Fox will roll out a half-hour pregame show around its Saturday afternoon MLB telecasts this year. What makes this show particularly interesting is that it will be produced in MLB Network's Secaucus, N.J., studios and will use MLB Network talent. Matt Vasgersian will host and Harold Reynolds, Mitch Williams, Eric Byrnes and Kevin Millar will be analysts. In the past, Fox has had Chris Rose host "Fox Saturday Baseball" from the site of the game broadcast. MLB has been pushing Fox to produce a pregame show around its Saturday afternoon schedule for years, patterned after the network's popular NFL pregame shows. MLB Network President & CEO Tony Petitti said discussions about this show have been occurring for a year. He called the partnership "groundbreaking." The pregame show launches April 7 at 3:30pm ET before the first broadcast on Fox' '12 schedule. When Fox runs its Saturday Game of the Week in primetime, the pregame show will be cut to 15 minutes, starting at 7:00pm. MLB Network will have some branding during the show. It will use MLB Network's "ballpark cams" and plans to provide updates throughout the game. Fox and MLB Network have shared resources before -- Vasgersian, Rose, Millar, Williams and reporter Ken Rosenthal have appeared on both networks. Fox co-President & COO Eric Shanks said, "We've already been working with Tony on mixing and matching talent during the playoffs. We like doing pregame shows. Shanks said Fox had to get its affiliates to agree to carry the pregame show. Petitti said the show will appeal to casual baseball fans. "Our coverage is evolving that way anyway," he said. "This will feel like a more typical Sunday pregame show." With "This Week In Baseball," Shanks notes Fox "probably now carries more baseball hours than we have before."
Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber and Hollywood producer/director Mike Tollin (“Arli$$”) are launching a sports media business today that will invest in and develop programming for TV, broadband and mobile platforms. The company, Mandalay Sports Media, is a partnership between Tollin and Mandalay Entertainment Group, of which Guber is Chair & CEO. CAA is a founding partner in the company. “There’s an increasing number of platforms that need programming,” Guber said. “We want to be front-of-mind for people who want to be in sports media. We want to be on a short list of companies they want to talk to.” Tollin will oversee the day-to-day operations of the new company. Former NASCAR exec Dick Glover will sit on its board. Mandalay Sports Media “has identified our first hire,” said Tollin. “We’re slowly building out.” In a news release that is due out later today, ESPN President John Skipper is quoted as saying, "Mike and Peter are exceptional producers who have been valuable collaborators with ESPN and ESPN Films. We look forward to continuing that relationship and exploring new ideas with them going forward." The group already has projects in development with ESPN, Turner Sports, New Line Cinema and Incognito Pictures. Tollin would not discuss specific projects, but said he is looking into doing an international soccer-themed show that explores the role sports play in society. “We’re going to be a lightning rod because we have the resources and the resourcefulness in all the different media that sports touches,” Guber said. “We also expect to be a beacon and be in non-adversarial relationships with other distributors and other advertisers.”
TRYING TO CREATE A NICHE: The new group plans to create, finance and acquire operating businesses in the sports media market. “We’re trying to create a niche that maybe doesn’t exist yet,” said Tollin. Tollin and Guber saw an opportunity with the amount of sports TV networks that have launched recently, from RSNs to league- and conference-owned networks. Plus, the duo plans to be active with broadband and mobile sports content, too. Tollin said the new company is the result of a longstanding relationship he has with Guber. “We’re both content guys, and we both have a not-so secret passion for sports.” he said. “For content guys like us, this is a dream come true.” Tollin’s sports credentials include films like “Varsity Blues” and documentaries like “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream” and the ESPN "30 for 30" film “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?,” as well as mini-series like “The Bronx Is Burning.” He is the executive producer of Showtime's MLB series “The Franchise.”
The UFC has “threatened a lawsuit” against the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission, which now “faces the possibility of losing its primary source of funding,” according to Bill Haisten of the TULSA WORLD. The OSAC since ’99 has “collected a 4 percent fee on the purchases by state residents of pay-per-view fight telecasts," including MMA, boxing and pro wrestling. The UFC now is “challenging the legality of the fee.” OSAC Exec Dir Joe Miller said that the organization “operates on an annual budget of $350,000," and that over the last three years, the commission “collected about $240,000 annually” in PPV fees. In response to possible legal action by the UFC, Miller “had planned to suspend the commission's operation after March 31.” But Miller, after “discussing the commission's budgetary status with Oklahoma House leaders and senators,” said that the commission “will continue to function beyond March 31” (TULSA WORLD, 3/21). Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Adam Hill reported the UFC is “expanding its efforts to fight pirating of its events on the Internet by going after individual users who access the streams.” Battling websites that “post illegal streams of UFC pay-per-view events has been an ongoing fight for the organization for several years now.” But the UFC “made it clear with the recent shutdown of greenfeedz.com and seizure of the site's records that those who seek out the pirated streams are also committing a crime and not immune to prosecution.” UFC Exec VP & General Counsel Lawrence Epstein “could not pinpoint an exact number of offenders potentially targeted or a specific timeline for legal action against individuals to commence." But he said, "The process of pursuing people has already begun" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/20).
CAN'T COMPETE? YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Iole writes Bellator “needs to find a better night to air its fights than on Friday, when it’s competing directly against the UFC.” There is “always a ton of competition from other events, but it doesn’t make much sense to go head-to-head with the industry leader.” Iole: “Find a different day or time to give your fighters the most exposure possible.” MMA Junkie reported that last week’s show “attracted just 108,000 viewers, the second-lowest ever” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21).
BSkyB has denied a decision was made by CEO Jeremy Darroch to “order a story to be removed from the Sky News website for 40 hours after a complaint from its Formula One production team posed a threat to the channel's editorial independence,” according to Mark Sweney of the GUARDIAN. Darroch stepped in “after the article, posted on the Sky News website at 6pm on Saturday, caused F1 teams in Melbourne to voice concern to BSkyB's TV production team, who were in the city covering the inaugural race of the 2012 season.” The article reported “a controversial plan to shakeup commercial deals and sell a stake” in the sport's parent company, CVC Capital Partners. Darroch “moved to order the article to be removed from the website at midnight, about six hours after it went live.” The article then was “republished on Monday afternoon mostly unchanged, although some sections that quoted extensively from a leaked document were cut back, following a review of the process that led to the story being launched.” A BSkyB spokesperson said that he “did not agree that the move to pull the story at the behest of F1 teams, as first reported by the [Financial Times], could be viewed as a threat to the editorial independence of the Sky News operation, given the article has not been found to be inaccurate” (GUARDIAN, 3/21).
In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel noted the Big 12 "knows what it's getting with ABC/ESPN," as it renews its TV contract, while NBC or Fox "would be new territory." But Tramel asked, "Would a contract guaranteeing a national telecast every week do more for an embattled league desperate to deliver the message that its stability is assured and that its best days are ahead?" Big 12 Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas said, "Let me remind you that college football is still a regional sport. Unless you have a big SEC game, it's not going to rate that well. They have games on the SEC package that aren't going to knock your socks off" (OKLAHOMAN, 3/18).
SWITCHING STATIONS: San Diego's XEPRS-AM VP & GM Tex Meyer Monday said that Josh Rosenberg and Charod Williams have left KLSD-AM and will join the station "by the end of the month." In California, John Maffei noted Rosenberg and Williams' final show at KLSD-AM was Friday. The Broadcast Company of the Americas, the parent company for XEPRS, announced that Rosenberg and Williams will start at the station next Monday. Meyer said that Rosenberg and Williams will take over the 10:00am-2:00pm PT time slot "occupied by Lee 'Hacksaw' Hamilton, with Hamilton moving" to a 5:00-8:00pm slot as the station "tweaks its lineup" (NCTIMES.com, 3/19).
REPLACING A REPORTER: YES Network has named Meredith Marakovits its Yankees clubhouse reporter. Marakovits previously served as a 76ers sideline reporter for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia and an anchor and contributor for SportsNet N.Y. (YES Network). On Long Island, Anthony Castellano noted that Marakovits will replace Kim Jones, who announced her decision to "leave the network in January after seven years." (NEWSDAY.com, 3/20).
GAME OVER: EA this week "announced plans to shut down some of its older online titles, including EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp for Wii." PCMAG.com's Chloe Albanesius noted the "shutdowns will begin" on March 31 for three online games. On April 13, EA "will shutter" 11 more games, including EA Sports Active 2.0 for PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360; EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp for Wii; FIFA 10 for PlayStation Portable and Wii; and MMA for PS3 and Xbox 360 (PCMAG.com, 3/19).