Magazine article Variety

In a Lather about the Blather

Magazine article Variety

In a Lather about the Blather

Article excerpt

With all these sports channels, who's gonna call the games?

Talk to sports purists (especially old-timers), and many will trace gripes about the professional leagues back to two dreaded words: expansion and dilution. To this contingent, everything was better when there were fewer teams, placing less of a drain on the talent pool.

While there are mitigating factors in this discussion, there is one area where both expansion and dilution are clearly having a deleterious effect - sports television. And based on prevailing trends, the problem is only going to get worse.

The appetite for sports has produced an environment in which a dizzying number of games are televised, each requiring a broadcasting team (usually, a bombastic playby-play guy, an ex-coach and/or ex-player color man, and a perky sideline reporter). On an average Saturday this September, there will be a few dozen college football games in every market, via ESPN and its sundry companion channels, the major broadcasters and an assortment of regional networks.

This, however, is increasingly just the tip of the iceberg, as the latest trend involves individual teams and conferences with their own dedicated channels - from the Pac12 and the Big Ten to the U. of Texas, and from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Houston Rockets (with preseason games starting in October).

Fox Sports, meanwhile, is preparing to launch a national alternative to ESPN on Aug. 17, dubbed Fox Sports 1, promising around-the-clock coverage and thousands of hours of sports news programming each year - including a nightly program and morning show scheduled to debut in January - presented "in a Fox Sports way," as co-prez Eric Shanks has described it.

Granted, these enterprises generally air a lot of reruns, slicing and dicing up games for rebroadcast and repeating highlight shows. But they must also provide original programs and analysis, which can't help but place an additional burden on the supply of on-air talent, as well as on producers and staff. …

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