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Volume 24 No. 160
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ESPN Media Notes: Olbermann Set For Show's Debut; Net Extends With Little League

In N.Y., James Miller writes Keith Olbermann and ESPN, "sixteen years after an acrimonious parting," are "putting on happy faces for their highly anticipated reunion," which begins tonight when his eponymous show debuts at 11:00pm ET on ESPN2. Olbermann said that he has been "enjoying his new environment during weeks of preparation for the premiere." He said, "There has been no friction at all. No one has said to me, 'We let you back in, now sit back and shut up.' Instead they’ve said, 'We’ve let you back in, now tell us everything you want and why.'" ESPN VP/Original Programming & Production Jamie Horowitz said Olbermann has been "incredibly responsive” to ideas and suggestions. Horowitz added that a "dreaded 'degree of rigidity' on Mr. Olbermann’s part 'is not there,' and that he has been affable and amenable." Horowitz: "He’s been accountable and willing to do things. Even if I want to change a word in his script, he’s said, 'O.K., Jamie, I’ll change it.'" Each nightly show will begin with Olbermann "alone at the anchor desk for 10 to 15 minutes, reviewing as few as one or as many as 10 sports events making news." Highlights will be "followed by a playful interlude tentatively titled 'This Week in Keith History,' with clips of Mr. Olbermann from 'SportsCenter,' from 1992 to 1997, that he has not seen in advance." His job "will be to react amusingly" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/26).

: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand reports ESPN has "finalized a deal that ensures it will carry the Little League World Series through 2022." Sources said that ESPN will pay "around" $60M over eight years, nearly double the $30.5M deal ESPN signed in '07. ESPN execs have "long valued Little League programming, and the new deal continues a 50-year relationship." The net has carried LLWS games "every year since 1987, and it occupies large programming blocks in August -- a time when there are few live events on air." ESPN was averaging 911,000 viewers for this year’s LLWS through Aug. 18, up 12% over last year. Little League said that it "did not enter into serious discussions with other networks" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/26 issue).

MEASURE OF THINGS: In N.Y., Josh Kosman reports the fate of Nielsen’s proposed $1.26B purchase of Arbitron "likely lies with ESPN." The company "licenses software from Arbitron for a new project that enables it to tell how often viewers are watching the network over television, radio, PCs, smartphones and tablets." The license expires soon, and sources said that the "ability of ESPN to squeeze a promise from Nielsen that it will be able to continue to license the software is likely integral to the merger getting federal approval." A source said that ESPN Senior VP/Research & Analytics Artie Bulgrin has been speaking to the FTC "about the licensed software." A source said that ESPN was "initially against the merger ... but now is discussing a compromise" (N.Y. POST, 8/26).