U.S. men's national soccer team G Tim Howard "will serve as the analyst" for the match between EPL clubs Chelsea and Manchester City at 12:00pm ET Sunday on NBCSN, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Arlo White "will call the game with Howard, who will be in the booth one day after suiting up" for EPL club Everton against Aston Villa. NBC Sports Soccer Group Coordinating Producer Pierre Moossa said, "It is the first time we will have an active player in our announce booth" (SI.com, 10/20). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald wrote it is "neat to have a standing member of the U.S. national team in the commentary booth for a Premier League broadcast." It also is "quite a coup for NBC to get a Premier League player into the booth, given how stingy Premier League clubs are about media access." However, it "would have been nice" Chelsea-Man City had been picked for NBCSN's Saturday 10:00am window. But Manchester United is playing Stoke City "at the same hour, and the Red Devils take precedence" (PHILLY.com, 10/20).
Rachel Nichols’ new sports program, “Unguarded,” may "represent CNN’s first stab at the genre in more than a decade, but the self-described 'total adrenalin junkie' hopes the show broadens the notion of what the format can offer," according to Brian Steinberg of VARIETY. Nichols said that the program, set to debut Friday at 10:30pm ET, "will feature a long form interview with a sports figure as well as a panel discussion that will bring in guests from the world of entertainment as well as sports." Viewers can "look for a talk" with Heat F LeBron James to "kick off the series’ debut." Nichols "expects the show to draw people from varied walks of life, not just die-hard sports buffs." She said, "I felt as if this is a line that isn’t necessarily being traveled on television. This wasn’t necessarily happening consistently anywhere else.” But Steinberg noted a CNN sports program "might pose a widely available selection for a decidedly general audience." CNN has "not run a regular sports show since the demise of 'Sports Tonight,' a more traditional sports-news-of-the-day program" which aired from '80-'01. Nichols describes the launch of her program as an "attempt to extend CNN’s programming base beyond politics and general news." Nichols said that she "hopes to line up more interviews with sports figures that tackle broader topics, not just game play" (VARIETY.com, 10/21). Nichols said that the debut piece "will be an all-access ride-along" with James on his recent trip to China. Nichols: "We have some great behind-the-scenes moments, as well as some pretty crazy visuals of him among the tens of thousands of people who clogged the streets just to see him there. LeBron has traveled to China every summer for the past nine years, and it struck me that here is one of the biggest athletes on the planet, whose every move is chronicled, and yet here is something that's become a regular part of his life that most sports fans had never seen much of ... before now" (SI.com, 10/20).
Veteran sportscaster Bonnie Bernstein had "always wanted to do more than be the voice behind the microphone," and she is "getting her chance through Campus Insiders, where she not only does a daily interview show but is also an executive," according to Paul Garber of the WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL. Bernstein said that she is "excited about the hybrid role at Campus Insiders, where she will be the official face of the network." IMG Digital Content & Media Programming Strategist Chad Cleveland said that Campus Insiders has "been in the works since late last year, but officially launched with the start of this year's college football season." He said that the site, campusinsiders.com, along with its syndicated network, is "already averaging a rate of 20 million hits a month." Bernstein said that Campus Insiders is "an attempt to reach an audience that is moving away from traditional broadcasts." Bernstein: "We know people aren't tethered to their televisions anymore because there are other options. Digital is real, and it's not going away. So why not try to get ahead of the curve?" (WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 10/21).
ESPN today announced anchor Sage Steele has signed a multiyear extension with the net and will become the host of the Friday and Saturday editions of “NBA Countdown.” Steele will work alongside analysts Doug Collins, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons. The Wednesday edition of “NBA Countdown” will feature Rose, Doris Burke and Avery Johnson (ESPN). Author James Andrew Miller wrote on his Twitter feed, "The @sagesteele deal wasn't a cheap one for @espn She is now in Bristol's top tier $ wise. Always has been talent wise" (TWITTER.com, 10/22).
ROUND AND ROUND WE GO: In Virginia, Mark Berman writes reporting on NASCAR keeps ESPN's Marty Smith "busy, but he also enjoys the features he gets to do for 'NASCAR Countdown.'" Smith said, “It’s really getting inside [the drivers'] heads instead of … sponsor-mention crap. Those are the types of things that I really enjoy.” ESPN after '14 "won’t be televising Sprint Cup races because it did not retain the broadcast rights." But Smith is "not part of ESPN’s race telecasts, so he expects to remain with the network 'for the foreseeable future.'" Smith said that he is "under contract with ESPN beyond next year" (ROANOKE TIMES, 10/22).
LET THE BIDDING BEGIN: The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek wrote the "bidding to see" which TV network lands retired NHL Rangers G Martin Biron "will start in earnest now" after Biron officially announced his retirement Sunday. Biron has been a "frequent guest on TSN panels during the playoffs, and has a natural on-air charm that translates well in either of Canada’s official languages" (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 10/21).
NOTES: Braves radio broadcasters Don Sutton and Jim Powell have "signed multi-year extensions with Dickey Broadcasting Company." Dickey has "been the Braves radio rights holder" since '10 (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 10/22)....Oklahoma City-based WWLS-FM host Jim Traber said that he has "agreed to a new three-year contract as the network continues to lock up its talent in wake of added competition" from KRXO-FM, which launched in late August (NEWSOK.com, 10/21)....Hallmark Channel yesterday announced that it "will carry the first ever 'Kitten Bowl'" on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, with Yankees radio play-by-play man John Sterling and Beth Stern, wife of Howard, as hosts (NEWSDAY, 10/22).
ESPN earned a 9.5 overnight rating for the Vikings-Giants “MNF” telecast, up from Week 7 games in recent years as there was no competition from MLB postseason games. The 9.5 rating is up from a 7.3 overnight for Lions-Bears last year, which aired up against Fox’ Giants-Cardinals NLCS Game 7. Vikings-Giants was also up from a 7.0 overnight for Ravens-Jaguars in ’11, which aired up against Cardinals-Rangers World Series Game 5. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, last night’s game delivered a 12.3 local rating on ESPN and a 38.0 on WCCO-CBS. In N.Y., the game earned a 10.1 rating on ESPN and a 5.5 on WPIX-CW. Rounding out the top five markets were New Orleans (16.6), Las Vegas (14.2) and Tampa-St. Petersburg (14.1) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).GET READY: VARIETY's Jon Weisman noted Oct. 29 brings the "100-days-to-go milespost on NBC’s road" to the Feb. 6 start of the Sochi Games. To mark that moment, the net will "officially launch what it’s calling a 20-channel 'promotional roadblock'" at 8:00pm ET that night. Viewers will "start to see the NBC Peacock bug with Olympic rings appearing with greater and greater frequency across NBC and the other NBCUniversal networks." The next "big push for the Olympics will take place in January, approximately 3 1/2 weeks before the Games begin, with Olympic promotional ads prioritized across 18 cable channels" (VARIETY.com, 10/21).
TIGHT LIPPED: Actor Kevin Connolly, who directed "Big Shot," a new "30 for 30" documentary about former Islanders Owner John Spano, said it was "pretty difficult" to get Spano to talk for the film. Connolly: "For obvious reasons, he was hesitant. It wasn't something he was looking to do. ... I think the fact that I was coming to him, and that it was in the form of an ESPN 30 for 30, there's sort of a brand recognition there. I think he had an idea of what it was that he was getting himself into. ... He also just took me at my word that I was going to give him a fair chance to tell his side of the story" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 10/21). Spanos: "My family isn't happy. They all hoped it would stay in the past" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19).
DAY BY DAY: THE MMQB's Peter King notes with the "emphasis on the head trauma issue evident all over football and society, The MMQB will spend this week publishing a series of stories taking the temperature of people across America -- high school coaches and players, parents of players, medical experts and current and former pro players -- about the game" (MMQB.SI.com, 10/22).