Breaking Sports

Sunday, June 19, 2005

media- ESPN, more movies and Series...

...less MLB and NHL.
That's one big equation on the mind of Mark Shapiro, executive VP of programming and production for ESPN, who's gung ho about broadening the audience for ESPN by reaching beyond the stereotypical potbellied sports nut, stretched out in his undershirt on a Barcalounger with a can of beer in one hand and a remote in the other.
ESPN and ESPN2 aimed the National Hockey League games it carried from 1999 through 2004 squarely at this viewer, but Shapiro says the NHL's ratings had fallen to such a depressed state by the 2003-04 season (a labor dispute obliterated the 2004-05 schedule) that he won't pay cash license fees anymore.
And Shapiro is negotiating a new contract with Major League Baseball but says, "I'm not interested in carrying five games a week unless I get full network exclusivity," a concession baseball seems unwilling to grant except for the traditional ESPN game of the week on Sunday night.
And that's where scripted programming comes in. Shapiro says one of the reasons ESPN's scripted series about Las Vegas poker players "Tilt" failed to find an audience earlier this year is that the only free night not saturated with live sports commitments was Thursday, where, at 9 p.m., the show had to go up against such strong series as "CSI" on CBS, "Will & Grace" on NBC and "Extreme Makeover" on ABC. Against those odds, "Tilt" never really had a on...(you may have to watch a 10-sec infomercial in order to get to the article).