Tagged: ESPN

Another bloodbath in Bristol: ESPN cans 150 people

The dream is dead. It’s absolutely dead.

This week, ESPN had yet another bloodbath, sending 150 more people to the firing squad. These are production and behind the scenes people, mainly, the real unsung heroes who don’t get recognized on the street but who nevertheless get your favorite programs on the air. But I understand ESPN is also going to get rid of evening editions of SportsCenter and that is going to mean on-air departures, with contracts not being renewed. That way, there won’t be the same sort of public bloodbath like what happened earlier this summer at ESPN, when so many recognizable on-air people were canned.

Honestly, these layoffs are a hard dose of reality for anyone wanting to pursue this for a career. Keep in mind, ESPN was once a place I had aspired to get to! It seemed like more fun than covering or writing about politics (which is what I mainly do now), and besides, sports coverage was something I was good at.

Moreover, I truly admired the product ESPN put out. ESPN was ‘The Promised Land’ for most guys who aspired to journalism!

But even if they did have jobs to offer at ESPN these days, who really wants to be at that place right now, with its constant bloodletting and never-ending obsession with left-leaning social-justice-type politics? Besides, their coverage of the sports I most care about is getting to be truly pathetic (hockey, auto racing, UFC etc. etc.)

Of course, this year here in Canada, CTV has been jettisoning every last one of their local sportscasts all over Canada (forcing Lance Brown and Joe Tilleyinto retirement at Toronto’s CFTO). And it’s no better for people in the printed-word end of sports journalism as sportswriters are seeing the writing on the wall and are quitting the business.

Who can blame them? These folks are making absolutely the right decision for themselves. Like I said before, the dream is dead.

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Bloodbath Day at ESPN: 100 people being let go, mostly on-air

The executions have been going on all day over at ESPN as a bunch of on-air people and online writers are being sacked. A host of talent has hit the street including Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald (good grief, ESPN has basically gutted their entire hockey coverage), Dr. Jerry Punch, Brett McMurphy, Jaymee Sire, Paul Kuharsky, Ed Werder, Doug Padilla, Danny Kanell, Jayson Stark, Trent Dilfer (of NFL fame), Jade McCarthy, Darren Haynes, Marysol Castro, Ashley Fox, Len Elmore, Jay Crawford, and on and on. 

Awful Announcing has a running tally here. Deadspin here.

Why is this bloodbath happening? Well, first of all, the TV business sucks, they like to fire people. Second of all, everyone knows and has already written endlessly about the fact that ESPN overpaid for the rights to the NFL, college football, baseball, and the NBA! And these rights fees are choking the life out of them. That, plus there is tons of cord-cutting going on as people across America decide they won’t waste their money anymore for these hundreds of cable channels that have nothing on. 

But these layoffs aren’t going to solve any of ESPN’s problems. Their problems have nothing to do with these people they are tossing out onto the street. Instead, it’s got a lot to do with their lousy programming. Their lineup is littered with loud-mouthed debate shows with analysts shouting at each other. And oh yes: there’s also the liberalism

And that is why people are cutting the cord, because people don’t feel compelled to keep on paying for the lousy programming being served up at ESPN! On top of that, people are hurting financially, they’re all trying to save money! So, instead of cable, the fans will simply try and get by watching network TV sports on weekends with rabbit ears. That is what is happening now.

I notice the reaction on Twitter to this bloodletting and people are comparing ESPN to MTV, which is a good example of another cable channel that went straight to hell. But I think you can add other channels like CNN, TV Land, and most definitely A&E to this list. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are baseball fans ticked off that TBS doesn’t even show the Braves games anymore. And of course, Fox News Channel has gone right in the tank just in the past week alone.

In short, American cable television in 2017 has become a wasteland, and that is why people are cutting the cord en masse. And that is why you are seeing what you are seeing happen today at ESPN. 

Update: Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage, who has been writing at length about ESPN’s coming implosion for a while now, has his thoughts here on what went down.

Another update: here is another piece, from The Comeback, about ESPN’s decimation of hockey coverage.

ESPN is getting ready to whack a lot of on-air talent!!


These are tough times for the sports channels in the USA. Now, the word is that ESPN is about to get rid of a lot of on-air talent. They have already made a ton of cuts behind the scenes, with a mass layoff in 2015; now it is hitting the front of the camera. No doubt, the people that fans most want to see gone will stick around (ie. Stephen A. Smith, Tony Kornheiser), while a lot of others will be tossed. A few are going to get buyouts. It would not surprise me if Chris Berman is among the people who get booted, now that he’s been “retired” from the NFL coverage. In all, sad times.

Predictably, fans are not happy to hear this. Looking at the comments on these websites, this news is a jumping-off point for people to trash what ESPN has become, with people particularly trashing its increasingly liberal politically-correct agenda. Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage has been particularly going after ESPN for this

Honestly, a lot of people want to tune in sports channels for one reason: to see the sports. But ESPN isn’t even giving the fans that! They’re giving fans liberal politics and loud talking heads. As for coverage, ESPN really devotes its attention to only a few sports that they’ve paid big money for, namely the NFL, NCAA, the NBA, and baseball. And maybe tennis. But that is about it. Good luck if you are a fan of any other sport!

NHL? NASCAR? Formula 1? UFC? Boxing? Horse racingForget ESPN. Now that Tiger Woods‘ golf game is in the toilet, they seem to have lost interest in golf, too. Basically, ESPN focuses on the same few sports and teams (ie. the “glamour” teams) and the same old usual suspects/athletes, ie. LeBron. And this is true on radio as well as TV. It’s tiresome.

Anyway, I am just ranting now. Suffice it to say that the glory days for ESPN are definitely in the past. 

TSN screws over football fans again with their non-coverage of bowl games!!!

 I hate living in Canada, this country is full of hosers! Mainly, the hosers are the folks running TSN, who are refusing to show us enough NCAA bowl games even though they have five channels available. 

I notice TSN is coming under fire again online for this increasingly annual practise, which is worse than ever this year. I know a lot of people say these are meaningless games, but it’s college football, it’s part of the holidays! Besides, I like football, and watching these games from these warmer-weather places gets my mind off of the snow and cold of Canada.

The last two days, there was a full schedule of bowl games on ESPN — six of them, I believe. Did TSN pick any of them up? NO. Instead, this whole week we have been stuck with SportsCentre, reruns of a Grey Cup game that fans have seen already, as well as Spengler Cup and World Junior games involving countries that nobody cares about – not even in the nations represented!

Still, even if you do care about these lousy non-Canada World Junior games, there is still plenty of room for TSN to show some bowl games. But even though they hold the rights, TSN won’t do it, and I have no clue why, because you would think they would have a vested interest in building up football interest given that they hold the CFL rights.

The only way I have been able to follow these bowl games is through lousy Internet video, and also radio play-by-play! Right now, the Liberty Bowl is on, and TSN isn’t picking up the ESPN feed for that game either. So I have to tune in this game online, too. This is nuts. 

Seriously, TSN has five channels, yet they are giving us reruns and junk programming that they could show any time late at night — not to mention feeds of the same hockey game on multiple channels. What good is paying for cable if this is what we get?! 

Maybe, just maybe, cable ought to be the next thing I get rid of. Think that over, Canadian sports channels.

That is my rant about that! 

ESPN puts Grantland out of its misery; intelligent sports writing clearly not a priority there

  

Grantland is finished. In this story at the Daily Beast, ESPN has decided it is more profitable to have obnoxious hosts shouting and yelling at each other instead of doing intelligent, long form journalism about sports, and so Grantland is now belly-up. 

Apparently, this is a bottom-line decision about a site that hasn’t turned a profit. But still, I don’t get it, because I was reading this site; meanwhile, I haven’t been tuning into any of these ESPN hosts who have been shouting and yelling at each other. These shoutfests about sports turn me off. And I know a lot of sports fans feel exactly the same way I do, but obviously the “silent majority” doesn’t count.

Of course, ESPN also parted ways with Bill Simmons, and he was basically Grantland all by himself. Still, the site remained pretty good even without him there. Maybe this site’s fate was sealed all along.

Anyway, this decision to shut this quality site down has me shaking my head again. It again reminds me of what I said before earlier this month — that the real reason the media is in trouble is because the people at the top are so breathtakingly incompetent. 

Well, what am I supposed to say, that this is a brilliant decision? That closing Grantland down is good for sports journalism? Seriously, I have every right to be ticked off. 

All in all, it’s sad times at ESPN. 300+ layoffs.

  

It may be a great time for fans of the NL champion New York Mets. But these are miserable times over at ESPN. 

From what I read at Awful Announcing, the Worldwide Leader is having to pay through the nose to keep their exorbitant sports rights; meanwhile, fans at home are cutting the cord because they are fed up paying through the nose themselves for all of the junk currently on cable. Believe me, American cable TV is going all to heck.

If I were a fan in the USA, I’d be especially fed up with paying for ESPN now that their NASCAR rights are gone to NBC. 

So the layoffs are on at Bristol, Connecticut. Over 300 jobs, or four percent of the workforce, is on their way out, and this is never good to hear in terms of the final product you expect to see on TV. 

I’m not hearing much news about big on-air names leaving, apparently they have set contracts. These layoffs appear to be impacting the rank and file. But you have to keep in mind, several prominent on-air people have already walked the plank (Keith Olbermann, Colin Cowherd, Bill Simmons etc.). 

Overall, it surprises me not one bit that it’s again the behind the scenes people who are targeted. It figures.

Exodus from ESPN: Bill Simmons goes to HBO, and Colin Cowherd announces he’s leaving 

As you know a lot of people have been heading out the door at ESPN lately and there was some news about two of them today.

First, Bill Simmons, who left Grantland a while back, has signed with HBO Sports.

Also, with the news already out there that he is heading to Fox Sports, Colin Cowherd talked about his departure on his radio show today.

You almost wonder “will the last one leaving ESPN turn out the lights,” but the truth is they still have a ton of talent over there. Life in Bristol will still go on, as usual. 

Well, the inevitable has happened: Keith Olbermann is out of a job, again!!! #espn

  

Keith Olbermann has been canned yet again. His ESPN contract has not been renewed. He leaves “The Worldwide Leader” at the end of the month.

This comes on the heels of the Bill Simmons departure, and speculation is that the reasons for this latest parting of the ways might be similar, with certain rights holders supposedly not pleased with Olbermann’s commentaries. 

Uh, ahem, ESPN, you should have known in the first place this was exactly what you were in for when you hired him. Olbermann has big opinions and a big mouth. You knew that going in! So you shouldn’t be surprised if he rubs some people the wrong way. That’s the way it is with him. 

This happened to be Olbermann’s second go-around at ESPN — he was teamed with Dan Patrick back in the Nineties, but that gig pretty much ended after Olbermann went on Craig Kilborn‘s show and trashed Bristol, Connecticut. Which, of course, is headquarters for ESPN. That parting was so bitter, in fact, that nobody ever thought he would ever come back. 

Anyway, he’s also walked the plank from CNN, MSNBC, Fox Sports, MSNBC a second time, the Current, and a host of places. The list is here

And quite honestly I cannot put the finger on why it is Olbermann keeps moving around so much, it’s sort of defining his career right now. Is it because of Olbermann himself, or is a lack of support from management wherever he has gone the real reason?

I have no idea where he’ll go next. How about Canada? I understand the CBC are in need of hosts.

Talent is on the move again in sports media as ESPN boots Bill Simmons

  

I have a question. Why the heck does it seem that in sports media the most talented people are never able to stay in one place for very long these days?!

Look at Bill Simmons as yet another example, parting ways with ESPN — though it sounds to me like this was more of a case of him being canned than of some mutual parting. Some people are saying the final straw was an appearance by him on The Dan Patrick Show in which he trashed Roger GoodellThe thinking is ESPN wants to keep nice with the NFL because of their TV contract with them, so they say…

For those who don’t know, Simmons was the founder of their Grantland site and had been seen on ESPN’s channels. Now, he is officially gone, as he revealed in an email to staff this week. Not everyone thinks this departure is bad news; in fact Jay Mariotti of the San Francisco Examiner greeted the news with considerable glee. I don’t know why, I thought Grantland as a site was pretty good with him there.

As for where Simmons will go next, the speculation is on. NBC? Fox Sports? Turner? A lot of people think Turner/Bleacher Report will land him because of his connections to the NBA, but your guess is really as good as mine. Probably it comes down to the words “show me the money!”

Sad day in sports as Stuart Scott of ESPN fame has passed away

The bad, but not unexpected news came today that Stuart Scott of ESPN has died. Here is the story about him from ESPN.

He had been ill with cancer for a long time. Last year Scott gave a moving speech accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPY awards in which he spoke of his cancer fight, and I thought I would post it here. RIP to one of the sportscasting greats.

It’s great to see ESPN snatch up the CFL. Finally, US friends and relatives can watch the players play!

I never understood why the CFL has had so much trouble getting on TV in the USA. There are football fans down there, and you would think sports fans would rather watch the CFL than some of the other junk they show on American cable TV (ie. cheerleader contests, cow roping, stupid hot-air talk shows etc.)

For the past several years they have bounced from one network to another, from America One to NFL Network to NBC Sports Network to who knows what else. Now, however, they have a five-year deal to be on ESPN’s networks.

This expanded ESPN coverage ought to do wonders for the exposure of the game in the USA. Having said that, this is not the first time ESPN has shown CFL games on a regular basis. They picked up the Canadian feeds for CFL games back in the Eighties, and then in the mid-Nineties they even hired their own announcers to do the games for their then-new ESPN2.

Surely you remember the CFL on the “Deuce”, live from … Birmingham??!!

That’s right, folks. Birmingham, Alabama, where the Barracudas hosted the Baltimore Stallions, in the CFL. Oh yes, the glory days of US expansion. This clip is a blast from the past if there ever was one.

NOW A FEW THOUGHTS ON TSN IN THE POST-NHL ERA

TSNWhen news broke that TSN lost national rights to NHL hockey for 12 years, my first suggestion was they become big football fans over there. Turns out TSN is following all my advice, even before I provide it.

It turns out right after Rogers took the NHL rights, Bell swiped away the Rogers late-Sunday-afternoon NFL package that Rogers has held for the longest time — going back to the old CFMT-TV days in Toronto. Bell also swiped away the entire NFL digital rights as well.

This is big news — it basically means the NFL belongs to CTV and TSN all day on Sundays, right from the early-afternoon package through the late afternoons, to the NBC Sunday night game, and into the Monday night game. On top of that, CTV has the entire NFL playoffs. Rogers is reduced to the Thursday night NFL Network package. I suppose having a Thursday game is better than nothing, but Rogers sure doesn’t look like the place for pro football at any point in the near future.

Combined with the CFL package on TSN, Bell basically owns football in Canada. In November from now on, they’ll be able to show an NFL doubleheader on CTV, another NFL doubleheader on one of the TSNs, and a CFL playoff game doubleheader on the other TSN during the afternoon hours.

That creates some excellent possibilities for programming over there if TSN decides to give football the kind of saturation coverage they currently devote to hockey, They could put on all kinds of football pre-game and highlight shows with the staff they have now, and basically give it the kind of coverage that we usually see from the Americans. Personally, I think it’s about time the sport got that sort of treatment in Canada, because many football fans in Canada are sick and tired of seeing that sport treated as second-class in this country by the nation’s media.

I don’t know what all the football coverage will mean, though, for TSN’s coverage of auto racing on Sundays. It shouldn’t impact Formula 1 since those races usually air in the mornings, but it could impact the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Coverage of the NFL and CFL on TSN could crowd NASCAR right out in November, during the “Chase.” Maybe Bell puts NASCAR on CTV2 or something like that. Then again, the package could end up moving to Sportsnet now that they have time to fill on Sundays. The bottom line is I have no idea what is going to happen. We’ll see, but in any event more football is a good thing for TSN.

The second big thing TSN has done is they have moved swiftly to re-sign a lot of their best talent, including James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and just recently Gord Miller. I get the feeling TSN is going to ramp up their coverage of the World Juniors as well as general news coverage about hockey, so you’ll keep on seeing their Trade Deadline shows and Free Agency coverage with the group they have now.

What they really need to do, though, is steal away the regional NHL packages that Sportsnet currently has now — for the Oilers, Flames, Canucks, Senators — and put the regional games on TSN. That would solve all their hockey coverage problems, but that’s easier said than done.

The most recent news from the other day is that TSN has extended their deal for programming with ESPN, prompting a lot of dismissive talk from people about how TSN is turning into the ESPN of the north. Well, it always has been the ESPN of the north, there is nothing new about that. At least this will mean programming like more college football, more college basketball and the NBA. I think that’s good, because if there is one thing I am really ticked off about, it is a lack of college football, college hoops and NBA coverage on Canadian television. Instead, we usually get stuck with the usual over-saturation of hockey coverage instead.

I’m sure soccer fans out there have similar gripes, too. Anyway, it looks like TSN will keep up with coverage of that sport — they already share half the Barclays Premier League with Sportsnet, and just recently came word TSN has grabbed the entire rights to the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS.

This is exactly what TSN needs to do. Soccer is on the rise as a TV property not just on Canadian TV but American TV as well. A big reason why is because these games simply look great on HDTV. But it’s also because fans in North America are slowly but surely realizing soccer is about as big-time as it gets in sports in the world. Billions of people in the rest of the world cannot be wrong.

Anyway, that is my extensive screed about TSN and what they ought to be doing. Basically, they don’t even need my advice because they are doing all the things I think they should be doing anyway, given the utter disaster that has befallen them. Seriously, losing the NHL national package really is a disaster, given the outrageous number of Canadians who are hooked on hockey, but as I point out, it isn’t the end of the world.

EARLY RATINGS FOR FOX SPORTS 1 ARE TERRIBLE, BUT KEEP IN MIND, IT IS STILL EARLY

Looks like Fox Sports 1 is being heavily shelled so far in their war against ESPN. According to Awful Announcing, they’re barely ahead of NBC Sports Channel, and the Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole Show aka Fox Sports Live is getting KILLED.

Ratings for their show on Monday registered a rating of… 0.0!!!  Wow, that’s even worse than what George Stroumboloupolous got on CNN. A rating like that basically means NOBODY watched — not even Jay and Dan’s friends and relatives who, I should point out, are all in Canada and can’t watch them anyway.

Deadspin gave some hard numbers in their piece and reported Fox Sports 1, averaging 161,000 viewers in prime time, even got beat by MLB Network. 

But they finished well ahead of NBA TV. Before they start to crow about that, we should point out the NBA aren’t even in season.

We should point out, it is still early days. Heck, nobody watched Fox News back when it launched, and in fact its distribution was so bad that basically the only people able to watch Fox News were the on-air people watching their own monitors! But look where they are now, and look what happened to CNN.

Give it time, folks. And keep in mind, they have rights to NASCAR and the UFC who have tons of fans.

As for the other rising rivals NBC Sports Channel, I’ll have something to say about them later, and it won’t be bad things, either.

FOX SPORTS 1 LAUNCHES ON A BUSY WEEKEND FOR SPORTS FANS

Well, the momentous occasion has finally arrived: the launch happens for Fox Sports 1 tomorrow as they begin their quest to take downFoxSports! ESPN.

No doubt, they should benefit by attracting plenty of broadcasting talent who might be repelled by the thought of living in dull and boring Bristol, Connecticut.

On board are such famed and heavily-promoted sportscasters as Erin Andrews and Charissa Thompson — and that’s just the girls.

They also plan an NFL panel show daily and plenty of live action. Their big launch tomorrow includes — what else — a UFC fight.

They’ll even have Regis Philbin doing a show, and of course a couple of funny guys from some place called Canada are anchoring there, too. Here’s a rundown on what to expect. Fun stuff.

The good news for fans is that the channel will be seen in all the cable markets, too, as Fox dropped their outrageous demand for .80 cent per month carriage fees. Had they held firm with that demand, we all faced the prospect of yet another cable carriage dispute a la the CBS-Time Warner fiasco. Instead, the deal is done and Fox Sports 1 will be distributed nationwide at a low-low price of .23 cents a month.

The bad news, of course, is this is the end of SPEED. No doubt auto racing fans will be crying for weeks on end, but business is business.

The launch of the sports-cable wars couldn’t come at a busier time for sports fans. Not only is this another big baseball and NASCAR weekend, but the NFL pre-season is going full blast and the NFL Network has been running those games nonstop.

To top it off, the new Barclay’s Premier League season opens tomorrow and NBC Sports plans to go absolutely nuts covering that as they launch their three-year deal.

What? You didn’t miss them while they were gone?  I cannot blame you. With all the international and Major League Soccer action on TV all summer, soccer really doesn’t have an off-season at all.

ON THE LAYOFFS AT ESPN

In keeping with my continuing coverage of sports TV, read at Deadspin about layoffs of upwards of 400 people at ESPN. Apparently this was a shock to the staff, no warning at all.

And parent company Disney was coming off record-highs for its stocks, too. When your company seems to be doing well, you ought to at least keep your job, but not at ESPN.

This, my friends, is precisely the kind of nonsense that soured me on the TV sports business in the first place. (That and poor pay, but that’s another story.) Even when I get these thoughts about wanting to return to cover sports full-time (instead of ‘every so often’ as is the case now),  I would hear a story like this and want to gag.

In fact I’ve been tuning into Memorial Cup hockey coverage on the radio this week and hearing Peter Loubardias doing commentary for the games locally. Now, he’s a prime example of why the whole business sucks after what happened to him at Sportsnet when they made him walk the plank. It’s obvious the guy knows sports and knows hockey inside and out, and is widely respected for it, and yet Sportsnet threw him out the building. Depressing.

I’m sure Lisa Bowes can say the same thing after her experience getting the boot at TSN years ago; same for Chris Cuthbert at the CBC; and same for ex-employees at The Score such as Steve Kouleas. Really, if The Score could let a lifer like Kouleas go, then no one is safe in this business anywhere. (And let’s not even get started talking about sports RADIO in this country!)

It’s about as bad a situation in the States, of course. In fact, Erin Andrews of all people walked the plank at one point – I believe it was Turner Sports that sent her packing, which sounds absolutely insane. If even Erin Andrews can’t count on job security, imagine what it’s like for the rank-and-file working stiffs in this business toiling away behind the scenes. They must feel completely disposable.

These layoffs are exactly the type of thing that suck the life out of what ought to be the best job in the world: covering sports for a living. How can you enjoy it when you are looking over your shoulder?

Anyway, I just had to rant and rave after seeing that story on Deadspin. 400 jobs down the drain at ESPN. Life is not fair!! Hopefully, NBC Sports or Fox Sports 1 will pick some of these folks up.

NOW A FEW WORDS ABOUT FOX SPORTS 1 AND OTHER NEW SPORTS CHANNELS

Been finding out more about this new Fox Sports 1 service that is starting up in August, and what they will be programming. FoxSports!

According to MMA Weekly, the new channel’s lineup will be heavily concentrating on their current properties NASCAR and the UFC.  I suppose this should not be so surprising, since the main FOX network holds those properties as well.

Also, this article at the Boston Globe gives a rundown of what the lineup will look like at the channel, and in the process they trash both Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole from TSN, who are joining the new channel. 

In addition I read that Julie Stewart-Binks of CTV Regina is joining the new channel in Los Angeles as well.

You know, it is all well and good what Fox Sports 1 is doing and ordinarily I would like the lineup they are putting together. My problem is I am also a big auto racing fan, and the folks at FOX are killing off SPEED Channel  to make room for this new outfit.  So even though I like the incressed UFC coverage and the hirings that are going on, I have total mixed feelings about this. If they were launching an all-new sports channel and were keeping SPEED Channel around, I would be far more enthusiastic about the situation than I am.

Then again, I really ought to direct my blame at the non-viewers, the non-advertisers and local cable providers for not supporting SPEED Channel more and for forcing the hands of FOX to close the thing down. This is clearly a case of our dog-eat-dog capitalist system at work, again.

FOX Sports 1 is the latest attempt by a major network to launch an all-new national sports network to take a run at ESPN. Needless to say, I think it’s good for ESPN to have some competition, because it keeps them on their toes.

I notice CBS and NBC now have national sports channels of their own these days, but the CBS Sports Network effort doesn’t seem like it is up to much — lots of coverage of Arena Football, the National Lacrosse League, bull-riding, and other second-tier types of sports that nobody cares much about. This CBS sports channel is going to struggle for a long time, folks, with this lineup.

As for the NBC Sports Channel, formerly known as Versus, they seem to be acquiring plenty of product in an all-out bid to create a rival to ESPN. All I will say is their lineup looks a heck of a lot better to me than what CBS Sports Network is serving up.

Just recently they grabbed the Formula 1 package away from SPEED, and recently grabbed the English Barclay’s Premier League rights away from FOX. In addition to that, they hold the rights to the IndyCar circuit, Major League Soccer, the National Hockey League (!) and last year they held the rights to– my personal favorite — the Canadian Football League (!!!!).

You see the issue, then, for NBC Sports Channel. Their whole lineup features sports that are all popular on the other side of the border! Namely, in CANADA.  

A lineup like this would crush the competition every night up here in the frozen Great White North, land of hockey during the winter and of CFL football and MLS soccer in the summer. But because this channel airs only in the USA, it is NBC Sports Channel that is going to be crushed instead — by baseball, basketball, football, NASCAR, and the rest of these American sports that air on the other channels.

The cold hard truth is a lot of Americans are not interested in these sports, even though they are worthy of support. There is no reason why Formula 1 shouldn’t be more popular in the USA, for example, with all the excitement it has going for it — but it just isn’t. The same is true for the NHL which usually has the best post-season in all sports, with playoff beards, endless overtimes and octopus being thrown on the ice and so on. But Americans just aren’t obsessed with the NHL playoffs the way they are for the NBA.

Oh, well. Anyway, good luck to NBC Sports Channel, and sorry about you guys being stuck in the ‘States.

ESPN IS SHOWING KHL HOCKEY GAMES. I KID YOU NOT!

Today was a historic day for hockey fans. That’s right, for the first time ESPN2 in the USA was showing a live Kontinental Hockey League game. It was Alex Ovechkin and Moscow Dynamo taking on HC Lev. Then they repeated the game later that night!

Here’s a live blog of what went down. From what I gather, a lot of the fans were not impressed with commentators Steve Levy and Barry Melrose. In any event, American fans had better put up with it because this is about all the big-time hockey you’re going to get for a while.

It is odd, really odd, for ESPN to make this deal for the KHL. To me, this seems like the ultimate stick-it-to-the-NHL type of move (since the NHL’s TV deal is with a rival organization), as well as a fine way to rub it in to the folks at NBC Sports whose cable and TV networks are all left holding the bag by the NHL shutdown. The Worldwide Leader in Sports is showing hockey, all right, while NBC’s not. It’s just more world domination on their behalf, and more rubbing of NBC’s noses in it.

I’m actually surprised that ESPN even picked up the KHL, given their recent history. I was under the impression that they could care less about the sport — that all they really care for is the Big Three of baseball, football and basketball. As a bonus, they’ll show NASCAR and a few other things, but it’s obvious that’s what these folks care most about.

At one time that wasn’t the case. This network used to be the place to go to see all the funky non-traditional sports, like Aussie Rules football, the USFL, yacht racing, and stuff like that. It was great! And in those days the NHL fit right in.

I guess ESPN figured they could throw a bone to the hockey fans and get some of them tuning to ESPN instead of NBC. In any event, it worked, because it created a lot of buzz in the hockey blogosphere. 

The coverage must have brought back memories for folks down in the ‘States who remember the old ESPN coverage of hockey that lasted up until the big 2004-05 NHL shutdown — coverage that included names like Gary Thorne, and Tom Mees, and others. Of course, the coverage brought back no memories for Canadian fans used to Ron MacLean and Don Cherry. Because CBC and the cable channels always produced their own packages in Canada, we hardly ever saw ESPN’s hockey coverage. Oddly, though, we’ve seen more than enough ESPN basketball, ESPN football and ESPN baseball coverage up here on TV. Strange.

Incidentally, today’s KHL game wasn’t even shown in Canada at all. I don’t know why the networks up here won’t want to touch the KHL.

Seriously, these games would be far better than the international hockey reruns we have been getting from TSN lately. The latest one TSN wants to rehash again is the 2009 World Juniors matchup between Canada and Russia, and I can tell you right now, fans at home are sick and tired of watching this nonsense. Any live sport is better than this junk, INCLUDING the KHL.

Hey guys, instead of showing us old international hockey, why not show us some new international hockey, for a change? Seriously, I just don’t get it!

In a way, though, rerun hockey games are not all bad. Word is now that Hockey Night in Canada is going to show reruns on Saturday night of classic games, at least for the time being, and are even inviting fans to vote on which games they want shown.

Well, that’s a better idea than the “Movie Night in Canada” debacle we got stuck with during the last lockout. It’ll also help those of us Hockey Night in Canada addicts get over the lack of NHL games and keep up some semblance of a Saturday night hockey routine. Believe me, this attempt to fill the void for fans disgusted with both sides of this labour dispute is welcome indeed.

MORE BIG TV NEWS: ERIN ANDREWS LEAVES ESPN

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! (Okay I admit it, I like Erin Andrews.)

In the same week that Ann Curry gave her tearful goodbye to the Today Show on NBC comes word that the popular and ridiculously-hot sideline reporter Erin Andrews has parted ways with ESPN.

Erin was one of several sportscasting free agents out there this year and the word is that she is headed elsewhere, likely to FOX which is stepping up coverage of many of the college sports that Erin is so famous for.

I suppose we should not be surprised given that ESPN is infamous for being cheap to its talent — also, we’ve seen so many top ESPN people leave for greener pastures over the years that it is a joke (Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Rich Eisen etc.).

Plus, I think maybe Erin might have had an unhappy time generally at ESPN for all kinds of reasons (ie. the stalker situation), so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised she’s left for a new start elsewhere given what she’s gone through personally.

As I said, there has been a lot of free-agent movement in the sportscasting world this year. Michelle Beadle had earlier departed ESPN for NBC Sports, where she’ll cover the Olympic Games and also get some entertainment assignments with NBC on the side.

Also, word is that famed Twitterer Darren Rovell has left his prominent business-sports gig at CNBC to go back to ESPN.

I dunno about you, but this sounds like a terrible deal to me. ESPN acquiring Darren Rovell for Michelle Beadle and Erin Andrews?

If this were sports talk radio, there would be angry calls to fire the GM. This really is a scandal.

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IN OTHER NEWS from the world of TV, the rumors continue to fly about the Today Show and what will happen to it. Reports are that Savannah Guthrie has already taken over.

Also, according to the New York Post, word is that Natalie Morales is unhappy after being passed over again for a top job on the Today Show and may quit NBC. She might be interested in a certain sideline reporting job open at ESPN right now.