The Media Learning Curve: All Stapled together before the Super Bowl hype starts

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Andy Holzman/Daily News Staff Photographer
TNT crewmembers meet outside the mobile production trucks as the sun begins to set Monday behind Staples Center before the Lakers-Cavs MLK Day game telecast.

That was Dick Stockton, Reggie Miller, Mike Fratello and Cheryl Miller working the TNT coverage of the Lakers-Wizards snoozefest from Staples Center on Thursday night. Marv Albert was probably just as happy being on the road with the New Jersey Nets, his home-team employer, since he took the Thursday off from the TNT crew. He instead did Monday’s Lakers-Cavs game, with Doug Collins and Craig Sager, in a “Wife Swap” sort of arrangement that we were privy to behind-the-scenes, hanging out with the TNT NBA crew at Staples Center that afternoon and evening and using it to fill almost two full pages of today’s sports section (read on at this link), there are notes that didn’t make it to tipoff. So they must belong here:

== Magic Johnson has a planned sit-down with Phil Jackson that’ll air during halftime of the Lakers-Spurs telecast on Sunday (12:30 p.m., Channel 7) from Staples Center. Mike Breen has the call with Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters. The ABC doubleheader starts with Boston-Dallas at 10 a.m. with Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown and Heather Cox.

== Staples Center is also the site for Saturday’s Antonio Margarito-Shane Mosley welterweight championship bout, which HBO carries live (Saturday, 7 p.m.) with Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Emanuel Stewart.

== More Staples Center: It’ll be the site for the World Figure Skating Championships in March. Leading into that is NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships from Cleveland this weekend — find the pairs and women’s events on Channel 4 on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. (live) and 9 to 11 p.m., then the men on Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. The Olympic figure skating broadcast team of Tom Hammond , Scott Hamilton , Sandra Bezic, Tracy Wilson and Andrea Joyce.

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== Major League Soccer, played locally at the Home Depot Center — owned by the same folks who run Staples Center — apparently doesn’t have enough juice to carry its own TV night, as ESPN2 decided to cancel its regular Thursday night game this coming season. Instead, it’ll spread things out, with Thursday the predominent night (10 times) but also on Saturday (eight times), Wednesday (six times) and Friday (three times).
“We didn’t see the kind of ratings climb we’d like to, so we’re trying something different,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN vice president of programming, in the Sports Business Daily.
MLS games averaged 0.2 rating on ESPN2 in both ’07 and ’08. The only bump it received was David Beckham’s second game with the Galaxy in Aug., ’07 — a 0.6 rating.
ESPN starts the third year of an eight-year rights deal that pays the league $8 million a year.
What could be more distrubing to those who run the MLS is that ESPN is more interested now in getting the U.S. TV rights to the English Premiere League, which outdraw MLS games nearly five to one in American homes, according to a report in Soccer America magazine. Fox Sports Channel and Setana have those U.S. rights currently.

==GolTV, which bills itself as “the only live bilingual channel for 24/7 soccer,” announced a new deal for the U.S. and Canada broadcast rights to Brazil’s most prominent soccer league, Campeonato Brasileiro, starting in April.

== The NFL Network has Bob Papa, Mike Mayock, Charles Davis, Lindsay Soto and Paul Burmeister covering Saturday’s Senior Bowl from Mobile, Alabama (4 p.m.). Go here (at this link) to see Soto interview USC coach Pete Carroll, who showed up to watch practice where six of his former Trojans are competing — but not Mark Sanchez, of course.

== Versus trots out Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Bob Harwood and Brian Enblom for the NHL All-Star game in Montreal (Sunday, 3 p.m.), followed up by a special edition of “Sports Soup” at 6 p.m. Saturday’s skills competition airs at 4 p.m.
Do it all outdoors, and we’ll reconsider.

== Versus hopes to hold its NHL audience with coverage of a live World Extreme Cagefighting event between Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. When these two battled in June, ’08, nearly four million viewers watched on Versus — more than tuned into the MTV Movie Awards (in the men 18-34 age category at least).

==Reaction to the news that ESPN will add former Mets GM Steve Phillips to its Jon Miller-Joe Morgan “Sunday Night Baseball” crew starting this summer was more interesting than the actual announcement. Maybe it was done to give Morgan a chance to figure out what he’s really saying makes no sense (go to this link for more on that). Maybe it helps pull Peter Gammons off the road and make it easier on him in the studio. Perhaps, an effort by ESPN to bulk up its baseball coverage now that it has the MLB Network to contend with? Phillips has the content to carry a baseball broadcast, which is interesting considering his background. He has a feel, particularly, for current players that Morgan, alas, seems not so interested in.

== The San Diego Padres hired Mark Neely as their new TV play-by-play man. His previous broadcast experience: In the minor leagues, at Boise, Springfield, Salem, Tulsa and Louisville. So it appears you can replace Matt Vasgersian with high-caliber substance.

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== And if you needed one more thing to watch on Sunday without the NFL: The last round of the Pro Bowling Association’s H&R Block Tournament of Champions from Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas airs live at 10 a.m. on ESPN, when most are in the $3.99 breakfast buffet. Rob Stone and Randy Pederson call the pin action. Or, just pop in the “Kingpin” DVD and laugh it up, Murray-style.
Why isn’t Bill playing at the Bob Hope event in Palm Desert this weekend?

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