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ESPN

ESPN Ombudsman: Trailer For ‘Frontline’ Doc A Catalyst For Channel Dropping Out

The bombshell news late last week that ESPN would be pulling out of a PBS “Frontline” documentary on concussions in the NFL continues. The latest comes from ESPN’s ombudsman, Robert Lipsyte, as well as Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch, who each shed new light on the situation.

Lipsyte talks to ESPN president John Skipper, who says it was a trailer for the doc that was the catalyst for the decision to drop out of the project (watch the trailer below).

He hadn’t seen the trailer or approved its content, which included the ESPN logo and a collaboration credit. He thought it was “odd for me not to get a heads up,” and said it made him “quite unhappy” to discover that ESPN had no editorial control over the trailer.

Upon screening it, Skipper said he found the trailer to be “sensational.” He particularly objected to the tagline — “Get ready to change the way you see the game” — and to the final sound bite in the piece, from neuropathologist Ann McKee. Referring to brain injuries, she says, “I’m really wondering if every single football player doesn’t have this.”

Skipper said he found that comment to be “over the top.”

Lipsyte also reports that Skipper talked to Disney CEO Bob Iger and lawyers at both companies before pulling out of the project.

In SI, Deitsch looks at what comes next for the book League of Denial, which the “Frontline” doc is based on, and which was written by two brothers… who are ESPN investigative reporters.
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ESPN Backs Out Of PBS ‘Frontline’ Documentary On NFL Concussions

It was one of the biggest sports media stories of 2012. ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader” in sports, would be partnering with the PBS investigative series “Frontline” on a series of reports on concussions in the NFL, culminating with a film this October.

The partnership resulted in a number of long-form articles about the NFL’s response to concussions, as well as a number of reports on “Outside the Lines,” ESPN’s acclaimed newsmagazine.

Now, the partnership is seemingly dead in the water, as ESPN has pulled its support from the project, just a few months before the feature documentary “League of Denial” debuts on PBS. “Frontline” will move forward with the project on its own.

On the “Frontline” blog, the producers explain:

We don’t normally comment on investigative projects in progress, but we regret ESPN’s decision to end a collaboration that has spanned the last 15 months and is based on the work of ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, as well as FRONTLINE’s own original journalism…

The film is still being edited and has not been seen by ESPN news executives, although we were on schedule to share it with them for their editorial input. The two-hour documentary and accompanying digital reporting will honor FRONTLINE’s rigorous standards of fairness, accuracy, transparency and depth.

ESPN, in a statement, says that the fact that it did not have editorial control was the reason for backing out. It does not explain why the channel waited until now to do so.
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Keith Olbermann: Current TV Co-Founder And Former VP Al Gore Was a ‘Clod’

Soon-to-be ESPN2 host Keith Olbermann is the subject of a lengthy profile by THR’s Marisa Guthrie. Olbermann talks about how he came to join ESPN, repairing the bridges he “napalmed” the last time he was there, and also his rather tumultuous end at Current TV.

Guthrie also reveals that ESPN was talking to NBC’s Seth Meyers about hosting a late-night show, until he inked the “Late Night” gig at NBC, and that Olbermann met with ABC News president Ben Sherwood as his time at Current neared a close.

Then there are his comments on his former boss, Vice President Al Gore. THR teases it right at the top of the story, “there is name-calling.”

“When you’re working for somebody whom you admired politically, who turns out to be a clod,” says Olbermann, referring to Gore, “the scales fall from your eyes. Sorry. Al underdelivered. I mean that’s just simply the case. I don’t want to dwell on it, but it’s true.”

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Keith Olbermann Reviving ‘Worst Persons’ Segment For New ESPN2 Show

While Keith Olbermann‘s new late night program on ESPN2 is decidedly not a political program, it sounds as though some of his segments from “Countdown” on MSNBC and Current TV will be making the jump with him.

Olbermann revealed that he is bringing back his “Worst Persons” segment for the program while on a panel at the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills.

B&C’s Andrea Morabito has details:

On Wednesday, Olbermann said he was reviving the segment again because “people seemed to like that one.” He said also the show would feature commentary, highlights, interviews, and analysis while differentiating itself from ESPN’s flagship SportsCenter.

“You’re not going to be able to bring a new component to it. Every sports program is going to be made up of a lot of the same elements and we intend to use them,” he said. “The secret to it obviously is the recipe and the mix.”

Olbermann also reiterated that he does not have any content clause in his contract prohibiting him from talking about politics, but that he is focused on doing a sports show.

Why Nate Silver is Such a Hot Commodity

Nate Silver’s migration from the New York Times to ESPN represents more than a new URL – it augurs a sea change in the news business itself, experts say.

Silver’s acclaimed political blog, fivethirtyeight, will expand to sports, weather and entertainment, among other areas, as part of its analytics-driven venue at espn.com, he told reporters yesterday in a conference call.

Though the focus at this point is the blog, expect to see Silver on ESPN and ABC News, especially at election season. Regardless, the blog itself has the muscle to alter the paradigm in news reportage, says Jane Hall, an associate professor in American University’s School of Communication.

“The new buzzwords in the future of journalism are ‘data driven’ and ‘visualization of data,’” Hall says. “Silver brought tremendous credibility and proved himself with his political blog. To branch out to other areas could be very exciting.

“You can do a lot of analysis of data that is credible, if you do it right. A new paradigm could be a very good thing, but I still believe in shoe-leather reporting. You still need to talk to people, face to face, to see what’s on their minds.”

Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy – and a loyal Timesman – says Silver’s methodology will become a trend because “he’s not the only genius in the world. There will be a lot of people trying to out-Nate Nate.”

Using metrics for weather is a great thing, Jones says, but applying it to sports would be “depressing. If you knew, at the beginning of the season, that the Yankees would lose, it takes away the mystery, the uncertainty.”

Moreover, if Silver, a former baseball numbers wonk, is as accurate with sports prognosticating as he is with politics, “he’ll make it impossible for bookies to make a living,” Jones warns. “People will be less likely to make stupid bets.”

Bryant Gumbel, host of HBO’s “Real Sports,” isn’t convinced that Silver, whom he labels as “a smart guy with a lot of talent,” will be an actual handicapper.

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Nate Silver Sold FiveThirtyEight To ESPN

FiveThirtyEight creator Nate Silver didn’t just leave the New York Times to join ESPN (and ABC News), he sold his company to them.

On a conference call this afternoon, Silver confirmed that ESPN acquired the FiveThirtyEight name and web domain as part of the deal to have him join the company. Put another way: if Silver leaves ESPN in a few years, FiveThirtyEight will not be going with him, but rather staying with ESPN and ABC.

“Our goal here is to make Nate comfortable and happy that this is his new long-term home, so he doesn’t have to do this every four years,” ESPN president John Skipper said. “We really care about smart, talented individuals who can make a difference, and we think that’s what Nate can do for us.”

Silver had a licensing deal with the Times, letting the newspaper host FiveThirtyEight on his site, but ultimately with Silver retaining the rights to the name and domain. It was expected that his ESPN deal would be structured the same way, so it was surprising that the Disney-owned channel had acquired the brand outright. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ESPN Makes Big Bets Amid Discontent

ESPN has made a pair of big, splashy hires in the least two weeks, securing Keith Olbermann for a new nightly talk show on ESPN2, and the expected addition of Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight blog in the coming days.

Their additions have boosted morale at the Bristol CT-based sports giant, according to a staffer there, with people getting excited for the buzzworthy additions. That said, there is discontent brewing inside the company among some employees, and the additions of Olbermann and Silver are in some respects exacerbating the problem.

First, ESPN’s signature journalism program “Outside The Lines,” was unceremoniously demoted to an earlier timeslot on ESPN2 last week. Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch has more on that decision. “OTL” was an iconic program for ESPN, securing Emmy nominations and producing high-quality sports journalism like no other program on the channel. Now, it will be on ESPN’s little sibling, in a timeslot not familiar to many viewers.

Second: ESPN laid off hundreds of employees in May, in its biggest reorganization in years. A disproportionate number of the laid off staffers were long-time employees of the company, who now find themselves out of work in central Connecticut. At the time the justification for the restructuring was that the company had gotten bloated, and needed to reorganize around more forward-looking units. ESPN’s still-in-construction multimillion dollar “SportsCenter” studio was also cited as a reason to trim costs.

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Robin Roberts Honored At The ESPYs

ESPN televised the ESPY Awards last night, recognizing the best in the world of sports. The Worldwide Leader in Sports also took the time however to honor one of its own: ABC News “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, a former anchor for “SportsCenter” who shattered glass ceilings and color barriers in the TV world.

Roberts was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which was presenetd by LeBron James. Roberts’ sister Sally-Ann was there, as was Josh Elliott, another ESPN anchor turned “GMA” host.

“I draw strength from you, you give me the courage to face down any challenge, you let me know that when fear knocks you let faith answer the door,” Roberts said to the crowd. “All of you here tonight, and you there at home, and especially my wonderful, caring ESPN and ABC GMA family, yes I have my sister’s DNA, but you will always have my heart.”

WATCH:

In an 11 minute piece, Tom Cruise (yes, that Tom Cruise) narrated her career. watch that after the jump.
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Keith Olbermann: ‘If I wanted to do politics I would still be doing politics’

When Keith Olbermann‘s new ESPN2 program “Olbermann” debuts August 26, there will be no question as to what it is, and what topics will be discussed.

“The key three or four words about this are, ‘it’s a sports show,’” Olbermann said on a conference call this afternoon. “The idea that I would want to do anything that was not specifically sports related–even in a political context–I don’t know where this came from. If I wanted to do politics I would still be doing politics. This is something else.”

That does not mean that politics or current events won’t be covered on the show, but rather the message is: this is not “Countdown,” the show Olbermann hosted on MSNBC for 8 years.

“If the House is considering a bill to make PED use a capital offense, we will cover it. If Barack Obama runs onto the field during the All Star Game, we will talk about it. If George W. Bush wanted to talk baseball I would be happy to have him, but we are not going to talk politics,” Olbermann said.

ESPN surprised the media world by announcing that Olbermann would be returning to the company 16 years after he left “SportsCenter” to host a late night show on ESPN2. He did not leave ESPN on good terms in 1997, and although he has contributed to the company since then (most notably a stint with ESPN Radio), it would have been crazy to think a few years ago that he would ever be on-air for the channel as a host in the future.

Neither Olbermann nor ESPN president John Skipper ignored that elephant in the room, with Olbermann saying “I don’t want that to be in the obituary. I don’t want that to be the end of the story.”

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Keith Olbermann Returning To ESPN To Host New Late Night Show

Former MSNBC and Current TV host Keith Olbermann is returning to the place that made him a household name, ESPN. A source at the channel confirms that Olbermann will host a new late-night talk show on ESPN2, covering sports and pop culture, with the official announcement expected later today.

Update: It is official, details here, and more to come later.

In the NY Times, ESPN: Those Guys Have All The Fun author James Andrew Miller has more:

On his new show, Olbermann will be free to discuss matters other than sports, including pop culture and current events, but not politics, the two-year pact specifies…

While some ESPN insiders reportedly voiced the opinion that Olbermann was part of the network’s past, not its future, his star quality is almost unmatched in the sports television arena; he seems to draw a crowd.

Olbermann is expected to host his show from the ABC “Nightline” studio overlooking Times Square.

This is the second new soports job that Olbermann has secured in recent months. He will host TBS’ studio coverage of the MLB Playoffs later this year. At the time he said he was open to pursuing other opportunities as well.

Olbermann was one of the originalco-anchors of “SportsCenter,” where, alongside Dan Patrick, he made the program a household name. Last year, PRNewser attended a panel with Olbermann and Patrick, which may have foreshadowed the current move.

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