In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on August 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm

On Brett Haber…

A few random thoughts on the departure of Channel 9 sportscaster Brett Haber, who announced a few weeks ago he was leaving the station to pursue other opportunities, particularly in the field of sports play-by-play.

For one, Haber was never one of my favorites. I thought there were times he came across on the air as smug and slightly condescending toward his audience, perhaps one reason he was never able to gain widespread popularity in the market.

Don’t get me wrong. He was prepared, he usually asked good questions and he tried to do the best he could despite his constantly shrinking minutes on the air, especially at 11 pm. Maybe it was just me, but I never felt he added very much to the discussion, maybe because he hardly ever had the time.

Haber cited the diminishing importance of sports coverage in local newscasts as one of the reasons for his decision to look at greener pastures. It’s been a national trend for most of the last 10 years, given the rise of local and regional sports networks that can give viewers 30 minutes of sports news and highlights every night, compared to Haber’s two or three minutes.

But other people in the industry I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks also had another theory as to why he’s leaving Channel 9. One highly connected source speculated that Haber’s contract was probably up, and the powers that be at the station were not prepared to match or exceed the financial terms of his expiring deal, if only because sports coverage will not be a major priority at the station in the years to come.

Rather than take a substantial pay cut, the source said, Haber may well have decided he could do better elsewhere, while also pursuing his passion for play-by-play announcing on a larger stage, like the Tennis Channel.

That being said, Haber should also be saluted for taking on petulant Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder a few months ago, strongly criticizing Snyder’s frivolous lawsuit against an unflattering City Paper story over the air. Maybe Haber knew he would be leaving the station anyway, but going head-to-head with the owner of a team that could make it very difficult for Haber to do future business was a gutty decision on the sportscaster’s part.

On Rupert Murdoch…

Here’s another reason to take a heavy shot at media mogul Rupert Murdoch, in addition to the mostly unfair and unbalanced Fox News Network and current English phone-hacking scandal that involved one of his trashy tabloid newspapers.

Last week Fox Sports, another Murdoch property, announced it has reached an agreement on a seven-year deal to air mixed martial arts on the Fox network and FX cable. They’ll have four shows on Fox and 32 on FX, including an Ultimate Fighter reality television show.

MMA followers would like to think the so-called sport has come a long way from its brawling, bloodbath days of old. But whenever I happen to surf in to a match, why does it always seem as if one guy has the other guy in a headlock and keeps pounding away at his face? It’s still a street fight, and really unfit for national television, especially when you recall the words of Fox Sports chairman David Hill to USA Today in 2008.

In explaining why his network would not air MMA at the time, Hill told the paper “what’s totally abhorrent about it—and I’ve said this to people running it—is that one guy will be down and the other one can keep hitting him.”

Now however, Fox will pay the Ultimate Fighting Champion ship organization $100 million annually to air the carnage, and Hill has clearly changed his tune.

The importance of this deal is the 18 to 34 year old make demographic that wavers and moves on” to other televised choices, Hill told USA Today. “There’s no yesterday in TV. (It’s) all about the next big thing.”

This is the next revolting thing. Shame on Fox, which apparently has none.


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