WNBA on Lifetime takes shot at hooking casual female fans

Media Watch

July 02, 1998|By Milton Kent

From a seat in the Boston Garden, Amy Rosenfeld watched Edmonton's Petr Klima score the winning goal in overtime of the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals opener against the Bruins and she cried.

For a true sports fan, such a reaction is understandable, but Rosenfeld said that's exactly what she doesn't want to bring to Lifetime's coverage of the WNBA, which she produces.

"I produced Red Sox games for a year," said Rosenfeld, a Boston native, "and sometimes it [sports] becomes like part of your being. I've always struggled with keeping things in perspective about the importance of games, and I've tried not to make this so do-or-die."

Rosenfeld and Lisa Seltzer, who works alongside Rosenfeld as director on the Friday night telecasts, are presented with the challenge of televising a sporting event to Lifetime's predominantly female audience, which might be as interested in the life stories of the participants as the final score.

And while neither deliberately sets out to do a "women's" telecast, both are cognizant of who is watching, and how they watch.

"I don't think that I consciously cut the game differently," said Seltzer, who has directed NHL games for ESPN. "I try to make the game accessible and make the game come to life, but do I linger a little longer on a player's face and leave biographic information on the screen a little longer when they're on the line? Maybe I do."

Said Rosenfeld: "We know we have the rabid women's basketball fan, but it's these other people whose eyes are on Lifetime that we hope we can grab that might not be incredible sports fans, but care about human beings and their struggle on and off the court. They want to care about these people and we want them to care about them."

That certainly makes for an unconventional sports telecast.

For instance, during a recent Washington Mystics-Utah Starzz game, announcers Meghan Pattyson and Reggie Miller chatted each other up with famous D.C. landmarks as a backdrop for a full three minutes before the telecast even moved indoors to the MCI Center for the conventional establishing shot of a crowd cheering and players warming up. Included in the halftime program is a segment where the questions of little girls are answered by WNBA players; again, something a bit off the garden sports telecast path.

Seltzer and Rosenfeld, who first worked together last December on Lifetime's telecast of the United States-Canada women's hockey exhibition, also head a production truck that is overwhelmingly female. Only a couple of tape operators and audio engineers are men, and the feel within the truck is not exactly Lilith Fair stuff, but is certainly less tense than most.

"Egos seem to be put on the back burner," said Seltzer, who was working that 1991 game that Rosenfeld recalled. "No one seems to be trying to one-up the other. This is the first time I've ever been in a truck with so many women and it's hard to know whether it's the specific women, the women in general or what, but it's a good blending of people."

'Partners' in crime

One of the under-noticed aspects of the NBA lockout is that the league brokered into its new television contract with NBC and Turner a pledge that the television entities would pay their rights fees whether there was a season or not.

If the lockout wipes out the season, the owners will have to return the fees at the end of the contract, but the payments could dampen the ardor of the ownership and the league to come to the bargaining table in a swift fashion, now couldn't it?

If the lockout goes on for an extended period, one wonders what incentive, beyond monetary, the players would have for cooperating with either Turner or NBC for interviews, promos or the like after things are settled, knowing that the networks climbed into the league's tent when the chips were down.

A down-home match

To prime the pump for Saturday night's prime-time race, CBS (Channel 13) offers up country crooners Brooks & Dunn in a one-hour 50th anniversary salute to NASCAR at 8 tonight.

"NASCAR: 50 Years on the Fast Track with Brooks & Dunn" will not only give the pair a chance to perform some of their hits, but also provide them some sit-down time with such racing talent as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace.

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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