The third week of May is traditionally when the television industry introduces its fall programming to advertisers in the hopes of locking up ad sales with presentations known as “Upfronts.” Sportscaster Jim Nantz spoofed himself at this year’s ViacomCBS presentation when he told the audience, “The Upfront — a tradition like no other!” which was a wink at his famous description of the Masters Tournament.
The presentations were done virtually instead of from famed stages such as Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall. For decades, sports were almost an afterthought for networks as primetime lineups took most of the attention. Viewers’ ability to see scripted programs on demand has made appointment TV seem antiquated and that has worried advertisers.
Sports, on the other hand, are impervious to deferred viewing as people want to watch the competition live. Fox Broadcasting president and diehard Mets fan Charlie Collier, whose network carries Major League Baseball, the NFL and NCAA football, emphasized how half of Fox’s programming is live.
ESPN will broadcast “The Captain,” a six-part documentary on Hall of Fame Yankee shortstop and Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter in 2022. It will be similar to the Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance.” The Worldwide Leader in Sports will share broadcast rights with Warner Media for the NHL this fall.
Warner Media’s TBS will shift its Sunday MLB package to Tuesday nights starting next summer. 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX becoming law. CNN Films will have a documentary titled “LFG,” on how top American female soccer players in 2019 sued the U.S. Soccer Federation because less successful men’s players were paid more to play in the World Cup.
TBS will have a new game show, “The Cube,” hosted by former NBA star Dwyane Wade. It’s to be seen whether TBS will pair “The Cube,” with “Wipeout,” an obstacle course show hosted by WWE star John Cena, who will be doing double duty for Warner Media, starring in a drama series, “The Peacemaker,” for its HBO Max streaming service
To entice advertisers and consumers, Warner Media’s HBO Max will offer a $10-per-month tier for commercial-supported streaming while it will remain $15 for those who prefer it ad-free.
Apple TV Plus’ “Ted Lasso,” which stars Jason Sudeikis as the clueless coach of a British soccer team, has inspired FX to greenlight “Welcome to Wrexham,” a documentary series starring Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. They’re the real-life co-owners of Wrexham FC, a struggling Welsh soccer team.
See the extended version of Sports Beat every week at qchron.com.
A tip of the hat to Barclays Center CEO John Abbamondi for charging Brooklyn Nets playoff tickets at a lesser price for those fans who have been vaccinated. “We’re not neutral about vaccines,” he said forthrightly.
Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar is one of the toughest athletes you will ever see. Last week he got hit in the face with a fastball from Atlanta Braves pitcher Jacob Webb, which broke his nose and made him a bloody mess. The next day he was able to hold a Zoom press conference with the media. You could tell he was in pain and had trouble breathing but he was generous with his time despite that. Pillar said he considered himself fortunate it was his nose which received the blow. He underwent rhinoplasty surgery on Friday and should be back sometime in early June.
Former Mets backup catcher Anthony Recker has quickly become a rising star in local sports media. He’s now a regular panelist on SNY’s “Baseball Night in New York,” and this past weekend he did a splendid job providing the color commentary alongside Howie Rose on WFAN for the Mets-Miami Marlins series. I can’t say I’m surprised at his success because he was always accessible to sportswriters and he studiously avoided the usage of cliches when he played in Flushing.
Shaquille O’Neal will undoubtedly be listed on the NBA’s top 75 players list when the league releases it in the fall of 2022 to mark its own 75th anniversary.
As great a player as Shaq was, he is just as good if not better off the hardwood. Charles Barkley and he are the comic foils for straight men Ernie Johnson, Grant Hill and Lefrak City native Kenny Smith on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” He’s also the star of the TNT reality series “The Shaq Life.”
It’s hard to think of an athlete who has landed more endorsement deals than Shaq has. He can be seen on television in ads for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Icy Hot and General Auto Insurance.
Shaq has also made a mark as a businessman. He has a line of eyeglasses with Zyloware, an optical firm which got its start in Long Island City, and last week he signed an equity deal with Phoenix-based Alkaline Water Co. Bottled water, which is better at neutralizing stomach acids, has been a growing category in the health beverage market. Expect to see him as a pitchman for them.
Peyton Manning has resisted being a television pro football analyst since he retired as a player despite lucrative offers from every network which has NFL broadcast rights. He is the best athlete to ever host “Saturday Night Live” thanks in large part to his superb comic delivery, which comes across in his Nationwide Insurance commercials. Manning will be using his quick wit to host a revival of the general knowledge quiz show “College Bowl,” which premieres in June on NBC. Baby boomers might remember “GE College Bowl,” whose host was the scholarly Robert Earle, from the 1960s.
Life and style
One great sign life is getting back to normal is the number of destinations that are competing for tourism business this summer. The Atlantis Resort, located on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas, is offering a five-night stay for the price of four. In addition, guests who are over 21 can enjoy complimentary scoops of Tipsy Guava Lime ice cream. It’s called Tipsy because the ice cream is infused with a touch of coconut rum. Queens’ hometown airline, JetBlue, offers frequent service between JFK and Nassau, Bahamas.
For those who want to travel but stay a bit closer to home, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley is a two-hour drive from Queens (with normal traffic) by taking I-78 across New Jersey until you cross the Delaware River. Bethlehem’s August concert series, MusikFest, is back with such name acts as Willie Nelson, Kelsey Ballerini and Darius Rucker. The Philadelphia Phillies’ top minor league team, the Iron Pigs, play in nearby Allentown. If you time it right they could be playing the Syracuse Mets or Scranton Rail Riders (the Yankees AAA affiliate).