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Media column: Marlins ratings plunge; NFL/Fins TV changes; radio news; new ESPN movies

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Asking and answering media queries from the couch:

### How precipitously have Marlins’ TV ratings plunged?

Even more than the drop in attendance. Last season, through late June, 2.3 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with TV sets had tuned into Marlins games, on average, on Fox Sports Florida.

This season, through late June, it was less than half that: 1.1 percent per cablecast, equal to a 1.1 rating and 17,832 homes.

Conversely, regular-season Heat games on Sun Sports averaged a 7.14 rating in Dade/Broward this past season, or 115,747 homes per cablecast. That's more than three times the 2.0 average Marlins rating for all of last season.

The good news for Fox on the Marlins' front? Tuesday's Braves game produced a 2.2 -- the highest Marlins rating this season. So the team's recent surge --- and the end of the Heat's playoff run --- are helping lure at least some viewers back. And Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton continue to do good work.

### Who’s replacing fired Dan Sileo on WQAM’s UM football postgame show?

Former Hurricanes and Ravens cornerback Duane Starks, who assuredly will not spew the type of venomous rants that cost Sileo his UM gig.

Sileo, meanwhile, continues his on-air audition on WMEN-640 this week. General manager Steve Lapa said he will create a weekday slot for Sileo if there’s positive feedback to his work.

### What NFL broadcast changes can we expect this season?

Fox won’t name a No. 2 announcing team behind Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, but look for the network to give marquee games to a new broadcast pairing: play-by-player Kevin Burkhardt, a New York Mets TV reporter who has called NFL games on radio and former NFL safety John Lynch, who teamed with Dick Stockton last season on Fox. They often will be joined by Erin Andrews, who will do NFL sideline reporting regularly for the first time, in addition to anchoring Fox’s college football studio show.

After the regular season, Fox will decide which broadcast team will work the playoff game that Buck and Aikman do not. Burkhardt and Lynch have a good shot if they’re as good as Fox expects.

Last year, Fox – for the first time in many years – didn’t give a playoff game to Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa, instead choosing Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick.

But Billick unraveled late in that assignment, first by oddly and illogically suggesting that Seattle – at the Atlanta 28 and down by six with 44 seconds left – might consider kicking a field goal and then trying an onside kick. After the game ended, Billick said Seattle won. (Uh, no, Atlanta did.)

CBS has better depth among NFL game analysts: Phil Simms, Dan Dierdorf, Dan Fouts and Rich Gannon, in particular.

But Lynch has potential. Working with Stockton, he displayed a willingness to criticize and a more pleasant delivery than Johnston’s repetitive, humorless, cliché-ridden approach.

Other changes: Ray Lewis joins ESPN's studio....Ronde Barber is in line to replace Lynch as Stockton’s partner on regional games… Scott Pioli, dumped as Kansas City Chiefs general manager, joins the cast of NBC’s Sunday night studio show.

### With Stockton unable to do the Dolphins’ preseason TV package this year, what do you think of Jesse Agler getting the gig?

I like the move. Agler, who anchors the Dolphins’ weeknight radio show on 940-WINZ, was alert and detailed in his call while filling in for Jimmy Cefalo on a few preseason games on radio. He’s viewed as a potential long-term option to succeed Cefalo, but he needs to ace this assignment to remain so.

### What’s going on with Fox’s search to replace Tim McCarver, who is leaving the job after the World Series?

No front-runner has emerged, but Harold Reynolds and Eric Karros will be among those considered. Reynolds has revived his career at MLB Network after being fired by ESPN for sexual harassment in 2006. Two former Braves – John Smoltz and Chipper Jones – also would be worth auditioning.

Smoltz, whose commentary is cogent but a bit wordy, recently was demoted from TBS’ lead team to its No. 2 team. (Ron Darling was promoted to Fox’s lead group, with Cal Ripken and Ernie Johnson Jr.)

### Speaking of TBS, will the Keith Olbermann/Turner marriage last longer than some of his other jobs?

The talented but temperamental Olbermann has a history of burning bridges --– he left ESPN, Fox, MSNBC and Current on less than good terms.

But he might be able to stick around for awhile as TBS’ new playoff baseball host because the gig consumes less than 30 days a year – Olbermann cracked that all of his jobs have lasted at least that long – and, frankly, he’s running out of networks that will hire him.

“This is perfect for me on many different levels,” he said. “Baseball is my passion. Last season, I did this at home to the TV by myself. Now there will be people watching.”

### What does ESPN’s decision to eliminate its 3-D network mean about the platform’s future?

It could spell the end – at least for the foreseeable future – for use of the technology on televised sports. 3-D remains popular in theatres; 36 movies were released in 3-D last year, with revenues flat. But with the evolution of high definition television, TV viewers have shown little appetite to wear special glasses to watch sports.

### What are some of the movies ESPN plans to roll out in its newest “30 for 30” installment?

The Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard rivalry will be chronicled Oct. 1, and a November debut is scheduled for “The Whack Heard Round The World” – retelling the story of Tonya Harding arranging to have rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan clubbed in the knee during a practice session before the 1994 Olympics. “The Bad Boys,” reflecting on the Isiah Thomas/Bill Laimbeer/Rick Mahorn Detroit Pistons, is due out next spring.

Two others ESPN films in production that intrigue us: On former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, who served prison time for robbery; and John Spano, who somehow gained control of the New York Islanders in 1996 before being exposed as a con man who grossly exaggerated his net worth, then served two prison sentences for fraud.

For some non-media, on-field news items, please see the last post.

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