When it comes to cable network sports programming, ESPN, has had little in the way of national competition. In the 1990s, Fox tried to encroach on their domain with the Fox Sports Network but ultimately decided to keep its collective of regional sports networks instead of compete directly with Disney-owned ESPN.
This year the landscape may finally change. Comcast, as part of its acquisition of NBC from General Electric, has rebranded its old Versus Network as the NBC Sports Network. Its marquee programs are National Hockey League contests, a monthly special from Queens native Bob Costas and a Friday night sports business show hosted by Darren Rovell that features Forest Hills native Erin Sharoni as a contributor.
CBS, which a few years ago acquired the old CSTV (College Sports Television) and later retitled it CBS College Sports Network, has revised it yet again. Now it’s simply the CBS Sports Network. Unfortunately for CBS, it has not attracted most viewers since it caters to niche college sports that don’t get a lot of glory, as well as some below-the-radar professional sports such as bull riding and lacrosse. You can only see it in Queens if you subscribe to Time Warner Cable’s premium sports tier service.
As a way of shaking things up, and getting on a more equal footing with both ESPN and the NBC Sports Network, CBS has signed the witty and somewhat controversial Jim Rome to host a daily 6 p.m. show called “Rome,” which debuted two days ago, for its cable outlet. It is a coup for CBS as Rome’s previous show, “Rome Is Burning,” generated huge ratings for ESPN2 during a normally slow 4 p.m. time slot.
To show how serious it is about Jim Rome, CBS made sure that David Letterman had him as a guest for an elongated segment last Thursday. It’s to be seen if Rome can be the game-changer that CBS desires.
Speaking of cable television, I ran into former Mets first baseman Todd Zeile at the FX Network’s media event last week at Times Square’s Lucky Strike Bowl. Zeile has been active in the entertainment industry since hanging up his spikes and is an executive producer on Charlie Sheen’s new project, “Anger Management,” which will debut on FX on June 28.
Todd told me that he was part of a failed syndicate including Joe Torre that tried to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt, who wound up selling the team for $2 billion to a group that was fronted by Magic Johnson.
Dodger Stadium will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this season, and it’s a marvelous place to see a ballgame. The Mets will be there June 28 through July 1. The Hyatt Regency Century City offers great rates, fine amenities, and is close to almost everything in LA.