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Will ESPN Blink After Comcast Makes Play for NHL?

August 15, 2005 12:00 AM

The puck is in ESPN's court this week as it ponders whether or not to match Comcast's $100 million, two-year offer for the rights to carry National Hockey League contests on cable. ESPN executives have referred to the NHL as a "damaged" property after the extended lockout that iced the 2004-05 season. That view is reflected in the fact that the price Comcast has teed up is lower than the $60 million-per-year option ESPN did not pick up, which is what let Comcast into the rink in the first place. Comcast plans to put the NHL on its OLN network, even though professional hockey is rarely an outdoor sport. (Think Lance Armstrong would look good in skates?) And while Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has scoffed at suggestions that the cable company would use the NHL as a building block to create its own big-time sports network, the notion of NHL games and NFL games on OLN might be enough to convince ESPN to plunk down cold hard cash. -JON LAFAYETTE

The Answer Is 'Jeopardy!'

Answer: "Jeopardy!" Question: What game show swept the Game Show Congress' first-ever awards for outstanding achievements in the genre? King World's syndie stalwart is being recognized by the group this weekend in no fewer than five categories: best traditional game show, game show of the year, outstanding performance by a runner-up, producer of the year (Harry Friedman) and, of course, contestant of the year-the phenomenal Ken Jennings. The nonprofit Game Show Congress, dedicated to promoting the game and quiz biz, is holding the powwow-its fourth annual-Friday through Sunday in Glendale, Calif. Aside from bringing together game show producers, hosts, former contestants, wannabe contestants and just plain fans, GSC is out to raise funds for a game-show-glorifying library and museum to be built in-where else?-Truth or Consequences, N.M. The congress is honoring longtime game show hosts (and brothers) Jack Narz ("Dotto," "Concentration") and Tom Kennedy ("You Don't Say!" "Name That Tune") with Bill Cullen career achievement awards. The legendary Monty Hall ("Let's Make a Deal") will be recognized with the Ralph Edwards Award for career community service. For info: www.gameshowcongress.com. -TOM GILBERT

'Scene' Setters

The three "CSI" incarnations are all top-rated prime-time series. When it came time to promote them for Emmy consideration, however, the key was to determine how the shows differ. It was the job of the YesDesignGroup of Los Angeles to differentiate them for Emmy voters. "We try to treat them equal, but not the same," said Lori Posner, president of YDG, a marketing, branding and design firm that helmed nine "For your consideration" Emmy campaigns this year and garnered 15 nominations, including four for "CSI." To separate the procedurals YDG highlighted the distinct moods of the "CSI" cities on DVD mailer packaging: the noir Las Vegas setting of "CSI"; the South Beach hipness of "CSI: Miami"; and the city-as-character idea of "CSI: NY." The packaging for "CSI" is a cube printed with neon-colored words, such as "decipher" and "analyze," that unfolds to reveal two discs and a strip of crime scene tape. "CSI: Miami's" package includes a series of sleek white cards, each featuring a word taken from a review of the show. "CSI: NY's" box unfolds vertically to reveal a gritty cityscape. "[YDG] has a lot of fun, but the Emmy packaging is very serious business and we treat it that way," Ms. Posner said. "It's interesting to work on a franchise that has to have brand consistency and yet really convey specific and different messages."-NATALIE FINN