To call the latest undertaking by WRGB (CBS-6) ambitious is like saying that Donald Trump likes to hear himself talk.
In 10 days “Upstate Sports Edge,” a half-hour weeknight show produced by WRGB’s sports department, will premiere on sister station WCWN (CW-45).
The station, which added two full-time sports anchors/reporters/photographers/editors, will attempt to deliver 30 minutes (minus commercials) of locally oriented sports at 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 months a year.
“I agree with you that it’s ambitious,” said Kelly O’Donnell, the station’s assistant sports director who is host of the show, “but you and I are both blessed to be able to cover a market where there’s always something going on.”
1 ESPN has taken over exclusive rights to the U.S. Open tennis championships, but the net result is a nearly 40 percent reduction in the number of TV hours. The network, which shared matches with CBS and Tennis Channel last year, is putting a lot of emphasis on its ESPN3.com coverage (1,100 hours from 11 courts). There’s still plenty of tennis to be seen, and a bulk of it on the main ESPN channel, but going from 214½ to 130 hours seems to be a backward step.
2 With both teams holding first place in their respective divisions, the Yankees and Mets will get prime-time exposure on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” for their Sept. 20 matchup at Citi Field. The Yankees already have appeared on the package four times, but not since May 24. In their Aug. 2 Sunday nighter against the Nationals, the Mets delivered a 1.7 overnight Nielsen rating, their highest on ESPN for a game against a team other than the Yankees, since 2007.
3 Joe Tessitore finally has an analyst for his role as “College Football Final” host on ESPN. Former NFL wide receiver Joey Galloway will be in the Bristol, Conn., studios with Tessitore for the late-night Saturday show. When I reported on Twitter that Tessitore now has a new sidekick, Galloway tweeted back, “Come on, I am better than just a ‘sidekick.’ ” Well, around here, we consider everyone a sidekick to Tessitore, a Niskayuna native.
“We’re very excited to pull it off,” news director Steve Richards said. “It’s a platform for local sports that a lot of markets overlook. There are so many student-athletes that have not just such great play on the field, but stories behind them that are just tremendous.”
It is still a lot of airtime to fill, especially during the summer months when there are no high school sports to carry the burden.
“While it definitely will slow down in the summer, this gives us an opportunity for focus more on the track than perhaps Channel 6 has done in the past,” O’Donnell said. “In the summer we’ll probably change our strategy a little bit in regard to the way it’s formatted, to tell more of what’s happening at that time. We’ll always be able to find something local.”
One goal of “Upstate Sports Edge” is to have a special guest for each show.
“In some we will have live in studio,” O’Donnell said. “A majority we probably will pre-record, but the idea would be to feature one guest every single night, whether it’s a coach, an athlete or someone involved in the local sports scene.
“We want to be driven by local sports, but instead of interviewing a coach or an athlete and having to cut that down to a 15-second sound bite, we’ll bring them into the studio and have them tell more of their story, who they are and what they do and how they got to where they are, and have fun doing it. That’s going to be our format moving forward.”
On the opening night of high school football, which will be an area of emphasis for the station, CBA coach Joe Burke has agreed to come in after his game against Shaker “to break down highlights,” according to O’Donnell.
The station pre-recorded a segment with Frank Dyer, the former Shaker High and Notre Dame swim star.
“I jumped into the pool with him, and we raced,” O’Donnell said. “I said, ‘Frank, you’re one of the best swimmers in the country, and I clearly am not, so what handicap am I going to get so it’s entertaining and I hope competitive?’ So he swam up and back with is left arm tied behind his back. I won’t give away the ending, but it was a lot closer than Frank or I thought it would be.
“My first job out of college, I was working at a small station out of Dothan, Ala., and we had a segment called ‘Challenge the Sports Guys.’ I would solicit challenges from our audience, our viewers. If it was a field-goal kicker on the high school football team or somebody who loves paintball or video games, and take that challenge and run with it and just have a lot of fun. This show will give us this opportunity to do those type of things.”
Young reporters Brittany Devane and Jason Lewis, hired from stations in Bangor, Maine, and Abilene, Texas, respectively, will have heavy workloads in the show. They also will split O’Donnell’s former duties as weekend sports anchor — Devane on Saturdays, Lewis on Sundays.
“We’re co-branding our sports across the CW and CBS-6, as the Upstate Sports Edge,” Richards said. “(Sports director) Doug Sherman at 6 and 6:30 and at 11 will also be branded as the Upstate Sports Edge. The stories in the early newscast will be pointing to the show, and the show will be pointing to the 11.”