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Daily News, Los Angeles, Tom Hoffarth column

TMCNet:  Daily News, Los Angeles, Tom Hoffarth column

[August 17, 2012]

Daily News, Los Angeles, Tom Hoffarth column

Aug 17, 2012 (Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Rick Neuheisel was about to hop into a makeup chair at the Pac-12 Network studios in San Francisco on Thursday morning when the moment hit him as he looked in the mirror.

"I mean, for God's sake, what's happened to me " the 51-year-old with perpetual beach boy looks said with a laugh. "I'm never going to get used to this. I'm just a pig with spats." Last summer, when Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott officially announced that the conference would embark on its own TV network and multimedia venture, Neuheisel was about to start his fourth season as the UCLA head football coach. He could only imagine how this concept would help with things like nationwide exposure and future recruiting.

Before he knew it, Neuheisel was being recruited by the network.

Fired by UCLA in November, he was a Pac-12 employee by March. When the network launched Wednesday, he was on the set with Ronnie Lott and Summer Sanders as the new faces and voices of this thing.

So far, not so bad, Neuheisel said.

"I know I'm new at all this, so maybe I'm not the best to judge it, but there wasn't a fire, and nothing blew up," Neuheisel summed up the first day of his newest TV career. "I did talk to my sister in Arizona, and she said there were some glitches when maybe the sound went out or something, but I'm sure when you're starting anything like this, there'll be growing pains." Neuheisel recently joked to network general manager Lydia Murphy-Stephans that if someone's resume requires that "you've either been fired or booed by every team in the conference, then I'm your leading candidate," noting his head coaching jobs at Colorado (before it was in the Pac-12) and Washington from 1995 to 2002, prior to coming back to his alma mater at UCLA in 2008.

Throw in the fact he grew up going to Arizona State games -- his dad taught at the school -- and got a law degree from USC, and Neuheisel could have one of the Pac-12 regional channels named after him.

When Neuheisel got a taste of media work recently on the New York-based CBS Sports Network last fall, he couldn't believe how the Pac-12 always seemed to get the short end of conversation.

Not any more.

"TV has its own language -- there's the A block, the B block, the C block when you're doing segments at the start of the show," Neuheisel said. "Gosh darn it, the Pac-12 was always in the F block, way in the back, just four or five minutes, enough time to maybe cover two teams, and that's it.

"We don't have to take that anymore -- it's like we're in that Twisted Sister video. We've got all kinds of storylines in this conference. No producer in my ear telling me to wrap it up before we start talking about something in the Pacific Time zone.

"You wonder how the SEC became so powerful It's a direct correlation to how ESPN has been talking them up over the years, because they have a financial interest in them. So all the sudden, it's a monster conference." For the record, ESPN is invested in the Pac-12, having signed a rights deal in partnership with Fox Sports that covers 12 years and $3 billion for the conference. Neuheisel still isn't convinced that's enough to make a network like ESPN change its focus.

"I think they just want to be competitive in all the time zones, but we're still not given the same amount of attention as the SEC or the Big Ten. Watch '(College) Game Day,' and the Pac-12 will get one block, and it's usually just about USC or Oregon." When the Pac-12 Network became the new kid on the block, it set up operations not far from the conference's Walnut Creek offices with a staff of about 120 people. Strangely, it didn't take advantage of the media operations experience in Southern California, where far more technical talent is available.

Not that Neuheisel will complain much about having to jet up to the Bay Area for his on-camera work, leaving his new family home in Manhattan Beach. His son, Jerry, starts his freshman year at UCLA as a quarterback.

Neuheisel also has a media gig with SiriusXM's College Sports Nation channel, and finds himself on the USC campus today for a live afternoon show while watching the Trojans practice.

That could get interesting once USC coach Lane Kiffin spots him.

"This (Pac-12) network is an exciting venture, but it's really bittersweet," Neuheisel admitted. "It's disappointing this time of year not to be in a training camp, especially when you're given what I thought was not the requisite amount of support at UCLA.

"I take full responsibility for not moving the needle as far as getting more wins, but you need a partnership at this level, and there has to be a commitment, and that wasn't the case." Maybe that's the kind of stuff he can work into a midseason analysis of the 2012 Bruins if they get off to a slow start under Jim Mora What might have NBC learned from 17 days in London For some of us, the NBC Olympic hangover lingers.

As of late Thursday morning, we hadn't got out of the habit of flipping on an NBC cable channel while still in bed, wondering if the event was actually live in London, grabbing the laptop to punch up NBCOlympics.com to verify our suspicions, finding something else more interesting on a video stream, frustrating ourselves as it buffered and froze, flipping over to KNBC-Channel 4 to see a breast fly out of a swimsuit during a women's water polo game (after further review, yes, it happened), reluctantly trying to stick with Bravo for some tennis but hearing Pat O'Brien fumble as he tried to volley a hip Gore Vidal reference, then searching out CNBC for women's boxing.

In the end, we realized we were the punch-drunk viewer and the afternoon was gone. Next up: Five hours of delayed prime-time.

Did NBC learn anything from all the viral complaining It could be fooled in believing its fool-proof, money-making template still works, since prime-time viewership smashed the competition even as Los Angeles (18.8 rating/35 share) and New York (18.2/31) lagged in the middle of the 54-market survey at Nos. 23 and 26 respectively.

Sadly, the only regret that NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus seems to have was that not enough was tape delayed in prime time, telling Ad Age magazine that the men's basketball gold-medal game and men's tennis final between Andy Murray and Roger Federer (which aired live on a Sunday) could have been candidates.

"We have to balance what we're trying to do for viewers across the country and our business model," he said, seeming to admit the two don't always align, to the determent of the consumer.

NBC's own research seems to prove that showing an event live, and then packaging it delayed in prime time, could work. Now it has to convince advertisers.

WHAT SMOKES == Susan Stratton's recognition by the Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards in receiving the Governors Award for lifetime achievement last weekend could not have gone to a more deserving person. Producing and directing the Lakers' telecasts for KCAL-Channel 9 from 1977 to 2006 made her practically attached to the late Chick Hearn for most of that time, shaping him as well as one of the most beloved sports voices in the city's history. The Emmy folks made note of Stratton as "a trailblazer for women in the televisions industry (someone) who broke down barriers in the industry by being the first women television producer and director for a professional sports franchise in the United States." WHAT CHOKES == Although both NBC and CBS have announced plans to launch a nationwide all-sports radio network soon -- an advertisement-driven venture linked to their coverage of the NFL in trying to get on as many media platforms as possible -- information about how that will penetrate the L.A. market has been sparse. Translation: There's no urgency to find a home for it either yet in this non-NFL market. Some guess that the NBC network, launching after Labor Day, could eventually worm its way on the Clear Channel-owned KTLK-AM (1150), flagship station for the Kings. CBS says it has at least 90 stations nationwide for its January launch, including WFAN in New York, WSCR in Chicago, KNBR in San Francisco and WIP-FM in Philadelphia. While CBS owns a FM real estate in L.A., sources say it's most likely going to work best at KFWB-AM (980), home of the Clippers. In either case, competition for ESPN's KSPN-AM (710) and Fox's KLAC-AM (570) could be a welcome respite, particularly at certain early afternoon and later-night hours.

More media notes on the blog: www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth And follow Tom Hoffarth's pathetic attempts on Twitter: twitter.com/tomhoffarth ___ (c)2012 the Daily News (Los Angeles) Visit the Daily News (Los Angeles) at www.dailynews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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