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Old 11-09-2003, 09:13 PM   #1
Marc
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Default Let's Do the Time Warp, ESPN

SC's Greg Wyshynski looks into the future and sees what years of original programming have done to ESPN. That, plus rants on Paris Hilton's sex tape, the high-school passing record controversy, Michael Vick, NASCAR's latest sponsor, "The Matrix Revolutions," and CBS' big blunder ... all in the latest Jester's Quart.

http://www.sports-central.org/columns/jester_quart

Great article on ESPN ... I think it's relevant because many of us have strong opinions about The Worldwide Leader in Sports. So read it and give your take ... is there an original programming overload, and will it lead to the downfall of the network?

Because this column will change when it is updated next weekend, I am pasting a copy of it here:
Quote:
Note: In November 2003, former "SportsCenter" anchorman Keith Olbermann said fans were witnessing the demise of ESPN, as the network began to introduce more and more original programming into its cable lineup. "The brand name, its success and uniqueness, is predicated on reality," Olbermann to the Associated Press. "When you start introducing things like a host who is also an actress on your movie of the week, you are beginning to chip off pieces of that credibility."

His words would prove to be prophetic, as we fast-forward to November 2006, somewhere in the bowels of Bristol...

International ESPN Headquarters, Programming and Development Division

[A long oak table fills a conference room with large framed photographs of Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott, Peter Gammons, and Bob Ley hanging on the walls. Mark Shapiro, 36-year-old former programming whiz kid-turned-cigar chomping, battle-hardened veteran, stands over a large TV grid displayed on the table. Beside him is Mel Kiper, Jr., an entry-level executive at ESPN who was shamed into the programming department after the 2005 NFL Entry Draft, in which he failed to predict a single selection in the opening five rounds.]

SHAPIRO
Another year, another fall season, eh, Mel?

KIPER
One of the few guarantees in life, chief. Like death, taxes, and Eagles fans booing their first-round pick.

[SHAPIRO moves his hand to a column labeled "Prime Time Schedule, Monday Night"]

SHAPIRO
Let's see ... we have "NFL Monday Night Countdown Pregame, Presented by FedEx" at 7:30, followed by "NFL Monday Night Countdown, Presented by UPS" at 8:00, and then "NFL Monday Night Countdown Postshow, Presented by American Carrier Pigeons, Inc." at 9:00. Then, check this out: "The New American Poacher with Ted Nugent and Roger Clemens, Presented by Red Rider BB Guns" at 10.

KIPER
It's amazing we can still do that show after President Dean made bullets illegal last year. By the way, I can't believe Clemens retired as an Expo.

SHAPIRO
I can't believe the Expos are still in Montreal! Moving on to Tuesday, we have the crown jewel at 8:00: "Pardon the Interruption, Sponsored by Smirnoff Quadruple Ice Black."

KIPER
Were you able to finally resign Tony (Kornheiser) and (Michael) Wilbon?

SHAPIRO
No dice. They're going to be played by Jason Alexander and Charles S. Dutton this season. Hey, it beats the alternative: hiring Woody Paige and a CGI clownfish.

KIPER
Good call. Tuesday's shaping up nicely. "PTI," "Sports Reporters IX," "Around the Horn, Sponsored by Johnson Fertilizer," "Sports Reporters X," "PTI," "Sports Reporters XI, XII, and XIII" ... that's a better lineup than the 2007 Ohio State Buckeyes, who should have no less than eight potential mid-to-late-round selections...

SHAPIRO
Just let it go, Mel. Ah, Wednesday night. "Playmakers, Presented by Prozac" at 8, "Playmakers: The Next Generation" at 9, and then "Playmakers: No, Seriously, Players Are Really This #&%!'ed Up" at 10.

[LINDA COHN, ESPN's only female sports anchor without runway experience, bursts into the room.]

COHN
Did you just say "Playmakers" was coming back?

SHAPIRO
What, were you listening at the door?

COHN
Actually, I heard you through the glass ceiling. I can't believe you're bringing back that trashy, simplistic, insulting, homophobic, anti-woman filthfest back for another season. Don't you people see the outrage, from groups like the Association for Women in Sports Media? That Paul Tagliabue is still urging advertisers to boycott us? I mean, do you even watch the show?

KIPER
Linda, you don't actually have to watch a show to understand everything about it, including whether the majority of Americans will approve or disapprove of it. Must I remind you of a little mini-series called "The Reagans" back in '03?

[COHN stomps her heels, lets loose a big sigh, spins, and leaves the room, spitting on a framed photo of "SportsCenter" anchor Lisa Guerrero as she departs.]

SHAPIRO
I haven't seen her that upset since Dennis Rodman came onto her during his reality show. All right, Mel, back to the grid. Thursday night's movie night, and we've got a bunch lined up. I'm talking about "Gimmie the Damn Ball: The Keyshawn Johnson Story," "I Gave Him the Damn Ball: The Brad Johnson Story," "Amistad 2," starring Warren Sapp, and "Stand and Deliver: The Rafael Palmeiro Story."

KIPER
Don't forget "The Junction Boys 2: Conjunction Junction Boys."

SHAPIRO
Let's not sleep on "Centering Feed: The Steve Levy Story," either. On Friday night, it's "The Best of Cold Pizza" at 8, "The Season: The Long Island Nets" at 9, and, of course, "Queer Eye for the Pop Fly" at 10.

KIPER
Who ever thought a show where five gay stereotypes mince around a pro baseball locker room, redesigning uniforms and making the dugout look like a metrosexual's swinger pad, could be such a hit?

[KIPER gazes over the programming grid, and runs his fingers through his hair. They get stuck in the knotting twine of his bouffant. He finally wrestles them free and speaks.]

KIPER
Uh ... Mark? You notice anything missing from this here programming grid?

SHAPIRO
Hmmmm ... ah, of course! "All-Star Beg, Borrow, and Deal," where contestants from the first four seasons take on a team of Page2 contributors from ESPN.com. You haven't lived until you've seen Bill Simmons steal a horseshoe from a Preakness winner.

KIPER
No, no, no ... I mean ... where are the sports? The games, you know?

SHAPIRO
Well, "Streetball's" on Saturday at...

KIPER
No, the real sports. Like NFL and college football games. Or Major League Baseball, or the NBA. Look, the NHL isn't even on the schedule, and interest in that league is sky-high ever since it contracted 24 teams after the lockout of '04.

SHAPIRO
Is poker a sport?

KIPER
Not when your high-rollers are Bob Ryan, Mira Sorvino, Trey Wingo, and Bow Wow. Don't you see what we've done, Mark? We systematically purchased the broadcast rights to every major sports league, yet now all we show is original programming. The "E" has completely consumed the "S," and I don't even know what's up with the "PN."

[SHAPIRO puts on a pair of dark sunglasses.]

SHAPIRO
It's quite simple, Mr. Kiper. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why ESPN was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.

KIPER
What the hell are you talking about?

SHAPIRO
[Glasses off]
It's a monologue from the first Matrix movie. Only instead of saying "The Matrix," I said "ESPN." It's that level of adroitness that got me where I am today.

KIPER
And where are you? From where I'm standing, we've betrayed every single ideal this network was built upon. Millions of American dreamed of one day having a channel that could offer continuous live sporting events, insightful analysis, and breaking sports news. Now they can't even find a friggin' tennis match in primetime.

SHAPIRO
What do you want me to do? It's not my fault Anna Kournikova decided to take up acting. Do you think we have a snowball's chance in hell of getting an Oscar-winner to lose in the first-round of the U.S. Open?

KIPER
That's not the point. Eventually, viewers are going to get tired of the same inane prattle on they hear on PTI, ATH, ESPN Radio, and every other yakfest. They're going to be sick of sports game shows, sports reality shows, sports cooking shows, and movies about sports that just plain suck. They're going to demand that we start doing what we did when everybody made watching ESPN a way of life: producing the best game coverage in the world.

SHAPIRO
While your speech stirred me like a martini at the ESPN Zone, the bottom line is always ... the bottom line. Why would I allow sporting events -- or as I call them, the unpredictable -- to suck ratings away from scripted television shows? Besides, in about three years, every game, regular season, or otherwise, is going to be on pay-per-view anyway. All we'll have is original programming, and our steady diet of 18 "SportsCenters" a day. Hey ... there's always ESPN2 for the actual sports.

[SHAPIRO puts his arm around Kiper, but not in a gay way.]

SHAPIRO
Now c'mon, Mel: We're due to interview that guy from "The King of Queens" for the Rush Limbaugh role in "Desirous: The Donovan McNabb Story..."
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Old 11-09-2003, 10:30 PM   #2
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I think ESPN is straying too far from sports.

THERE WAS A SEASON TWO OF "BEG, BORROW AND DEAL"

Haven't seen Cold Pizza yet though.
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Old 11-10-2003, 01:27 AM   #3
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Don't bother with the Cold Pizza... I can only take about three minutes at a time. Ugh...

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Old 11-10-2003, 01:34 AM   #4
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Yeah, Cold Pizza sucks. How much of ESPN's programming is an original production, anyway? 5%? Would we rather they show more hot rod racing than more football analysis?

This is a 24 hour a day network, and as such, have to fill a lot of time with things like pool, bowling, and even poker (I do watch the pool). Now they are going to hell in a handbasket because they have renewed "The Season" (a fine series), have ONE reality show, and ONE drama?

I hate this constant the-sky-is-falling crap, and Olbermann is a disgruntled ex-employee.
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Old 11-10-2003, 01:53 PM   #5
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ESPN let just focus on sports and nothing else. Please!
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Old 11-11-2003, 02:43 AM   #6
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Kevin, you've left PTI and ATH, running a solid 18 hours of the same show over and over and over and over...

I've been hollering this for some time now...
ESPN should be analyzing, and failing that, rebroadcasting their own games.

As for items that carry the EOE label:
Two movies
Cold Pizza
PTI
ATH
Playmakers
Beg, Borrow & Suck (Oh, wait, that's Playboy's version...
OTL Nightly and weekly
Sports Reporters
Rome is Burning
New American Sportsman
Wild Call (or whatever that freaky-ass "in-the-wild" reality series was/is called)
I think there may be others, though I don't know them all off the top of my head. (I don't think any of the junk that runs on the Deuce on Sunday mornings carries an EOE label, and I may be wrong about NAS carrying it, but, they broadcast it all the same).

I haven't done the math, it's that's 5%, it's still too much garbage for my book. Olbermann may have an ax to grind, but remember what MTV used to broadcast in the days prior to Real World... what're those things called? Oh, yeah, MUSIC VIDEOS... music videos that now my up what? Two hours of MTV's broadcast day???

Slippery slopes thusly named because people fall down them. If the day comes that ESPN loses market share to Fox Sports Net, look to the Disney-built desire to "entertain" to be the cause of the death of ESPN.

Dave
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Old 11-11-2003, 03:29 PM   #7
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Oh, by coincidence, the director of EOE (whose name I forget, but whose hometown is Bedford, MA) was a guest on a local sports talk show today discussing the final episode of Playmakers. He noted that EOE programming currently took up "less than six percent" of ESPN's programming time. I don't know how that's calculated (whether ESPNews running the same 30-minutes of highlights counts at all or not, etc.)

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Old 11-11-2003, 04:01 PM   #8
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I'm not a fan of a lot of the shows like Cold Pizza and Streetball. But there isnt enough sports to keep running shows analyizing every minute detail 24/7. And if there was, you'd lose more than half your audience, as your average fan doesnt want to see X's and O's. ESPN has a fine balance imo of shows across all of its channels. With so many other cable channels competing for viewers these days, its only natural that ESPN would try to branch out from just pure sports talk. For every lawn mower racing they show on ESPN2, there are great shows like Baseball tonight and Sportscenter.
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Old 11-11-2003, 08:23 PM   #9
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I'd like to see ESPN dedicate some ACTUAL time to soccer, on two counts: 1. They have a GD contract with MLS. 2. It's MLS playoff time and 3. They DO televise the odd Champs League match. Would it get drowned out by American football and then baseball? Sure. Would it get beaten down by the NBA and NCAA basketball? Somewhat. But, come on... what the hell is Tommy Smyth doing the rest of the week (he appears around 5p every Wednesday on ESPNews and usually takes an entire segment)? He's gotta want to do more than that lame spot...

Why couldn't ESPN USA broadcast more of their ESPN Intl stuff? That's all I really want. (Fox Sports Net does its part, but gosh darn it, I want live La Liga and Serie A broadcasts...)

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