yesterday announced he will return to NESN's Red Sox broadcast booth this season, "five months after his son was arrested for murder," according to John Tomase of the BOSTON HERALD. Remy yesterday spoke to several reporters at NESN's studios, "pausing frequently to compose himself and swallowing hard to avoid tears." He gave a "wide-ranging 35-minute interview," discussing the "fate that likely awaits his son, how he arrived at the decision to return, and whether he’ll be able to maintain his affable screen persona." Remy "spent most of the last five months assuming he wouldn’t return to the booth," but at the "urging of his wife, Phoebe, and three close friends, he began to reconsider after the holidays." Remy: "Some of these things started to resonate a little bit with me. I’ve never been a quitter, and I don’t intend to be one now. I’ve been in professional baseball in some capacity for 40 years. It’s what I do. It’s what I know." Tomase notes the question Remy "wrestles with -- and the one broadcast partner Don Orsillo asked him in a meeting yesterday -- is whether he’ll be able to return to the airwaves as the Rem Dawg, a sardonic jokester who banters easily and can keep even a lopsided game entertaining." Remy: "I don’t see how else I can do it. If I didn’t think I could be myself I wouldn’t do it. I hope that doesn’t come off as insensitive. It may to some, but it’s the only way I know how to do my job" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/28).
A RETURN TO NORMALCY: Remy acknowledged there likely will be people "who will be very upset with me, and I'm sure there will be people that are happy I'm coming back." Remy: "I have no way to predict right now what the response is going to be. ... I know one thing: I work for very smart people here at NESN and with the Red Sox. If the response is overwhelmingly negative, they'll take care of it." In Providence, Brian MacPherson notes by making the announcement now, a "little more than a month before NESN broadcasts its first Grapefruit League game from Fort Myers, Fla., Remy said he hopes to focus solely on baseball when he resumes his work" with Orsillo (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 1/28). He said that he "would not address his situation during the Red Sox' first broadcast this season, acknowledging that the reason he was speaking now was to hopefully prevent it from being a story in spring training" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/28).
IS COMING BACK THE RIGHT MOVE? The BOSTON HERALD's Tomase notes it will "undoubtedly be difficult" for Remy to banter with Orsillo, as he has "done so effortlessly for nearly three decades." But Remy "deserves the right to try" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/28). But in Boston, Dan Shaughnessy in a front-page piece writes it is "hard to imagine Remy and Orsillo once again talking about wardrobe problems, rogue taxi drivers, and room service gone awry" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/28). Also in Boston, Steve Buckley writes Remy "has every right to go back to work." Buckley: "But should he? No." Looking into Remy’s eyes is seeing someone "whose life has been thrust into chaos in the aftermath of the events of Aug. 15." But to watch a Red Sox game on NESN this season, and "to see and hear Remy engage in his famously upbeat and entertaining banter" with Orsillo, it will "be difficult not to think of that brutal murder, difficult not to speculate about the trial" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/28).
U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn this morning discussed her new correspondent role with NBC during the Sochi Games and said while she is "looking forward to this new challenge," she is "not looking forward to waking up this early." Vonn said, "That's not going to be fun." Vonn, who will not compete in Sochi after having knee surgery earlier this month, will stay in the U.S. instead of travelling to Russia. She will offer a daily report on "Today" and contribute to other aspects of NBC's Olympic coverage. Vonn noted it is "going to be so hard" watching the U.S. team compete in Sochi while she is recovering. She said, "It's already hard enough. You guys run commercials about Sochi about every two minutes and it's killing me." NBC's Matt Lauer jokingly said, "You’re welcome." She continued, "I'm trying not to watch as much as I can, but it's going to be really, really hard to watch the Alpine events." Vonn appeared on camera from her couch, with her knee in a brace and her dog in her lap. She said she is "recovering well" from the surgery and has "committed myself to racing through to the next Olympics" in Pyeongchang in '18 ("Today," NBC, 1/28). For one person’s initial reaction to Vonn’s performance on “Today” this morning, see the SBD/SBJ On The Ground blog.
TAKING THE CHALLENGE: NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said it would be "a challenge" for Sochi to top the net's primetime audience from the '10 Vancouver Games, which averaged a 13.8 rating over 17 nights. Former CBS Sports President Neal Pilson said, "I don’t think there will be a record TV audience." But he added, "Advertisers will get the benefit of cumulative ratings, which will be quite acceptable" (N.Y. POST, 1/26). Meanwhile, SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote NBC is "talking like a responsible news-gathering entity" with respect to issues like gay rights and terrorism. But "we shall see." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "We have spent a lot of time thinking about how we're going to cover the news. Our partnership with NBC News makes this pretty easy and also a balancing act on how we're going to work. We will cover any social or political issues as they are relevant to the Games from a sports perspective. NBC News will be there in full force with all of its journalists and all of its shows to cover news items. We've been doing this on an ongoing basis, whether it's related to security, or as you've already seen, as it relates to the LGBT situation that is in Russia" (SI.com, 1/26).
GOIN' MOBILE: In Boston, Jessica Van Sack noted Sochi will be the first "mobile games," as AT&T, Samsung, NBC and Team USA are "just some of the big names that have developed mobile apps" specifically for the Olympics. The offerings "range from cheesy games to useful encyclopedias of Olympic knowledge, allowing spectators to virtually follow the path of the torch, keep tabs on their favorite teams and view exclusive content." The Team USA "Road to Sochi" app is "sleek" and "well-designed." The "best part about this ... app is the ability to add your favorite players to your own 'team.'” Meanwhile, the "Olympic Athletes' Hub" app "goes beyond Team USA to include thousands of social media profiles of Olympians." AT&T’s #itsOurTime app "invites users to videotape themselves chanting 'U-S-A!'” Finally, the "NBC Sports Live Extra" app is the "only way to watch each sporting event live while you’re on the go, but it was plagued with problems" during the '12 London Games (BOSTON HERALD, 1/27).
TO XFINITY AND BEYOND: The AP's Ryan Nakashima noted Comcast's Xfinity TV subscribers will "be able to tap the breadth of that online coverage on their big screens." Subscribers who use Comcast's latest-generation X1 video set-top box for the first time will be "able to access content that had once been 'digital only.'" That "includes use of the NBC Sports Live Extra app on big-screen TVs." The app this year "will include a buffed-up version of a live program called 'Gold Zone.'" It will "cut in and out of medal events and recap highlights" (AP, 1/27).
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: NBC recently rounded out its Sochi campaign with a 30-second spot created by 2C Media in Miami. NBC execs involved in the spot included NBC Sports Group CMO John Miller, VP & Creative Dir Joseph Lee, Senior VP/Olympics Marketing Barbara Blangiardi and Coordinating Producer Justin Greenlee (THE DAILY).
ESPN Ombudsman Robert Lipsyte in his most recent column addressed the controversial story written by freelancer Caleb Hannan on Grantland entitled "Dr. V's Magical Putter" and wrote the story was not "a conscious persecution of a transgender person as much as it was an example of unawareness and arrogance." Lipsyte: "It was a rare breakdown in one of ESPN’s best and brightest places, and an understandable but inexcusable instance of how the conditioned drive to get to the core of a story can block the better angels of a journalist’s nature and possibly lead to tragic consequences. The story lacked understanding, empathy and introspection." Lipsyte added, "Aside from its humane shortcomings, I still don’t like it as a piece of writing. ... The story itself is structurally clumsy and flabbily edited. Yet Grantland’s gatekeepers -- including Bill Simmons ... and more than a dozen editors in all -- waved the story on through." Regarding the handling of the gender issues associated with the story, Lipsyte wrote Grantland and its editors had "two choices." Lipsyte: "One, the story could have been written without ever mentioning gender. ... Two, the story could have been spiked." He added Grantland is "a promising site" and "a treasure when it's in the right hands, mostly boring when not -- and sometimes, as we've seen, even dangerous" (ESPN.com, 1/27).
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ramachandran, Sharma & Futterman wrote ESPN is "at the forefront of the TV industry's efforts to expand into Internet distribution" and sees its WatchESPN app as "a way to cash in on growing demand." ESPN President John Skipper said although the company has considered a stand-alone broadband offering, "it's not close yet." As for ESPN's end game, Skipper said that it "plans a lot of online experimentation, but its priority is to protect pay-TV profits." He added, "Our calculation right now is we're going to ride this. We're going to ride it as long as it makes sense." Access to WatchESPN "raises the price" for carriers. Court filings show that Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS, which "offer the app to their subscribers, pay ESPN 19 cents more per subscriber each month" than Dish Network, which "doesn't support the app." A source said that DirecTV has "balked so far at ESPN's asking price for streaming video access," but it is "likely to negotiate for those rights when its contract with ESPN expires at the end of this year" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/27).
HITTING A GRAND SLAM: In N.Y., Bob Raissman praised ESPN's recent coverage of the Australian Open. He wrote, "The voices (especially Chris Evert, Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez, Brad Gilbert and Patrick McEnroe) didn’t make the event about them and deep-sixed the technical drivel while describing play. Couple this broadcast excellence with aggressive reporting when an issue arose and add ESPN’s solid and varied camerawork, and all in all, it was a pleasant experience Down Under" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/26).
ESPN in December slipped slightly in its total audience in monthly comScore Media Metrics Multi-Platform traffic ratings, but still easily held on to the top spot among U.S. sports sites. The category reach win marked ESPN's fourth consecutive month atop the list. The rest of the list showed some movement within the rankings, as Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network fell from third in November to sixth and the NFL rose from seventh to fourth. Despite the drop on the whole, Bleacher Report as a separate entity surpassed 30 million uniques in December for the first time. As is custom, ESPN also far and away led in engagement metrics, posting an average of 109.6 minutes per user during the month.RANK
SITEUNIQUES (000)1 ESPN64,4902 Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network *52,8833 FoxSports.com on MSN41,8124 NFL Internet Group41,7795 USA Today Sports Media Group **40,9036 Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network ***39,0397 Sporting News Media/Perform Sports34,4838 CBS Sports31,6939 SB Nation29,19310 Sports Illustrated sites17,14411 MLB10,66012 Stack Media10,58713 Deadspin.com9,46914 NHL Network8,94815 NeuLion7,298
NOTES: * = Includes Rivals.com, ThePostGame.com, and Rotoworld. ** = Includes 81 local Gannett newspapers sites, 23 Gannett-owned broadcast TV station sites, USA Today High School Sports, BNQT Media Group, The Big Lead and For The Win. *** = Includes NBA.com, PGA.com, NCAA.com, and WNBA.com. ^ Includes National Football Post and the Fansided Network.
Like almost every licensed product for Super Bowl XLVIII, the game program is selling briskly. With a circulation base 25% higher than a year ago and two markets starved for a championship, more copies were shipped in the days after the conference championships than ever. "Denver and Seattle are showing enormous demand and we have also shipped more copies to the the host Super Bowl market than ever," said Adam Scharff, Associate Publisher at H.O. Zimman, which is handling the Super Bowl program for the 11th consecutive year. This year's program is 288 pages, an increase from last year's 264. Its 110 pages of ads include GMC on the back cover. Fellow NFL corporate sponsors with real estate include Visa, Bud Light, Pepsi and Barclays. New advertisers include Macy's -- which is selling the program in the pop-up Super Bowl shop within its flagship Herald Square store -- Houlihan's, Bulgari, and Forever Collectibles, a New Jersey-based NFL hard-goods licensee. Aside from Macy's, incremental N.Y. distribution comes from sporting goods specialty stores like Lids. The program's price remains $15 for the newsstand version and $20 for the stadium edition, which includes a "metallic" cover with a hologram.
On Long Island, Neil Best writes things were "relatively quiet Monday on Radio Row," but the repurposed ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan soon will be "overrun with (mostly) football-related celebrities and the talk show hosts (and producers) desperate to talk to them." Radio Row is "the place to be to corral stars who make the rounds primarily in the service of corporate sponsors but also to talk football to every nook and cranny of America." This year's Radio Row is "more cramped than usual, as floor space ... is not as easy to come by as in convention centers in the hinterlands." Consequently, the NFL is "not permitting fans to have access to the circus, and it capped the number of stations at 90, in addition to the NFL Network set that dominates the middle of the room" (NEWSDAY, 1/28). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Bob Raissman writes some prominent local radio personalities yesterday were "conspicuously absent" from Radio Row as a "matter of commerce." ESPN Radio N.Y. is "doing some of its shows from a restaurant in Bryant Park," while WFAN is "doing remotes from a candy store in Times Square." Sources said that the candy store "paid WFAN suits nearly $300,000 for the right to house" its broadcasts (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/28).
SIDELINE STAR: ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi sat for a Q&A with Fox' Erin Andrews about her upcoming Super Bowl debut. Andrews said of covering the Super Bowl, "It’s really one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to Fox. This is a bucket list thing for me." She said of her role as a sideline reporter, "In many ways, it’s like being a spy. I’m privy to conversations that (Fox analysts) Joe (Buck) and Troy (Aikman) aren’t, and it’s my job to convey some of that information back to the booth and to the people watching at home" (ADWEEK.com, 1/26).
INSIDE MAN: GQ's Drew Magary profiled Fox' Jay Glazer, describing him as "the best-connected man in football." If something crazy happens at the Super Bowl, "chances are you'll learn about it" from Glazer, who is "the king of information at a time when there are way more media outlets trying to dig it up." Glazer has a "three-source rule -- he won't run a story with anything less," and as a result his reports "are rarely, if ever, wrong." Glazer claims that he has "never had to correct or retract a story in his career, which would make him an anomaly not just in NFL circles but in the entire profession of journalism." His network of NFL sources is "so vast that he claims players and teams routinely consult with him about coaching hires and free-agent destinations." Glazer said, "I'm an information broker. People call me about players. Players call me about coaches: I'm a free agent -- do I want to work with this guy or this guy? Every locker room talks" (GQ, 2/'14 issue).
SPANISH CONQUEST: In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted former NFLer Brady Poppinga will "be the analyst on the Fox Deportes telecast of Super Bowl XLVIII, which will mark the first time the Super Bowl is airing live in Spanish in the U.S." Poppinga "learned to speak Spanish because of a two-year Mormon mission in Uruguay" (JSONLINE.com, 1/27).
ESPN's X Games mobile application delivered a week of high-octane snowboard, ski and snowmobile footage from Aspen to my iPhone. The application, developed jointly by ESPN and SapientNitro Corporation, is an ad-supported, free download offering X Games news, video, schedules, results, event logistics and athlete information. Despite some functionality flaws, I enjoyed my time with the app and would have spent more time with it if had there been more content. The app's homescreen displays three featured videos and a pulse section with relevant news. Prior to the start of the games, an event schedule inhabited the most prominent position in the app's top navigation. This was replaced with a Results icon once competition began. The event schedule is viewable by sport, venue, date or network. Competition results include a sortable listing of events and athlete rankings. Video occupies the second position, and a tap of that icon takes users to a listing of available footage, sortable by sport. Each video can be shared on Facebook or Twitter. During the review period, there were approximately 24 videos available at any given time. In addition to these features, a Menu icon houses a fan-vote feature called Real Snow, along with event and athlete information. Video and display ads are present, but not obnoxious. For live streaming of the competitions, users are directed to the WatchESPN mobile application. I conducted this week's review on an iPhone 5 version 7.0.4, with AT&T service.
TRIPLE CORKS: One of the coolest features of the X Games app is Real Snow, a bracket-style fan voting competition featuring eight top snowboarders demonstrating their skills in urban settings. Each snowboarder has a professionally edited video and fans vote for their favorites round by round. Unfortunately, this feature was pulled from the app due to vote tampering, and according to an ESPN article, the $10,000 that was to be awarded for most votes will be split evenly across the eight participants. Bummer. Meanwhile, top scoring runs for each ranked athlete are available to watch in the Results section. This is a cool add-on and a quick way to catch individual highlights. In-app video is sharable via Facebook and Twitter. Facebook requires an additional login, but it is simple to post and the app passes good images into the social networking site. Twitter integration happens automatically but does not offer a great pre-populated post. No hashtags, just a video title and a thumbnail image.
BAILS: While the homescreen did contain good content, there were only three featured videos at a time. I felt there could have been more available here, and at times, these featured videos had invalid URL error messages when tapped. This was not a great first impression for video seekers, but video elsewhere in the app worked fine. The Pulse section -- also within the homescreen -- contained news articles with text that rendered fine on the iPhone. But accompanying images were too large to view, making the experience sloppy. Available content was sparse here as well, with only five news items in feed. To play or share video, users have to tap on very small icons. It took more than a few taps to get these to work. But once the video populated, things worked just fine. Finally, during live events, in-app scores were slow to update, taking about 20 minutes on average to register after each run.
BOTTOM LINE: Great extreme action footage and good social tools make this app a nice companion for X Games fans. Video feeds, timeliness of score updates and sharing features could use some attention, as I fumbled with each during the review period. Missing from the app entirely are transactional touch points. If X Games gear and equipment were available within the app, I would have taken a look. This is an app with promise, but more video and a few usability upgrades are on my wishlist for this app for the Summer X Games in Austin.
Amie Sheridan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.
See Sheridan's previous App Review submissions for THE DAILY:
- Bleacher Report Team Stream Engages The User With News, Social
- Golf Channel For iPhone Offers Basic, Text-Heavy Content
- The Year's Best From The Four Major Pro Leagues
- Yahoo Sports For iPhone Goes All-In On Scores And Stats, With No Video
- Big Ten Network's BTN2Go Brings Lots Of Video, But Also Lots Of Ads
In St. Paul, Nick Woltman profiled SportsData, which is a 4-year-old company that "feeds information from nearly 20,000 sporting events annually to the likes of Google, Bleacher Report and Facebook." Swiss sports info and gambling firm Sportradar in November "acquired the company in a cash and stock deal designed to extend the European firm's reach" into the U.S. market. SportsData employs "23 full-timers on its sales, administrative and technology teams," as well as "120 part-time student workers" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/25).
BROAD-CASTE SYSTEM: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote FS1's college basketball ratings serve as "an example of how hard it is for a fledgling sports network to knock off ESPN." The "most-viewed college basketball game that aired since the start" of the '13-14 season is ESPN's Michigan State-Kentucky on Nov. 12, which drew 4.0 million viewers. FS1's "most-viewed college basketball game for this season came on Dec. 1 with Kentucky-Providence, a game that drew 360,413 viewers." Furthermore, ESPN's "least-viewed game this season (George Washington-Marquette) beat FS1's most-viewed game by 49,781 viewers" (SI.com, 1/26).
NATIONAL ATTENTION: In DC, Dan Steinberg reported Nationals LF Bryce Harper and P Stephen Strasburg were in Bristol last week "filming 'This is SportsCenter' commercials for ESPN." The players "apparently filmed two separate spots." Harper's is with Hannah Storm and "a couple other ESPN anchors" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/27).
GETTING BIG-GER: Big Ten Network drew a 1.5 local rating in its eight-market footprint (Chicago, Cleveland-Akron, Columbus, Dayton, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paul) for the men's college basketball doubleheader on Jan. 22 featuring Michigan-Iowa and Minnesota-Wisconsin. That rating is the net's best on record for a "Super Wednesday" doubleheader. The previous best was a 1.42 rating on Jan. 30, 2013 for a doubleheader featuring Indiana-Nebraska and Purdue-Michigan (BTN).