ESPN.com's Chad Dundas wrote MMA fans can "expect better results" from the new UFC-Fox partnership than from the sport's previous stints on network TV, which "has long been the white whale of the MMA industry after a couple of lesser companies -- EliteXC and pre-Zuffa Strikeforce -- both chased it, with disastrous consequences." One thing UFC officials "can do successfully is produce live MMA shows that look great on TV." Zuffa has the "capability to be far more consistent and far more professional than EliteXC or Strikeforce ever were and if a marriage between an MMA company and a television conglomerate ever had a chance to work out, it’s this one" (ESPN.com, 8/17).
A WORD TO THE WISE: In London, Tim Walker examines ESPN's decision to launch Grantland.com, which is "more than" a sports website. In addition to "giving sport its cultural, intellectual and emotional dues -- unlike so much of the sport blogosphere -- Grantland also places sport in the context of popular culture." The site employs writers and editors "from some of America's finest magazines," and the layout features a "clean, attractive design." Furthermore, Grantland is "written and edited from a fan's-eye-view." Still, Walker writes, "It should be said that not everyone is drinking the Grantland Kool-Aid. Despite its skilful attempts to disguise it, the site is backed financially (if not editorially) by ESPN. ... As such, any suggestion that Grantland represents the voice of an esoteric outsider needs to be taken with a pinch of salt" (London INDEPENDENT, 8/18).
LOSING THE HANDOFF? CABLEFAX DAILY notes while a Time Warner Cable-Insight deal is "months away from closing," it can be assumed that Insight customers "will lose" NFL Network if TWC does not strike a deal to carry the net. Insight has a carriage agreement for NFL Network, while TWC does not. A TWC rep said that it "was premature to discuss programming issues before the deal is complete," and NFL Network said that it "doesn't disclose terms of confidential contracts." But TWC dropped the net "in its acquired Adelphia markets in '06" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/18).
MORE DAYS AT THE RACES: In N.Y., Joe Drape reports horse racing "will get much-needed television coverage this fall when the NBC Sports Group broadcasts live from Keeneland Race Course for two weekends beginning Oct. 7." Under terms of the agreement, "four hours of horse racing will be broadcast over NBC and Versus, concluding with the $400,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup as well as a stakes celebrating Keeneland’s 75th anniversary on Oct. 15 on NBC" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/18).