CBS Sports and Turner Sports yesterday revealed the on-air talent for its Teamcast feature: simulcasts of the NCAA tournament national semifinal games airing Saturday on TBS. For the Florida-UConn game, the UF Teamcast will air on TNT with Magic TV analyst David Steele and Gator Basketball Network play-by-play broadcaster Mark Wise. The UConn Teamcast on truTV will feature CSN New England's Eric Frede, YES Network's Donny Marshall and former UConn player Swin Cash. For Kentucky-Wisconsin, the UK Teamcast on TNT will feature longtime Kentucky sportscaster Rob Bromley, along with former UK player Rex Chapman and WKYT-CBS staffer Dave Baker. The UW Teamcast on truTV will utilize BTN's Wayne Larrivee on play-by-play along with former UW player Mike Kelley as analyst (CBS/Turner). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes Turner and CBS Sports "stretched a bit to find announcing teams for Saturday’s Final Four teamcasts." Only one announcer chosen "called a full season of the colleges’ games on radio," as the rest "are from local, regional or conference TV -- and not all are directly associated with the Final Four teams" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/2).
TEAMCAST TUTORIAL: In Oklahoma City, Mel Bracht notes Turner Sports Senior VP/Production & Exec Creative Dir Craig Barry hopes that the teamcasts "will not just be for 'homers and alumni' of the schools." He added, "Some people may, say, switch over and watch a few minutes of it ... and enjoy a certain amount of energy and a different approach." Barry credited Turner sports COO Lenny Daniels with "coming up with the idea" (OKLAHOMAN, 4/2). CBS Sports Exec Producer & VP/Production Harold Bryant said that 95% of the cameras used in the "more traditional telecast will be used by teamcast productions." Barry said that the approach is "to create 'separate broadcast operations' ... with its own talent, producers, directors, cameras, etc." He added that while there is "'a lot of emphasis on the talent,' the end product will be defined by 'all the pieces of the broadcast'" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 4/2).
A LAFORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH: In N.Y., Kirsten Fleming wrote there is "already one big winner" from the NCAA tournament in CBS Sports' Allie LaForce. LaForce, who has been working with broadcasters Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery, has been "lighting up Twitter for both her all-American looks and her impressive basketball acumen." She has "been part of some of the tournament’s most poignant moments, such as interviewing St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli’s adorable mini-me grandson and chatting with Dayton star Devin Oliver’s sister Miya, who has Down syndrome." The 25-year-old former Miss Teen USA played hoops at Ohio Univ., but said that she "still has to battle the notion that she’s just a pretty face in a male-dominated arena" (N.Y. POST, 4/1).
Yesterday's Dodgers-Padres game was the first Dodgers game to air exclusively on Time Warner Cable's SportsNet LA, marking "the end of being able to watch every Dodgers game on television somewhere," according to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. TIMES. For the "vast majority of Los Angeles-area residents, the blackout begins," bringing on an "outrage that figures to only grow with each passing non-televised game, and the Dodgers are keenly aware of that." Dilbeck: "At what point does this really start to hurt? At what point do the villagers storm the gates of power, remotes in one hand and fat cable bills in the other?" The net has "been up and running for over a month now," but if "you use DirecTV, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Dish or Cox or anything else other than Time Warner Cable as your provider, you wouldn’t know." It may be the first week of the season, "but it feels later in all these negotiations," which have "apparently been exclusively between TWC and the other providers." It is "time for the Dodgers to become more directly involved in these discussions, to get this done." Dilbeck: "If fans actually had been given a choice of a record team payroll, complete with an inflated cable bill, or more modest improvements with status quo TV coverage, how many would have signed on?" (LATIMES.com, 4/1). In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes, "In treating the team like a trendy boutique, the Dodgers have failed to realize that their fans loved it like a neighborhood bar." Championships are "great, but don't try to win one at the expense of a daily connection." Plaschke details his attempts yesterday to find SportsNet LA at a local bar or restaurant, which turned out to be "an exercise in futility" (L.A. TIMES, 4/2).
Fox Sports' Michael Strahan is "on the verge of tackling a new job -- co-host of ABC’s 'Good Morning America,'" according to a source cited by Kaplan & Hutchinson of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The source said that Strahan was "hammering out the final details of a contract that would make him a permanent member of the breakfast show’s crew." Under the proposed arrangement, Strahan "would do double duty at ABC, keeping his gig as co-host of 'Live with Kelly & Michael.'" The source said that the deal has been "in the works for months and has nothing to do with the sudden departure of Josh Elliott." ABC brass has been "wooing Strahan to join the show since he substituted" for Robin Roberts on the show last year "when she was out on sick leave." The source said that Strahan’s "GMA" deal could be announced "as early as this week" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/2). A Fox Sports spokesperson said if Strahan's "GMA" position becomes official, "his role is not expected to change on the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/1). On Long Island, Verne Gay writes Strahan has been "a success at 'Live,' and ABC is scrambling to do whatever it can to blunt" NBC's moves -- "paying fortunes to people in an attempt to dismember the winning team" (NEWSDAY, 4/2). DEADLINE.com's Lisa de Moraes noted Strahan's "GMA" deal "brings some testosterone to the morning show which, with Elliott’s exit and the recent departure of Sam Champion for The Weather Channel, left co-host George Stephanopoulos on Monday looking like a guest on 'The View'" (DEADLINE.com, 4/1).
COMPETITION HEATS UP: In N.Y., Garvey, Niemietz & Cartwright cite sources as saying that Elliott’s decision to leave “GMA” was "not motivated by money but by the possibility of 'a bigger job down the road' at NBC -- which should have both Matt Lauer and Bob Costas worried." Elliott’s weekend exit "caught executives by surprise, but they had a plan if he bolted." A source said that Elliott "jumped at the chance to be involved in live sports again." The source added most news people “would underestimate the opportunity to be a part of highly rated events like ‘Sunday Night Football’ and the Olympics" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 4/1).
The Rockets and Comcast have "been on the same page on many of the key issues of the Comcast SportsNet Houston bankruptcy case, but the team lobbed a few rhetorical volleys at its business partner in a court filing submitted this week," according to David Barron of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Rockets, who are owed about $36M in "unpaid rights fees, are objecting to a request by Comcast Sports Management Services that it be paid several hundred thousand dollars in management fees and expenses associated with CSN Houston." Rockets attorney Alan Gover writes that the court "should not pay Comcast when there is 'substantial uncertainty' over whether the network can pay its other bills, and he adds that the uncertainty is largely Comcast’s fault." In addition, the Rockets say Comcast “racked up tens of millions of dollars” in expenses even as it “severely undermined” efforts by the Rockets and Astros to attract new investors for the network. The Rockets’ "critical comments toward Comcast came only a few days after officials with the Rockets, Astros and Comcast met for a seven-hour mediation session with U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes." Another closed-door conference "has been scheduled for April 11" (CHRON.com, 4/1).
DAZED & CONFUSED: The HOUSTON CHRONICLE's Barron wrote, "How confusing is the Astros’ current television brouhaha? Even DirecTV, apparently, can’t figure it out." The YES Network feed of the Yankees-Astros game "was shown nationally Tuesday night on MLB Network." In the Astros’ "five-state TV market, the game was supposed to be blacked out and replaced by Blue Jays-Rays." Comcast "complied with the blackout order," airing the Blue Jays-Rays game, but DirecTV "failed to throw the switch" (CHRON.com, 4/1).