ESPN and Bill Simmons announced the first wave of writer and editor hires for his new website, Grantland.com, set to launch in June. The name of the site honors late sportswriter Grantland Rice. Dan Fierman, most recently a Senior Editor at GQ, will be lead Editor for Grantland.com, joined by Lane Brown and Jay Caspian Kang. Authors Chuck Klosterman, Malcolm Gladwell and Dave Eggers will be consulting editors to Grantland, with Klosterman writing exclusively for the site. Simmons and ESPN also announced seven writers as part of the staff, with more full-time contributors to be announced prior to launch (ESPN).
ONE BIG, HAPPY FAMILY: Versus.com is now fully integrated into NBCSports.com, a further outgrowth of the NBC-Comcast merger earlier this year. The integration began earlier this month in which all of the combined entity's hockey content, including the ProHockeyTalk.com blog and playoff analysis from Versus talent, was pooled into NBCSports.com. The latest step takes everything else from Versus.com and puts it within the NBCSports.com portal. The integration did not create any further staff reductions or relocations, NBC officials said (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
BACK IN THE RING: Showtime announced Thursday that James Brown "will be added to its regular announcer crew to host" its Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley PPV bout next Saturday. Also for next weekend's bout, Showtime "will offer its first boxing coverage live online." The online feed "will carry the same $55 charge as TV coverage but will let online users choose between TV camera shots" (USA TODAY, 4/29).
AUSSIE RULES: The Australian Football League on Thursday "trumpeted its position as the most powerful sporting competition in the country by securing" a record US$1.37B broadcast rights agreement with Foxtel, the Seven Network and Telstra for the next five years. Per the deal, "every game will be televised live in every Australian state throughout the season." The $1.37B deal is up US$405.3M from the last broadcast deal (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 4/29).
HOOP IT UP: In New Jersey, Al Iannazzone notes the NBA "was criticized roundly for how last summer’s free agency went down," but this season national TV ratings "went through the roof because everyone wanted to see LeBron James and the Heat in good times and bad." As a result, "many are tuned into the NBA now because of these playoffs." Iannazzone: "You have to believe these playoffs are going to get better -- before things in the NBA potentially get worse" (Bergen RECORD, 4/29).