Random thoughts and news items as I prepare to surrender the TV Sunday to my wife and mother, who is coming up from Philadelphia for Mother’s Day.
- We are 98 days away from the launch of FOX Sports 1, the new 24-hour sports channel that will replace the Speed Channel. On Thursday, FOX Sports gave us a glimpse of what the opening day of the channel will look like on Aug. 17. There will be plenty of NASCAR and Ultimate Fighting Championship programming that day.
At 8 a.m. that day, “NASCAR Live” will kick off the network. There will be a NASCAR Truck Series race at 12:30 p.m. In fact, the first 71⁄2 hours of the network’s
debut will be dominated by NASCAR programming.
UFC programming takes over at 3:30 p.m. That will lead into a UFC card starting at 8.
At 11, the sports news program “FOX Sports Live” will have its first show. On Monday, FOX Sports announced the hiring of Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, who have anchored The Sports Network’s “SportsCentre” in Canada since 2005. They have been compared to former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchors Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann in terms of being humorous and irreverent.
FOX Sports announced three hires on Thursday: Don Bell, Molly McGrath and Julie Stewart-Binks.
Bell, who will be an anchor on “FOX Sports Live,” spent the last three years as an anchor for ESPNEWS.
McGrath was the sideline reporter and in-arena host for the Boston Celtics this season.
Stewart-Binks joins FOX Sports from Canada’s CTV. Prior to CTV, she was a reporter with FOX Soccer for the FOX Soccer Report in Winnipeg.
- On Aug. 19, the Regis Philbin show “Crowd Goes Wild” starts at 5 p.m. That will be followed by “FOX Football Daily” at 6 with co-hosts Curt Menefee and Jay Glazer. At 9, it will be “FS1’s Monday Night Fights.”
UEFA Champions League soccer matches will make their FS1 debut Aug. 20. Nine days later, FS1 will televise its first college football game.
On Thursday night, I saw on NFL.com that Arizona Senator John McCain is trying to get legislation passed to lift NFL blackouts.
The main idea behind the bill McCain introduced, called the Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013, is to help consumers purchase the channels they want to watch and not be forced to take channels they don’t want on their system.
Included in the bill is eliminating NFL blackouts. If a team can’t sell out its home game 72 hours before the contest, then the game can’t be seen on TV in that market. McCain wants it to pass, especially if a team had its stadium funded by the taxpayers.
“When the venue in which these sporting events take place has been the beneficiary of taxpayer funding,” McCain told the Los Angeles Times, “it is unconscionable to deny those taxpayers who paid for it the ability to watch the games on television when they would otherwise be available.”
It’s a nice cause, but it has about as much of passing as me winning a Pulitzer Prize.
- Speaking of the NFL, country singer Carrie Underwood was named the new singer for the opening of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” on Tuesday.
Underwood replaces Faith Hill, who had sung the opening since 2007.
“I am thrilled to be a part of NBC’s ‘Sunday Night Football,’ and am so honored they asked me,” said Underwood. “I have always loved football season, and it is so exciting to now become part of it every Sunday night.”
- NBC Sports’ Kentucky Derby coverage last Saturday attracted 16.2 million viewers, making it the second most-watched Kentucky Derby since 1989. It’s the third time in five years that NBC has gotten over 16 million viewers. A total of 18.5 million watched the 1989 Derby on ABC.
The viewership for the race was up 9 percent from last year’s Derby (14.8 million), and up 12 percent from the 2011 Derby (14.5 million), according to official national data provided to NBC Sports by The Nielsen Company.
- The first round of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament gets under way today. The big game that Capital Region fans will be interested in is UAlbany’s matchup at Denver. ESPNU and ESPNU HD will have the game tonight at 7:30.
ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will have a pair of games over the weekend. It will have Lehigh at North Carolina today at noon, and Cornell at Maryland at 12:30 Sunday.
The rest of the games will be on ESPNU and ESPNU HD. Today’s other games are Yale at Penn State at 2:30, and Detroit at Notre Dame at 5. On Sunday, it’s Towson at Ohio State at 3, Loyola (Md.) at Duke at 5:15 and Syracuse hosting Bryant at 7:30.
- Finally, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four semifinals are heading to cable TV.
TBS and CBS Sports jointly announced Tuesday that the 2014 and 2015 semifinals will be on TBS. CBS will still televise the championship game in those years. Starting in 2016, the networks will alternate Final Four coverage. TBS will televise the semifinals and final in 2016, 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2024. CBS will have it in 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2023.
Also, beginning next year and running through 2024, coverage of the regional semifinals and regional finals will be split by TBS and CBS. Earlier round coverage of the tournament will continue to be televised across four national television networks — CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV, with the First Four airing exclusively on truTV.