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August 2008 Archives

Olympic coverage in the regular paper has pre-empted our usual weekly TV-Radio Notebook, so we present here online for the second straight week. Next week, we'll be back in our usual Friday spot on Page C2. Promise.
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The U.S. Open gets under way Monday with early-round coverage on USA and with the action shifting to CBS on the weekends.

This year's Open will have an added wrinkle because it comes on the heels of the just-concluded Olympic tennis tournament.

CBS' John McEnroe said Thursday it's almost impossible to tell just how much of an effect there will be having the event halfway around the world in Beijing end so soon before the start of the U.S. Open.

"It's pretty hard to say what [will happen to] the guys who were there longer and what it'll take out of them," McEnroe said. "It's a relatively new thing. It's definitely an issue, but I don't know the answer to that right now."

McEnroe has a better idea of what impact the last major tournament might have on interest in the U.S. Open. Rafael Nadal's epic victory at Wimbledon over Roger Federer still has fans buzzing.

"I've certainly gotten a lot of people who aren't even necessarily tennis fans and obviously a lot of tennis people have come up to me," McEnroe said. "I heard a lot of people talk about how they were in different locations around the country ... and they were watching the match, the match was on and people were talking about it.

"A lot of people have come up to me who don't necessarily watch tennis and they might refer back to my match with (Bjorn) Borg in '80 and certainly feeling something similar (with the Nadal-Federer match).

"I certainly that strength that we did get at Wimbledon we start to carry forward and try to ride that because this changing of the guard, it'll be interesting to see not only how the players respond to it, but also the fans watching."

McEnroe was so moved by the Wimbledon final, he famously gave Federer a hug on camera on NBC during his interview with him. McEnroe said he's gotten a little feedback from that episode since then.

"I've gotten a lot of people in the stands when I play now saying, 'Give me a hug, Mac!' " he said.

Back to the pool: In the wake (so to speak) of Michael Phelps' sensational success at the Beijing Olympics, NBC has signed a contract with USA Swimming to televise the U.S. Swimming Championships from 2009 through 2011.

Mad dog, mad dog: We on the West Coast may never have heard of him, but Chris Russo is a big-time sports talk show host in New York City. He recently broke up with his WFAN partner, Mike Francesa, on Mike and the Mad Dog and is heading to Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Russo will not only have his own show on both Sirius and XM from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT, but will also be executive producer of his own channel, to be called "Mad Dog Radio."

Other notes: ESPN Classic will replay the entire Wimbledon men's final between Nadal and Federer from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. ... FSN Prime Ticket will debut In My Own Words: Rick Neuheisel at 8 p.m. Monday where the new UCLA football coach will talk about coming back to his alma mater. No truth to the rumor that the Bruins will be picking quarterbacks out of the stands this season, I understand. ... ESPN will show its first high school football game of the year, an Indiana game between Cathedral and Carmel, at 9 a.m. Saturday. ... The ESPN Radio morning program The Herd with Colin Cowherd will start being simulcast on ESPNU television starting Monday. ...

Dan Fouts is returning to CBS from ABC where he will be an NFL game analyst. ... Warren Sapp will be one of the faces Showtime will put on Inside the NFL, which it picked up when HBO canceled it. CBS Sports is producing the show, which will also feature James Brown, Phil Simms and Cris Collinsworth. ... As if he didn't already have enough to do, Chris Berman will anchor ESPN's SportsCenter on Sunday afternoons in the fall. ...

Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, will be highlighted by a feature on Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers when it premieres at 10 p.m. Tuesday. ... Yes, NBC will have life after the Olympics. It will show the BMX Park finals of the Wendy's Invitational Dew Action Tour event at 4 p.m. Sunday.

I'll be writing more about this in my Friday column, but I wanted to take a quick moment online to talk about how certain broadcasters just make the Olympics fun. Pat O'Brien used to do that back when CBS did the Winter Olympics and now Mary Carillo and Cris Collinsworth are in charge of fun for NBC.

Like I said, I'll have more of them on Friday, but here's what Carillo had to say Wednesday about this trip to China:

"I've done a lot of Olympics but certainly nothing ever like this," she said. "Of all of the Games, I've never been to anything like this. And I've come to China twice before the Games started for a couple weeks each time just to do features and stories and all that so I had a sense of what it would be like, but then the Games started and it's just been a magnificent experience for me."

And Collinsworth says he's been like a kid in a candy store:

"I'm having so much fun doing this," he said, "and I'll tell you why. I am not an expert on anything here. I ran track and played a little basketball but they're not lining me up to be the color analyst for anything. Essentially what they wanted me to do was to come be a fan. I'm like Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory, I got the golden ticket. I'm afraid that the next Olympics they're going to sell my job to somebody and make a million dollars off it. I've been able to go anywhere, do anything, meet almost any athlete that I want to meet. I've had a chance to watch coach K's practices in basketball, which for me is a thrill. I feel like I'm watching it with the American public at home and going, boy I would really like to sit next to Debbie Phelps, Michael Phelps' mom and listen to what she says while a race is going on. I hope it looks like I'm having a good time over here, because I am."

There aren't too many Olympic sports where you see them on TV and think, "I could do that."

Maybe the closest to that description is trampoline. Many of us grew up with a trampoline in the backyard, or were lucky enough to know one of those families that had one and always had a steady stream of kids at their house, happily bouncing away.

You might've seen trampoline at the Olympics for the first time Monday night and had visions of a gold medal around your neck.

But this sport should probably come with a disclaimer when they show it on TV: "WARNING: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME." It doesn't take very long watching it to realize these athletes have done more than just fool around in the backyard during the family barbecues.

Twists, turns, flips, somersaults -- these are NOT the people you see whose trampoline mishaps turn up on America's Funniest Home Videos. These are Olympic athletes and don't be thinking otherwise.

Oh, well. No gold medal for you. Maybe if they made poker into an Olympic sport...

Simply the best

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Saturday was a big night on the Olympics for NBC. Some would have you believe -- since it was the last night for Michael Phelps -- that it was the network's last big night of ratings. That may or may not be true, but if it is, NBC may have saved the best for last.

The women's marathon had plenty of drama as it unfolded over 2 1/2 hours. Truth be told, it was something I checked in on from time to time while also keeping tabs of the Dodgers' loss to Milwaukee. But it was fascinating to see the attention first paid to Britain's Paula Radcliffe and hear how the British tabloids had ravaged her after the Athen Games. Then as Romania's Constantina Tomescu Dita took the lead and built an enormous margin, we were told how she had employed a similar strategy at the world championships, flamed out and hadn't even been able to finish. Finally after she won, we saw the race for the silver and bronze medals, with Catherine Ndereba of Kenya outsprinting China's Zhou Chunxiu.

From a long, drawn-out story, we went to Dara Torres, the 41-year-old supermom, took the silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle, missing the gold by just a hundredth of a second to Britta Steffen of Germany. It was great to hear that another swimmer -- a 16-year-old Australian -- was young enough to be Torres' daughter.

Then we saw the final act of Phelps, as the third leg of the 400 medley relay, which the United States in 3 minutes, 29.34 seconds over Australia. Sure, NBC poured on the praise for Phelps, but you know what? When someone wins eight gold medals in one Olympics and becomes the all-time overall leader in golds with 14 -- it's impossible to go over the top.

But the eye-popping moments weren't done yet. Jamaica's Usain Bolt blew away the competition in the men's 100-meter dash with a world-record time of 9.69 seconds. It's no wonder Bolt's nickname is "Lightning." Usain was insane.

But even with that amazing performance -- think of it: the fastest any man has ever run -- Bolt's time could have been better. It's hard to believe, but that 9.69 could have been in the 9.5s.

Here's what Alan Abrahamson had to say about it on NBCOlympics.com:

"With a full seven strides to go, he dropped his arms and let them fall outstretched to his sides, appearing almost to run sideways as he played to the [sellout] crowd of 91,000 at the Bird's Nest. Just before the finish line, he started high-stepping and, for good measure, executed a chest-thump."

NBC analyst Ato Boldon said the same thing to Tom Hammond shortly after the race. It's mind-boggling to think how much faster that time could have been if Bolt hadn't decided to tell the world what it already knew: He was the best.

OK, maybe NBC's ratings have topped out, but I'm sure the great drama of the Olympics haven't.

Prime time? Or late night?

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How strange it is that NBC makes all this fuss about showing the best Olympic events in prime time -- so much so that it tape-delays the show three hours so that it can also be shown in prime time on the West Coast -- only to have these events drag on into what turns out to be the wee hours of the morning on both coasts.

Thursday night's women's all-around gymnastics competition didn't finish until after 1 a.m. EDT -- and so, of course, it didn't finish until after 1 a.m. PDT too.

It was so ridiculous and probably so embarrassing for NBC that it spent a considerable amount of its prime-time coverage Friday night recapping what viewers missed the night before. All the way down to showing analyst Bela Karolyi's unabashed cheering for winner Nastia Liukin's floor exercise routine. Except this time Liukin and silver medalist Shawn Johnson were in the studio sitting next to Karolyi while they watched it.

Make no mistake: It's great that NBC is managing to show some Olympic events live, at least to the East Coast. It just seems that if the network was going to manipulate the starting times in Beijing it could've done a little better job of it so that the events might also finish in prime time.

No time or space in the regular paper for my TV-Radio notes this week, so we'll put a few online for your dancing and dining entertainment:

NBC's Wednesday night prime-time Olympic show (and I use the term "prime time" loosely) didn't end until about 1:40 in the morning. Once Bob Costas had finally said good night or good morning or whatever it was on KNBC (Channel 4), up popped ... the "Channel 4 News"!

And let me tell you: longtime anchorwoman Colleen Williams may do OK and look pretty good at her usual God-given 11 p.m. hour, but apparently she fades pretty quickly after that. Williams' eyes were at half-staff as the clock neared 2 a.m.

CBS gets SEC to re-up: CBS and the Southeastern Conference have signed what CBS itself called a "blockbuster" 15-year contract extension to broadcast SEC football and basketball games starting with the 2009-10 season.

In addition to TV, the deal includes certain digital, Internet, wireless, video on demand, data and enhanced highlight rights across all CBS platforms, including the CBS College Sports Network and CBSSports.com. Also, simulcasts of CBS Sports games will be available for distribution by the CBS College Sports Network.

It's a good deal for CBS, which has benefited greatly over the years by SEC programming and this also gives the fledgling CBS College Sports Network some badly needed inventory. It's also good for CBS because the SEC was exploring establishing a national cable network like the Big Ten has.

Going batty over maple: ESPN's Outside The Lines on Sunday (6:30 a.m. ESPN, 9 a.m. ESPNews) will have a segment on maple baseball bats and their tendency to break into jagged pieces. A number of injuries have been caused by the bats.

There will also be a report on how Kenya's elite runners have dealt with the violence that has broken out in that country.

Close to the campaigns: ESPN's E:60 (4 p.m. Tuesday) will have a feature on Reggie Love, the personal assistant to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Love is a former Duke University football and basketball player.

On an upcoming edition of E:60, a segment on John McCain's wife Cindy is planned, looking at her love of auto racing.

In case you didn't get to see it (and if you were looking among my columns, for some reason it wasn't there), here's my Tuesday column about President Bush's extended trip to Beijing and the Olympics.

Can't help but watch

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We know you're watching the Olympics. Don't worry, we don't know where you live, but we know you're watching the Olympics.

Not only that, but the people at NBC know too. They know you're watching the Olympics on TV, they know you're watching them online at NBCOlympics.com. Probably while you're at work, too, you rascal (tsk, tsk). They also know you've been sneaking looks on your cell phone. Some of you with digital cable have also been checking out the Video On Demand channel for Olympics content as well.

They know.

NBC released something Wednesday they call the "Total Audience Measurement Index" for the first four days of the Beijing Games. The idea of it, said Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal's president of research, is to measure how many people are watching the Olympics, or perhaps we should say experiencing them, over all their platforms.

Wurtzel admits it's not a completely perfect science -- television ratings and cell phone statistics aren't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison -- but it does reveal some very interesting facts and it does show that an enormous number of people are following these Olympics.

First television: The Nielsen ratings show that more than 70.1 million viewers saw the opening ceremonies last Friday night. Over the next three days, those numbers grew to 92.5 million for Saturday, 107.4 million for Sunday, then fell back to 94.8 million on Monday. The TV numbers account for 94 percent of the total audience, Wurtzel said.

Next the Internet: These numbers are growing astonishingly and that has to be because NBC is putting live events online for the first time. They started at 4.2 million unique visitors and grew to 7.8 million by Monday. NBC has quite a library of highlights, too. The most watched and shared of these, of course, is the U.S. men's 400 freestyle relay victory over France.

Mobile and video on demand usage is relatively tiny, largely because these technologies are still in their infancy, Wurtzel said. Mobile uniques have grown from 210,000 on Friday to 476,000 on Monday. VOD views are only available for the first three days of coverage. Those numbers were 36,000 on Friday, 53,000 on Saturday and 27,000 on Monday.

Many of the people using mobile phones to view the Olympics are doing this kind of thing for the first time, Wurtzel said.

Despite the mini-controversy about NBC tape-delaying its prime-time coverage after its been shown live on the East Coast (and still touting it as "LIVE" on the screen), the network is getting good ratings on the West Coast. Three of the top six markets for the opening ceremony were from California. San Diego was the top rated market in the nation with a rating of 26.5 and a 49 percent share of the audience. Sacramento was third at 24.3 and 43 and San Francisco was tied for fifth at 24.1/47. The Los Angeles market, which include Ventura County, was 16th out of the 56 metered big markets.

One thing about Olympic telecasts: The commercials usually come fast and furious. But Tuesday night's Olympic prime-time telecast, featuring the U.S. women's gymnastics team and swimmer Michael Phelps' quest to become the winningest Olympian ever, was surprisingly and refreshingly light on commercials.

As NBC went back and forth between swimming and gymnastics (which was live to the Eastern and Central time zones, but tape-delayed to the Pacific and Mountain), the network said it went without a commercial break for approximately 42 minutes (from 10:57 p.m. until 11:39 p.m.). NBC also said in the last 1 hour and 40 minutes of the prime-time broadcast, NBC aired only a little over eight minutes of commercial time.

Also surprising and refreshing in 2008 is the fact that I've heard hardly any complaints about the way NBC is showing these Olympics, other than the fact that it puts the "LIVE" label on West Coast prime-time telecasts that are taped.

These Olympics are on the way to becoming the most watched games in history (more on that Wednesday) and devotion to content over commerce is one good reason why.

About this blog...
CarlisleJim.jpg

Jim Carlisle writes Tuesday sports columns and Friday TV-Radio columns for The Star. He has been on the sports staff of the Star (and its Thousand Oaks predecessor, the News Chronicle) since 1983. Jim pledges in his blog not to take sports — or himself — too seriously.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

December 2008 is the next archive.

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