|TBS moves into new era with national game of the week|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 03 April 2008 12:33|
Now TBS wants to be America's Network.
After several years of cutting back its ties to the Braves, TBS begins a seven-year contract of national weekly telecasts with Boston's game at Toronto on Sunday.
Chip Caray and Buck Martinez will be paired as announcers for the game; Caray also will work with Ron Darling during the network's 26 weeks of Sunday afternoon games.
TBS had exclusive coverage of the four division series and the NLCS last season. TBS will televise the division series and the ALCS this season.
The playoffs are the most attractive prize, but the full season of weekly national games also are important as TBS tries to shed its image as a one-team network, a label earned through three decades with the Braves.
``We want to be recognized as a national entity very quickly, and we think we can do that,'' Martinez said Wednesday, when he was at Turner Field to join Caray for a practice telecast.
Still, 30 years with the Braves won't be easily cast aside. Just as some viewers may still turn to TBS expecting to see the Braves, they may have to be convinced over time the network can be the place they turn for a national perspective.
``It's always an uphill fight when you're doing something new and you want to establish yourself, but we think we've put together a team of people who have been around the game who can elevate the game to one of national significance,'' Martinez said.
``I'm confident as people begin to tune in they will accept us of that.''
TBS producer Glenn Diamond says having the division series and NLCS last year was an important first step in establishing a new perception for the network.
``From the standpoint of us being a national entity, I think us having the playoffs last year as a starting point really helped,'' Diamond said. ``Everybody had to go to TBS and they know TBS has done the postseason and the Braves weren't in it. We did all four division series and the NLCS, so that was our coming out party to the national audience.''
Turner Sports spokesman Jeff Pomeroy said the 2007 playoffs provided instant proof of the importance of the national baseball package to TBS.
``The playoffs last year produced the highest ratings in the network's history for any programming,'' Pomeroy said.
``Baseball fans came to us for the playoffs last year. For national fans looking for regular-season games, they have to know to stop at TBS now every Sunday. That's our big challenge with this package.''
TBS helped the Braves build a national following, but now the team's games will be televised to a regional audience on two of Fox's regional channels and the new TBS-owned ``Peachtree TV'' channel.
``I know your hard-core Braves fan outside of the Southeast is disappointed they're not getting what they're used to,'' Diamond said.
The Braves will be back on TBS for an April 20 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but that doesn't mean the cameras or the announcers will focus on the Braves.
``It's not only the Braves that are the great story, it's the Dodgers and Andruw Jones,'' said Diamond, referring to the former Braves center fielder. ``The lure of that is a national story. It's not a Braves story. It's a national story of Andruw Jones coming back to Atlanta.''
The TBS games will be blacked out in each team's home television territory.
TBS also has committed to the Cubs-Phillies on April 13 and the Yankees-Indians on April 27.
TBS has a 20-day window to select games for June and July and must pick August and September games at least 13 days in advance, according to Diamond. He said the network will stick with the normal local broadcast times for the Sunday afternoon games.
There's an abundance of baseball on TV, but Martinez said the goal will be to make the game of the week different.
``Sunday is a special day because its the wrap-up day of the series and you can put things in better perspective,'' said Martinez, the former catcher and Toronto manager. ``Managers' goals are to win the series, and by doing the Sunday games that's going to be a constant theme for us.''