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Sports Media

Staying dialed in, on several fronts

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / December 2, 2011
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Considering all mediums while wondering whether Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino agree on who should be Heidi Watney’s replacement . . .

■The manner in which the news broke Tuesday night that the Red Sox had chosen Bobby Valentine as their next manager stands as more evidence of the irresistible immediacy of social media.

At approximately 6 p.m., ESPN “Baseball Tonight’’ anchor Karl Ravech sent this message from his Twitter account, @karlravechespn: “Sources say Lamont no longer a candidate to be Red Sox manager.’’ Given Ravech’s credibility - not mention the fact that he was a colleague of Valentine’s the past two years - it was easy to conclude that he had good information.

Less than an hour later, Channel 5 sports anchor Mike Lynch nailed it down - and he too delivered his report through Twitter, @LynchieWCVB: “Red Sox and Bobby Valentine have reached a verbal agreement for him to be the next Sox manager.’’

That two TV guys turn to Twitter when they have news is no longer a surprise, but it is a reminder of how much and how fast the protocol has changed.

■While there is a certain other job opening at NESN that has generated more buzz - is it really possible that fans are more disappointed by Watney’s departure than Jonathan Papebon’s? - it should be noted that the network has filled its position of online Red Sox reporter, tapping Didier Morais, most recently of the Houston Chronicle.

■So about that other gig. Here’s what we do know regarding NESN’s search for Watney’s replacement. Erin Hawksworth, formerly of Channel 25 and currently covering sports at the Fox affiliate in Seattle (and sister of Dodgers reliever Blake Hawksworth), has auditioned and is regarded as the current favorite.

Mansfield native Jen Royle, currently covering the Orioles and Ravens in Baltimore, had a well-received audition at NESN Monday. Molly Sullivan, perceived as the front-runner early in the process, is out of the running.

And for those of you who have asked, neither Comcast SportsNet New England’s Jessica Moran nor Channel 25’s Kristine Leahy (the unfortunate victim of Bill Belichick’s scorn during his press conference Wednesday) have been approached by NESN or indicated interest in the job. NESN is hoping to fill the position by early January.

■When all is said and done, Terry Francona and Valentine could end up in a virtual job swap. While Valentine is settling in as Francona’s managerial successor with the Red Sox, an industry source said ESPN is seriously pursuing Francona to add to its roster of analysts.

Francona, a relative novice at broadcasting, was widely praised for his understated, humorous, and informative two-game stint filling in for Tim McCarver on Fox during the Rangers-Tigers American League Division Series.

Fox is also hoping to hire Francona, who is longtime friends with play-by-play voice Joe Buck.

The hunch here is that Francona ends up at ESPN either in a studio role or alongside Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser in Valentine’s former role on “Sunday Night Baseball.’’ Francona said on WEEI yesterday that he will probably “cross that line’’ into media. “Unbelievable, isn’t it?’’ he said.

■Ty Law and Troy Brown have developed into superb analysts, particularly when they’re paired on Comcast SportsNet New England’s Patriots programming. The longtime teammates banter effortlessly and bring Patriots insight that comes only with firsthand experience.

■The concept of “NESN Daily’’ as a personality-driven show was ill-conceived from the beginning, and original hosts Jade McCarthy and Uri Berenguer had the chemistry of casual acquaintances in the process of realizing they had nothing in common.

So the network deserves acknowledgment not only for revamping a format that clearly wasn’t working but particularly for making some out-of-market hires who have proven to be assets.

Dara McIntosh and Jamison Coyle look like keepers. But it’s anchor/reporter Randy Scott, who arrived last year from WINK in Fort Myers, Fla., who has proven to be the biggest asset with his sharp writing and easy manner.

■When is football also a marathon? One answer to an admittedly ridiculous riddle: When you’re a broadcast team in charge of calling six games in one day.

Gary Tanguay and Scott Zolak will again gamely call all six MIAA Super Bowls tomorrow at Gillette Stadium, beginning at 8 a.m. The first three games will air on Comcast SportsNet New England. The latter three will be on Channel 38, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The first four games will also be simulcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

■The Bruins didn’t lose a game in regulation in November, and the month was similarly successful for NESN. The regional sports network averaged a 5.3 household rating on its Bruins game telecasts, the best single month since it began airing the team’s games in 1984.

Five of the seven highest-rated regular-season games in the team’s NESN history came in November, with the matchup against the Sabres Nov. 23 setting a record with an 8.4.

Overall this year, Bruins broadcasts have averaged a 4.5 rating, up 70 percent from this time last year.

■An NBC Sports Group spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the possibility - feel free to call it a likelihood - that the Dec. 18 matchup between the Patriots and Broncos would be flexed into the network’s “Sunday Night Football’’ slot.

Rules on flex scheduling stipulate that the decision must be made at least 12 days before the game. In all probability, an announcement will come Monday or Tuesday. Currently, the Ravens and Chargers are slated for the Week 15 matchup.

Not quite as appealing to a national TV audience as Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow, is it?

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.

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