NBC Sports Group is putting the NBC brand on each of its regional sports networks starting Oct. 2. The move follows the April decision to rename two of its California RSNs to NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California. As part of the change, CSN Mid-Atlantic will shed its Baltimore affiliation and become NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports Washington+. Similarly, CSN New England will become NBC Sports Boston. The other affected RSNs are NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Northwest and NBC Sports Philadelphia. SportsNet NY will keep its name. Each name change will include new logos and graphics that will feature the NBC peacock.
The third episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" aired last night and showed "stories of a few new characters, both established starters and fringe players" on the Buccaneers roster, according to Bette Marston of SI.com. Bucs RB Doug Martin saw a "chunk of airtime after only having tangential appearances on the first two episodes." The episode also "closely followed" undrafted CB Maurice Fleming, who is "clinging to his roster spot." The consistent attention on QB Jameis Winston during the episodes only "hammers home just how important he is to this team's culture." Meanwhile, DT Gerald McCoy "continues to be a star human being on the show" (SI.com, 8/23). BLEACHER REPORT's Scott Polacek noted WR Mike Evans was also "heavily featured as one of the team's stars, and he didn't miss the chance for some family time" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 8/22). NFL.com's Dan Hanzus writes the study of the Bucs has been a "fun ride for three episodes and counting." The team found a way to "make the formula work." Winston has been a "certified Charisma Machine for three weeks and counting." Hanzus: "He loves football, he loves his teammates, and he loves the cameras. Everybody wins." The show has also done a "great job illustrating how far Winston still has to go from a development standpoint" (NFL.com, 8/23).
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: In Tampa, Tom Jones notes during last week's preseason game against the Jaguars, Bucs fans "watched Winston throw a ball up [for] grabs while he was practically lying flat on his back." Fans then all watched coach Dirk Koetter "go nuts on the sideline." On last night's episode, viewers finally got to "hear what was said." Jones: "It might have been the best exchange we've seen on 'Hard Knocks' so far this season." It gave a "great insight on the relationship between Koetter and Winston" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/23). ESPN.com's Jenna Laine notes there were "three fights in the second joint practice against the Jaguars, but curiously, none is featured in this episode." It is "no secret -- fans of the show look forward to the fights." More importantly, the fights "show players have reached a tipping point after a sluggish performance the first day." Instead, McCoy was seen "ordering a food truck for his teammates outside the team hotel" and DT Chris Baker having a rather "intimate moment with a palm tree" (ESPN.com, 8/23).
ON THE RISE: ESPN.com's Laine noted Winston's No. 3 jersey is now No. 31 overall of the NFL's "top-selling jerseys" at Dick's Sporting Goods, ahead of Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Raiders QB Derek Carr and Saints QB Drew Brees. Winston "rose 35 spots from No. 66 last week, which coincides with the show's premiere on Aug. 8." His jersey is also ranked No. 24 overall among "all offensive players in the NFL, up 26 spots from No. 50 last week." "Hard Knocks" is also "seeing a jump in ratings." The show’s 671,000 viewers for the premiere was the show's "second-highest" in the last five years, behind only the Texans' 826,000 in '15. The first episode "wound up having" a cumulative number of almost 3 million viewers, up 20% from last year’s Rams audience after one week (ESPN.com, 8/22).
Upcoming multiplatform national sports network Stadium has partnered with Facebook to show 15 college football games this fall live on the social media platform. The slate includes nine games involving teams from Conference USA and six from the Mountain West Conference, beginning with Miami (Ohio)-Marshall and UC Davis-San Diego State on Sept. 2. The productions will be customized for Facebook and include live curated chats and integration of real-time social media content from the participating schools. Stadium is scheduled to formally debut its 24-hour digital feed tomorrow and its over-the-air TV presence in early September.
Tony Romo will make his analyst debut with CBS on Friday with the broadcast of a Chiefs-Seahawks preseason game, and the former QB said he is both "anxious and excited," according to Barry Horn of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Romo will call the national game alongside Jim Nantz, adding, "It's like my first start in the NFL. I want to see if I'm good enough." The CBS-Romo "flirtation started in Arizona" in '15 on the Friday night before Super Bowl XLIX. That is when CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus and President David Berson sat down with Romo to get his "pregame analysis" before the Patriots-Seahawks. They "loved what they heard." McManus believed he had "found an analyst in waiting." The job interview "came in February" at Super Bowl LI in Houston. McManus brought Berson and CBS Chair, President & CEO Les Moonves to a "private Saturday meeting with Romo." Once again, Romo "said all the right things." McManus: "After 90 minutes, we came away saying he had all the makings of a great broadcaster." Romo said CBS' final offer "pushed me to make a decision." Meanwhile, Romo has "insisted he won't follow" in Dolphins QB Jay Cutler's footsteps, who left an analyst job with Fox to replace injured QB Ryan Tannehill (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/22).
MAKING THE TRANSITION: In Ft. Worth, Drew Davison noted Fox' Troy Aikman and Romo "haven't talked about the transition." Aikman said, "The game has gotten harder to call for an analyst because the speed of the game has gotten faster and it gives you less time in between snaps. So you’ve got to be real concise. I think a lot of guys go into this business, coaches and former players, anticipate really being able to educate the viewer on a lot of things and there’s just not time for that. Whether it’s between plays or because there’s a commercial breaks and you’re rolling in a lot of different packages, so from that standpoint it’ll be probably a little bit of a surprise to him how little time he has" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/22).
In N.Y., Ari Gilberg notes ESPN has moved college football announcer Robert Lee off the Sept. 2 William & Mary-Virginia football game in part because he "shares the same name" as the former Confederate general. ESPN in a statement said it "came to an agreement with Lee to make the switch in the wake of the events in Charlottesville." Lee, who is not related to the general, will now call the Youngstown State-Pitt game that day (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/23). Also in N.Y., Matthew Haag notes the move by ESPN "drew swift condemnation online, from people who called the decision absurd and said it was political correctness run amok" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/23). Writer Yashar Ali posted on his Twitter account a note from an ESPN exec that the move came amid a "reasonable possibility" that because of Lee's name he "would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else" (TWITTER.com, 8/23).
LEAVING THE FIGHT GAME: Fox UFC analyst Brian Stann announced his "departure from calling fights" with the promotion via Instagram. Stann wrote he has been offered a "leadership role with a fast growing real estate firm" and will be attending Northwestern for an executive MBA this fall. Stann: "I will continue to be a huge MMA supporter and attend many events. ... This move is to focus more on my family. I traveled 26 weekends last year for work while also working a full time job" (INSTAGRAM.com, 8/22).
LEAVING THE CAPITAL: In DC, Scott Allen cites a source as saying that Monday was longtime Capitals reporter Jill Sorenson's "last day" with CSN Mid-Atlantic. CSN "opted not to renew Sorenson's contract, which was set to expire at the end of the year." Sorenson joined CSN in '05 after a "brief stint" at DC-based WTTG-Fox and, before that, four years working alongside George Michael at DC-based WRC-NBC. She "served as an anchor, host and reporter at CSN" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/23).
DUAL THREAT: In Orlando, David Harris profiled ESPN college football analyst Rene Ingoglia, who during the week "serves as a police detective." Ingoglia said working college football is a "good diversion" from law enforcement. Ingoglia can be "seen on ESPNU or ESPNEWS." Mike Corey, his play-by-play partner, said that Ingoglia "doesn’t talk much about being a police officer." He said that it "comes up on the broadcast sometimes, but not much" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/19).
NOTES: The Undefeated's Mike Wise is "in trouble after making up a Nick Saban quote in a Tweet he later said was a joke." Wise later "deleted the social media post." Wise then posted on Twitter, "Anyone that took my sarcastic tweets about Nick Saban seriously, my apologies. I'll take them down" (AL.com, 8/22)....Tennis Channel is adding player Bethanie Mattek-Sands to its on-air team for its U.S. Open coverage. Mattek-Sands is currently recovering from a knee injury she sustained at Wimbledon. She will contribute to special segments with U.S. Open players and interact with fans through social media (Tennis Channel)....Former Falcons RB Michael Turner will be "covering the team" for its official website (AJC.com, 8/21)....Joe Becker, who "spent more than 30 years" at Portland-based KGW-NBC, is now a sports anchor at Portland-based KATU-ABC. Becker left KGW in April '16 (OREGONLIVE.com, 8/22).
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ma & Abkowitz reported as part of the NFL's deal with Tencent, the China-based company will pay the league to "stream all of its Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night Football games," as well as the Super Bowl and other select games. Chinese viewers will be "able to listen to live Chinese commentators as well as read NFL coverage on Tencent’s news platform." Chinese viewers will "get to see more than 100 NFL games a year, including all the league’s prime-time games, live or on-demand." NFL China Managing Dir Richard Young said that "expectations are that most of the viewing in China will be on mobile platforms, partly because of the time difference between the U.S. and China" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/23).
FIRST TEST: WORLD SOCCER TALK's Christopher Harris wrote NBC Sports’ Premier League Pass "faces its first major test this weekend when 50% of the EPL games will be on the paid streaming service including Sunday’s match between Tottenham and Burnley." The first big test the service will face is how many Tottenham supporters in the U.S. will "decide to pay for it ($50 per season) and how many will decide to stream it illegally through other means." NBC Sports "hasn’t publicly shared the total number of Premier League Pass subscribers, but the network will be able to gauge the interest level in the subscription service based on this game" (WORLDSOCCERTALK.com, 8/22).
NEW TREND DOING WELL: Subscription-based sports outlet The Athletic is "going to be introducing a Montreal site that will have coverage in English and French" (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 8/21)....Boston Sports Journal has "exceeded" its own expectations by going over 4,000 subscribers over the weekend. The subscription-based site launched last month (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 8/21).