FS1's Kristine Leahy hopes sports networks stop putting LaVar Ball on their shows "just to get controversial statements out of him," as his contentious appearance on "The Herd" earlier this week is an example of "potentially what could happen." Leahy and Ball got into a heated exchange on Wednesday, and on Thursday's show, she said, "The reason that so many networks choose to have him on is because he says a lot of controversial things. He's loud and a big personality, which I've been totally fine with." However, Leahy said the way Ball talked to her has "no place" on TV, "no matter what kind of ratings you're going to get." FS1's Colin Cowherd earlier in the show said he was not going to "sensationalize what happened" on Wednesday, noting Leahy was "disrespected, and she went right after him." Cowherd then defended the decision to bring Ball on as a guest, saying he "had news value" and has been on the show two previous occasions. Cowherd: "As everybody always says, 'Why do you put him on? I've told you ... you drive the bus. I put him on, we set a digital record. I put him on again, we broke that record." Cowherd asked Leahy if she would accept an on-air apology from Ball, to which she replied, "My issue with what happened is just a complete lack of respect. He can disagree with everything that I have to say and do it passionately. You and I do it all the time, we do it with our co-workers. But have some respect. Don't threaten me, don't make personal jokes, don't mock me and don't say you're not going to look me in the eye. If he wants to come on and look me in the eye and be respectful, he can still disagree with me. I'm okay with that, but I will not tolerate what he did" ("The Herd," Fox Sports Radio, 5/18).
MLB and Facebook have "finalized a partnership to stream games on a weekly basis," beginning Friday night with the Rockies-Reds matchup, according to Matt Kelly of MLB.com. One MLB game will "stream each Friday night on Facebook, and will be accessible to everyone on the platform via its official MLB page." Each week's broadcast will "feature the feed from a participating team's local broadcast rightsholder." Friday night's Rockies-Reds game will be the "first of 20 games streamed live." This is MLB's "first regular-season foray into live streaming of games on Facebook," though MLB.com "previously streamed select Spring Training games on teams' Facebook pages" in '11 (MLB.com, 5/18). MLB games that had been distributed on Twitter on Friday nights this season will now shift to Tuesdays to accommodate the new Facebook games (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). CNBC’s Wilfred Frost called the MLB-Facebook partnership "another big, big sign these online players -- be it Facebook or Apple TV or Twitter or Google -- moving into the live sports arena, and again, just heating up the cost for this type of live content" (“Worldwide Exchange,” CNBC, 5/19).
IN THE BATTER'S BOX: MLB's At Bat VR app will make its public debut on June 1, and MLB.com's Mike Petriello noted it will be the "first complete live-game sports experience" in VR. That means "not only can you watch real-time video (or any archived game back to 2015), you can do it [in] an immersive virtual experience." Watching the game in VR adds an "entirely new layer of interest, simply because of what the technology is capable of." The main screen in front of you "shows the live video -- like traditional MLB.TV, you can choose which feed you prefer -- and to the sides, you get the play-by-play and the box score." But what really "sets this apart is the 3D strike zone, which is presented with you in the catcher's position, watching the pitch come in toward you." At Bat VR takes the idea of the strike-zone tracker to its "next logical step, making the strike zone three dimensional, color-coded by the hot zones of the current hitter, and in addition to showing where the pitch crosses the plate, it shows a heat trail of the actual path in doing so" (MLB.com, 5/18).
Alex Rodriguez made his debut as a game analyst during FS1's broadcast of Yankees-Royals Thursday night, and he called the experience "pretty exciting." He said, "Everyone did a good job holding my hand a little bit. Hopefully, I didn’t embarrass myself too much and I don’t get a text from my bosses saying I’ve been ‘postponed’ for Saturday’s (Angels-Mets) game." FS1's Nick Swisher said, "You absolutely killed it tonight. We had such a fun time watching you tonight" ("Yankees-Royals," FS1, 5/18). In N.Y., Evan Grossman writes Rodriguez "still has some work to do before he fully transitions into the next chapter of his career." He was "great at times, as he’s been in the studio the last two playoffs." Rodriguez called the game alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Ken Rosenthal, and he was "respectful of his partners’ space." There was "only one tough debate when Rosenthal asked him about the free agent mentality of players." Rodriguez has an "ability to bring viewers inside the game and he did a great job of that also when he talked about 'Cowboy' Joe West, an umpire you don’t give 'any attitude' because 'it would make it a very long night.'” The "not so great stuff" included talk about how his "suspension from baseball made him appreciate the game more." He was "equating his ban" for steroid use to Royals P Mike Minor missing the last two years with a shoulder injury (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/19). The N.Y. Daily News’ John Harper prior to the game wondered how candid Rodriguez would be towards the Yankees. Harper: “He considers himself a partner of Hal (Steinbrenner) now and it’s all things Yankees. I think there’s a line he won’t cross ... He’s not going to heavily criticize any Yankees players.” SNY’s Marc Malusis: “He’s knows baseball and he’ll point out certain things. You’ll learn a little something watching Alex Rodriguez” (“Daily News Live,” SNY, 5/18).
MORE TO BE DESIRED: Twitter reaction to Rodriguez' in-booth debut was less than kind. Tampa-based WTSP-CBS' Justin Granit wrote, "A-Rod just called Didi Gregorious the Bill Gates of shortstops. That is all." RoyalsReview.com's Shawn Newkirk: "Alright probably no more Yankee games for A-Rod. He's now talking about how Gregorious used to fix his iPad." SI.com's Jimmy Traina: "I'll never in a million years understand this ARod thing. Yes, he won a WS in '09 but he was a cancer every other minute he was here..."
ESPN's Holly Rowe on Thursday announced that she is again "battling cancer" just hours after news came out ESPN had signed her to a multiyear extension. The AP's Doug Feinberg notes Rowe will "remain on the sidelines for college football, basketball, volleyball, softball and WNBA games" as part of her new deal. She also will "keep her health insurance, which has been a vital tool in her fight against melanoma." Rowe has been with the net for two decades, and ESPN ran on Thursday a "first-person piece about her experience working through her diagnosis." With her most recent diagnosis, Rowe is "due for treatment every 21 days while trying a new amino therapy." She will continue to work as she gets treatment (AP, 5/19).
JOB WELL DONE: In N.Y., Justin Terranova notes ESPN has been "thrilled with the job" Michelle Beadle has done hosting "NBA Countdown," and plans to "make her the face of the show going forward." Beadle said of the NBA, "It's my favorite sport above and beyond, a million times anything else. ... It was a moment and a space that I love already, so it seemed like a no-brainer that I should want to do that. It's also a more serious job than 'SportsNation,' which I 1,000 percent love as well, but I get to wear a different hat." Beadle, who is paired with Jalen Rose and Chauncey Billups on the studio show, will be joined by the recently retired Paul Pierce the rest of the postseason (N.Y. POST, 5/19).
STAYING CONNECTED: MLB Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow has "cut back on his travel this season" due to an ongoing muscle condition, and he said that missing road trips was his "biggest concern" in reducing his schedule to 120 games. He said, "I felt you had to be there every day to maintain your finger on the pulse of the team. ... So I'm watching every game, every pitch, and to be honest it's odd. I feel guilty not being there." When asked about his thoughts on his replacements, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, Krukow said, "The're doing great. They're fun and interesting people. They've got great insights. They're also new to this, and you've got to give them time" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/19).
NOTES: Triple-A Int'l League Syracuse Chiefs play-by-play announcer Kevin Brown made his MLB debut after he "filled in" for National's radio play-by-play announcer Charlie Slowes on Tuesday and Wednesday in Pittsburgh (WASHINGTON POST, 5/19)....Nominees for the National Radio HOF include the "Fabulous Sports Babe" Nanci Donnellan, ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, Royals announcer Denny Matthews and CBS Sports' Jim Rome. Honorees will "be announced in June" (HOUSTONCHRONICLE.com, 5/18).
The Sunday woes for the PGA Tour continued at The Players Championship last weekend, as NBC saw another audience decline for a final round telecast. The Tour’s signature event, which saw Si Woo Kim win by three strokes over a leaderboard lacking big names, drew 3.69 million viewers on Sunday, down from 5.23 million viewers last year, when Jason Day took the wire-to-wire win by four strokes. Sunday was the event’s lowest final round since ’14, when Martin Kaymer beat Jim Furyk by one stroke during a telecast that featured a 90-minute rain delay. That telecast drew around 3 million viewers.
WE HAVE LIFT OFF: The Rockets have been without Yao Ming since the end of the '10-11 season, but their games are still a draw in China. Streaming platform Tencent last week drew 6.7 million video viewers and 18.9 million views for Game 5 of the Spurs-Rockets Western Conference semifinals, marking the NBA’s best audience on the platform this season to date. That contest on May 9 easily outdrew Game 6 last Thursday, which saw the Rockets blown out by the Spurs, drawing 5.5 million video viewers and 13.8 million video views. Linear TV viewership also was successful for Rockets games this postseason. Chinese outlet CCTV averaged 5.53 million viewers for all 10 Rockets games during the postseason, up 8% compared to 5.14 million viewers for the NBA Playoffs overall to date. The Spurs-Rockets series on CCTV averaged 5.78 million viewers for six telecasts.
NOTES: FS1 drew 2.62 million viewers for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race from Kansas on Saturday night, down from 3.14 million viewers last year, but up from 2.48 million viewers in ’15.
The chart below lists final audience figures from select recent sports telecasts.
|TELECAST||DATE||NET||TIME (ET)||RAT.||VIEWERS (000)|
|NBA Western Conference Finals: Spurs-Warriors: Game 1||5/14||ABC||3:28-6:00pm||4.6||8,129|
|NBA Western Conference Semifinals: Spurs-Rockets: Game 5||5/9||TNT||8:00-10:53pm||2.9||4,730|
|NBA Western Conference Semifinals: Warriors-Jazz: Game 4||5/8||TNT||9:00-11:38pm||2.8||4,526|
|NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Celtics-Wizards: Game 6||5/12||ESPN||7:59-10:47pm||2.7||4,262|
|NBA Western Conference Semifinals: Spurs-Rockets: Game 6||5/11||ESPN||7:59-10:25pm||2.6||4,190|
|NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Celtics-Wizards: Game 5||5/10||TNT||8:00-10:34pm||2.3||3,765|
|PGA Tour: Players Championship: Final Round||5/14||NBC||2:00-7:15pm||2.3||3,686|
|"Inside the NBA"||5/9||TNT||10:53-11:42pm||1.9||3,070|
|NHL Eastern Conference Finals: Senators-Penguins: Game 1||5/13||NBC||7:24-10:34pm||1.6||2,892|
|PGA Tour: Players Championship: Third Round||5/13||NBC||2:00-7:30pm||1.9||2,815|
|Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Go Bowling 400 (Kansas)||5/13||FS1||7:32-11:52pm||1.6||2,620|
|NHL Eastern Conference Semifinals: Penguins-Capitals: Game 7||5/10||NBCSN||7:29-10:10pm||n/a||2,485|
|"Inside the NBA"||5/10||TNT||10:34-11:13pm||n/a||2,207|
|"Inside the NBA"||5/8||TNT||11:38pm-12:21am||n/a||2,064|
|Liga MX: Clausura quarterfinals: Tigres UANL-Monterrey: Leg 2||5/13||Univision||7:55-10:00pm||0.7||1,311|
|Liga MX: Clausura quarterfinals: Chivas-Atlas: Leg 2||5/14||UniMas||6:30-9:05pm||0.6||1,184|
|Verizon IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Indianapolis||5/13||ABC||3:30-6:00pm||0.7||969|
|Liga MX: Clausura quarterfinals: Chivas-Atlas: Leg 1||5/11||Azteca||10:29pm-12:42am||0.5||926|
|PBR: Last Cowboy Standing||5/14||CBS||4:00-6:00pm||0.6||852|
|Liga MX: Clausura quarterfinals: Tijuana-Monarcas: Leg 2||5/14||Azteca||8:50-11:05pm||0.3||637|
|Liga MX: Clausura quarterfinals: Tijuana-Monarcas: Leg 1||5/11||Azteca||8:20-10:29pm||0.3||530|
|Bundesliga: Leipzig-Bayern Munich||5/13||Fox||9:30-11:30am||0.2||339|