1. In the continuing war for daytime non-sports content, the soon-to-be third place NBC Sports Network has announced two new shows in conjunction with their partner, Yahoo! Sports. NBC Sports Network, now rebranded as NBCSN, announced on July 30 that it will begin airing two new shows as a part of a new lineup. Both programs will feature NBC and Yahoo! Sports talent, will be technologically advanced and air on TV and digitally on NBCSports.com and Yahoo! Sports’ website.
The first, Fantasy Football Live: Thursday Night! is not only another example of a forced exclamation point, but it’s also a show that will air on, you guessed it, Thursday night and will shockingly focus on fantasy football, live. The show began last week on Aug. 1 from 6:30-7 p.m. ET and is a TV version of Yahoo! Sports’ online Fantasy Football Live show. The show will use, according to an NBC press release, “unique metrics from Yahoo! Sports’ leading fantasy football platform, and full integration with NBC Sports’ premiere fantasy sports information site, Rotoworld.com.” The television version will feature NBC Sports workhorse Erik Kuselias as host with a mixed group of NBC, Yahoo! and the NBC Sports-owned fantasy site Rotoworld talent: NBC Sports’ Shaun King, Yahoo! Sports’ Brad Evans and Brandon Funston and Rotoworld’s Kay Adams. Along with this weekly TV show, there will also be a weekly online show immediately following on NBC Sports and Yahoo! Sports’ websites as well as NBC’s mobile apps, hosted by Yahoo! Sports’ Melanie Collins.
Fantasy football is wildly popular now and is growing. The desire for more programming based around the fictional sports game is at an all-time high. This was a market that NBC had yet to enter on television, Yahoo! Sports is a big player (pun intended) in fantasy sports and it fits perfectly with NBC’s already-airing Pro Football Talk, which is a daily show that reports on real football. The airdate is also smart. By putting this show on Thursdays, it doesn’t compete with any of the Sunday NFL pregame shows, or ESPN’s Fantasy Football Now, and prepares fantasy players for the 13 Thursday night NFL Network games in 2013.
“Bringing Fantasy Football Live to Thursday nights – on both NBC Sports and Yahoo! Sports platforms – will give millions of fantasy players an edge heading into the Thursday night game and the weekend,” said Kenneth Fuchs, vice president of Yahoo! Global Media head of Yahoo! Sports and Games.
The only problem with Fantasy Football Live is that I could write my opinion on the show before I posted this. This show, while promising on paper, is a half-hour of high-volumed chaos. They breeze through 22 minutes of predictions by screaming at each other and faux-ribbing one another. The Yahoo! analysts must be accustomed to using Skype microphones for their online show because either their microphones are turned to 11, their headsets are playing the incessantly rapid rock music too loudly, or they just feel the need to yell their fantasy advice at the poor viewers. Rotoworld’s Kay Adams is the best on the show because she’s knowledgeable and uses a volume and tone suited for television, not trying to reach the cheap seats at a microphone-less amphitheatre. I thought that this would be a worthy competitor for ESPN’s fantasy show, but I was poorly mistaken.
The second show that will air on NBCSN combines the worst part of today’s sports programming with a lineup of some of the best sportswriters and reporters working today. SportsDash with Yahoo! Sports is that show: A daily show that will air between noon and 1 p.m. ET beginning on Aug. 19, two days after Fox Sports 1’s launch and the same day as most of their regular programming begins. It will feature the man ousted from the Crossover by Michelle Beadle (a good decision) Dave Briggs and NBC Sports’ Carolyn Manno as hosts, along with NBC Sports’ columnist Joe Posnanski, Yahoo! Sports columnists Pat Forde and Dan Wetzel and Yahoo! Sports NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski as the talent. An NBC Sports press release says that SportsDash “is an innovative show that spotlights and advances the day’s hottest sports topics using next generation, Yahoo! Sports Trends, social media data, expert reporting, breaking news and advanced storytelling.” A “complimentary digital-only” show will also air on NBC Sports and Yahoo! Sports’ websites immediately following SportsDash from 1-1:15 p.m. ET.
Wetzel, Forde, Posnanski and Woj are some of the most highly respected columnists and reporters in the sports world, and they are being hired to come on TV every day and talk about what’s “trending.”
As to not editorialize in any way, I am going to quote this entire paragraph from the NBC press release: “SportsDash with Yahoo! Sports will utilize an innovative digital media wall to aggregate and display fans’ sentiments and interest based around Yahoo! Sports Trends. The technology will integrate and analyze real-time signals from multiple sources, including Yahoo Search, Twitter and Facebook activity, to determine what stories, highlights and personalities are accelerating with fans in the moment.”
Why does everything have to be what’s trending? This may be the curmudgeon in me, but I personally don’t care what the fan’s sentiments are. If I watch a show with the level of talent that NBC and Yahoo! have assembled, they should do the talking and the analyzing, not @Jimbo_TheDude56244. If they go by what’s trending, this will be an hour-long, daily show that talks about Tim Tebow and the Dallas Cowboys. Oh, ESPN already does that. This will be the 278th-ish sports show on TV when it finally airs. As SB Nation’s Steve Lepore points out, “between Fox Sports 1, NBCSN and ESPN, there will be approximately 12 hours per day of sports talk shows.” There has to be separation from ESPN and Fox Sports 1 by NBCSN somewhere, and that should come from the overwhelming excellence of your hosts, content and analysts, not the technological advances of a Twitter wall. Michelle Beadle on her totally revamped, now enjoyably watchable The Crossover has a Twitter wall, but uses it very sparingly and lets her guests do most of the talking. Use the talent at your disposal for news, don’t try and force news just to have a “take” on stories that are “trending.”
2. This week, NBC Sports released the schedule for the first half of its English Premier League coverage. NBC, NBCSN and CNBC will televise 69 EPL games through Dec. 1, and the season runs through May. This, along with NASCAR, is another example of how a smaller network with fewer rights can really focus on one sport, instead of being pulled in multiple directions. This coverage on NBC will be unlike any previous American coverage of the English league. ESPN and Fox shared the rights to the Premier League for years; the games were sometimes hard to locate and Fox Soccer Channel is an added bonus sports channel, for which many households don’t pay.
69 games will be split between the networks: 57 on NBCSN, 10 on regular NBC, CNBC will air two matches and Telemundo and mun2 will simulcast 27 matches in Spanish. This will be yet another opportunity for fans to watch their NBC-aired sport of choice through NBC’s “TV Everywhere” technology. Any match on any of NBC’s networks can be viewed online and on phones and tablets for free.
NBC will use Arlo White, probably most known for his Alex Morgan Olympics goal call, as their play-by-play man, with Lee Dixon or Graham de Saux as color analysts. White is no Sir Ian Darke but he is very good and will be busy, calling two games per week for NBC. Former ESPN:UK and Women’s World Cup studio host Rebecca Lowe, who will relocate from the UK to Stamford, Conn. (which makes little sense since every game is played in England), will handle the studio hosting duties for NBC. No word yet on who will join her in the studio as analysts.
Here is the schedule, via an NBC press release. It looks like there will be three or more games on any given Saturday, with the prime 10 a.m. ET spot left as TBD. As the season progresses and Europa and UEFA Champions League matches begin, games will be pushed to Sundays, Mondays and other days in the week. NBC will adjust accordingly.
3. Sports Business Journal writer John Ourand reported that cable and satellite providers are not only gearing up for Fox Sports 1’s launch on August 17, in which the new national cable channel will assume the slot on the TV dial previously held by SPEED, but also the launch of Fox Sports 2. FS2 is believed to launch on Aug. 17 as well, and assume the channel now occupied by the Fox-owned Fuel TV. Ourand reports that while Fox has not officially announced the transition from Fuel to FS2, cable and satellite providers “said that Fox has told them to prepare for the change.”
4. Fox Sports 1 announced its first week’s schedule, Aug. 1. See it here. It’s basically their daily shows – Football, a daily soccer show, Jay and Dan, Regis Philbin’s show – and then the real stuff, mainly college football, starts on Aug. 29 and progresses throughout the weekend with five college football games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, culminating with Boise State at Washington. Late West Coast games are the best.
4b. Fox Sports 1 has made another hire. Reports of the recently retired Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher signing with the new sports giant surfaced on July 28 on the Big Lead. As McIntyre points out, this could be seen as a direct counter-punch to ESPN’s hiring of Ray Lewis.
4c. I wrote about ESPN announcing the lineup for their new daily soccer show, ESPNFC on TV last week for Awful Announcing. Included in that post was the speculation of who will host Fox Sports 1’s competitive show, Fox Soccer Daily.
I thought it would be regular Fox Soccer Channel host Rob Stone, who is moving to a studio role in Fox’s college football coverage this fall, but it will actually be Julie Stewart-Binks. Stewart-Binks is a Canadian reporter and TV host and will be a part of Fox Sports Live’s daytime anchor desk updates. She, along with Fox soccer analysts Warren Barton, Brian McBride, Eric Wynalda, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl and former SkySports anchor and current FS1 Regis Philbin co-host Georgie Thompson, will host Fox Sports Daily. ESPNFC on TV debuts on Aug. 11 at 10 p.m. ET and Fox Soccer Daily will premiere Aug. 19 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
5. In other TV scheduling news, ESPN has released its schedule for every midweek college football game on its calendar this season. Get ready for Stanford-Oregon and tons of midweek #MACtion. ESPN will broadcast 69 midweek games on their family of networks: 18 MAC games, seven ACC conference games, three Pac-12 games with two – USC-Oregon State and Stanford-Oregon – being great matchups on paper, two from the SEC and Big 12, and one from the Big Ten. See the full schedule here.
6. With Grantland, the Monday Morning Quarterback (theMMQB) and Nate Silver’s eventual ESPN site flourishing, websites based around writers – not sports – are in demand and another one just launched. Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons is the latest to enter the fray of personally-branded sites, with his Boston-based, TruMedia Networks-owned GammonsDaily.com. Yes, it is a baseball only site, like theMMQB is NFL only, but the pageviews will come from people wanting Gammons, not game recaps.
The industry’s biggest content providers are no longer offering a well-placed column or TV appearances, instead they are offering full editorial control, the ability to hire and fire anyone, whenever, and offer to extend the brand of a writer or media personality. Grantland and theMMQB don’t have the names Bill Simmons and Peter King in the domain name, but if you click on the site it says “Grantland: Sports and Pop Culture from Bill Simmons and our rotating cast of writers” (that Simmons hired), and King’s site says “theMMQB with Peter King.” Gammons is just the next name in the world of personally branded sites.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how this evolves. It definitely gives me a lot of freedom in terms of doing what I want to write about,” Gammons told the Sports Business Journal. “I’m hoping it will be a lot of fun. Sometimes we lose sight of the joy that’s involved with covering this game, and I’m hoping we tap into that in terms of what we do on the site.”
This concept will become more and more popular, the bigger these sites get. But the concept only works if the content, like on Grantland and theMMQB, is great writing, podcasts and videos. If it is simply a branded site because the person is popular, it won’t work. That was basically a nice way of saying don’t give Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith or Mark May their own site.
7. Not to be outdone by NBC, Fox Sports and NASCAR signed a $3.8B TV deal that “adds three Sprint Cup races, 14 Nationwide series races and two years to the deal the broadcaster cut with NASCAR last fall,” according to the Sports Business Journal.
8. In the best sports pieces of the recent weeks part of this week’s column:
Wright Thompson’s epic on the poorly spelled Johnathan Manziel and the way that he and his family are dealing with him being with Johnathan and Johnny Football.
The aforementioned Steve Lepore from SB Nation and Puck the Media did a great channel-by-channel breakdown of the sports cable channels.
Grantland’s Bryan Curtis did a fantastic in-depth look into the story of former Auburn running back Michael Dyer and the stigma of “red flags.”
Grantland’s Holly Anderson did an interview with Western Michigan’s new coach, 32-year-old P.J. Fleck. Just reading the interview makes me want to run through a brick wall for the guy. ROW YOUR BOAT, P.J.
9. Awful Announcing broke the story that CBS Sports NFL Columnist Mike Freeman is leaving for Bleacher Report. Freeman has written for the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, and as Deadspin’s John Koblin wrote, is a “scoopmeister.” Too bad Bleacher Report writers aren’t allowed to break scoops.
10. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry purchased the Boston Globe last week for $70 million. In 1993, the paper sold for a then-record $1.1 billion. That is some serious depreciation, and there should be no doubt that this purchase causes a conflict of interest or an overuse of “Disclaimer: The company that owns the Red Sox also owns the Globe” in every Globe Red Sox report. Here’s the Boston Globe describing the sale of the Boston Globe.
11. With the Hall of Fame Game over and the Dallas Cowboys victorious over the Miami Dolphins in literally the most meaningless game of the season, HBO is gearing up for this season of Hard Knocks. The Cincinnati Bengals were the only team that HBO could convince to appear on the much-loved series, and they are the only team to have repeated as Hard Knocks subjects. This season of five episodes begins on Aug. 6 at 10 p.m. ET.
12. On a personal note, I was amazingly asked to join the staff of Awful Announcing last week. It is a fantastic site that covers sports media, the topic I enjoy most. (See: the first 2,500 words above this for proof of enjoyment). AA continues to grow in notoriety and popularity every day. (We – well, Reva Friedel and Matt Yoder – broke the Freeman story. See: No. 9.) Obviously they’re geniuses for bringing me aboard. I’d like to thank Matt Yoder and Ben Koo for thinking so highly of me to offer me the opportunity.