Cleveland sportscaster Bruce Drennan discusses his new sports
talk show on SportsTime Ohio during a press conference Tuesday
at the studios of WKYC. (West Life photo by Kevin Kelley)
Ohio gears up to go 24-7 in second season
By Kevin Kelley
Published March 21, 2007
Last year, Jim Liberatore had only six weeks to get
the Cleveland Indians new television network, SportsTime Ohio, up
on the air. During that time, the Bay native had to negotiate agreements
regarding carriage of the network with several cable and satellite
companies as well as put together an announcing team and production
the network’s president, succeeded on getting the network up before
the first pitch. This year, he’s working on things he didn’t have
time to even think about a year ago. Like putting the network on
24 hours a day.
we were on the air last year, I don’t even feel like we’ve started,”
Liberatore said. “To me, April 1 is the start....We’re 24-7 and
this is the start for us.”
is concentrating on improving the Indians broadcasts and expanding
the channel’s programming.
telecasts are going to look completely different this year,” Liberatore
told West Life. “From the talent, to the graphic look, to the different
things we’re going to do during the game, because now we’ve had
time to plan for it.”
and Matt Underwood will broadcast the games on STO. Mike Hegan moves
exclusively to radio alongside Tom Hamilton. The contract of John
Sanders was not renewed.
“We wanted people
who were in the community who could also get involved with all of
our ancillary Indians programming,” Liberatore said. “I think it’s
a better chemistry, actually.”
will anchor an update desk to keep track of key Central Division
games. And Jim Donovan will provide play-by-play for the 20 games
carried on WKYC-TV. All other games except one, which falls into
FOX Sport’s exclusive Saturday afternoon window, will be on STO.
And all home games and all WKYC games will be broadcast in high
A new graphics
package will offer a crisper look to the games, Liberatore said.
And a graphics company called Sports Media, which NBC Sports used
on its Sunday Night NFL games to show close-up shots, will provide
Tribe fans with binocular-like looks as close plays.
“We will have
that zoom capability for close plays at a bag,” Liberatore said.
Plenty of new
technology will allow the armchair manager to analyze the game.
A batter’s “spray chart” will show where players tend to hit the
ball. And an in-depth pitch tracker showing speed and location will
be included in Tribe telecasts.
will be rebroadcast during the overnight hours as well as the next
day at noon.
the goal is to give Tribe fans information and insight they can’t
get anywhere else.
“I think the
productions are going to be more informative, more entertaining
and more fun than they’ve ever been,” Liberatore said.
manager Eric Wedge has agreed to provide special access, Liberatore
said. “We told him we’d like to occasionally get ‘behind the curtain’
so to speak, and he’s agreeable to do things like that,” he said.
“All they have
to do now is contend,” Liberatore joked. “We’ve got it all covered.”
Beyond the Tribe
coverage, Liberatore wants the channel to reflect the viewpoint
of the average fan at home.
The STO Web
site will be a big part of the network’s relationship with the fans
and eventually allow people to upload their own sports videos, Liberatore
the heyday of WMMS’ popularity in the 1970s to early 1990s in describing
his vision of how he wants SportsTime Ohio to be perceived.
“It was the
cool channel,” he said of the album rock radio station. “It was
Cleveland’s channel. The Buzzard (logo) was one of the most recognizable
bumper stickers out there. We would like to foster that exact kind
of relationship where we are this region’s network.
are that you or a family member of a friend or someone has somehow
participated with this network beyond just watching it,” he said.
“You’ve been online. You’ve participated in a poll. You’ve sent
your videos in. You’re on TV because you’re a high school athlete.
We really want to touch as many people in Cleveland as we can.”
A 3 to 6 p.m.
sports talk show — a “pre-pre-game show” for Tribe games —will be
key to STO’s connection to the fans, Liberatore said. STO announced
yesterday that longtime Cleveland sportscaster Bruce Drennan, who
recently served a five-month prison sentence for filing false tax
statements after not reporting sports gambling revenue, will be
the host. The show’s title? “All Bets Are Off.”
STO is also
planning an “American Idol”-style sportscaster talent search.
“There’s a ton
of talented sports talk guys,” Liberatore said. “There’s just not
many new Cleveland sports talk guys. So we want to find and identify
a new one.”
be involved and even be part of the voting. The winner will get a paid daily talk show, Liberatore said.
“We want to
be very heavily viewer interactive,” he said.
being developed is “Ohio Top Ten,” a “Sports List”-style show reviewing
the states 10 best trades, games, players and such.
fans are know nationally for their loyalty, Liberatore said. Therefore
STO’s focus will be on local sports.
“It’s all local.
If it’s Ohio, it’s going to be us,” Liberatore said.
will expand its non-baseball programming with more high school sports;
Cleveland Browns coverage; college sports including Ohio
State, John Carroll University and Youngstown State
games; and more boxing and wrestling. And this summer STO plans
to begin carrying games of Ohio minor league baseball teams.
who previously worked for the Madison Square Garden sports network
and was president of SPEED Channel, said running a network that
focuses solely on Cleveland sports fans is a great opportunity.
“We really want
to deliver for the fans and do some great programming,” he said.
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