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PSU gets Lions’ share of exposure

It’s been a good few weeks for Penn State football — arguably the best midseason publicity run in program history.

It might not rival bowl performances and national championships, but in terms of consistently good news and high visibility opportunities, it’s hard to top three consecutive games on ABC and a starring role in HBO’s “24/7 College Football” series.

Penn State’s back-to-back primetime games at Iowa and against Michigan at home Saturday night made it the focus of national attention two weeks in a row. Anyone watching ESPN at almost any time of the day the past two weeks saw an ad in the lower righthand corner of their screen promoting Penn State’s matchups. That’s a good thing.

And next week’s game at Michigan State will be the team’s third in a row on ABC. It airs beginning at 3:30 p.m.

For many fans, where a game airs might not matter, but there is a difference between ABC, ESPN, Fox or some other member of the ESPN family (ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS). Simply put, the network (ABC) typically draws more viewers than the cable channels. So that means more exposure for Penn State.

Plus, games on ABC usually mean better quality broadcasts and more competent on-air talent than those on Fox. Actually, Fox’s top broadcast team is talented and respected but the approaches to game coverage between the networks differ greatly.

One covers the game and the other seems to conduct a three-and-a-half-hour-long entertainment show with a football theme.

Along with the good ABC exposure, the HBO episode was about all that could be expected — in a positive way — for Penn State. The college football series was mostly about getting to know a program and its people. It was framed as an all-access, behind-the-scenes look and Penn State looked good in the final product.

There were personalities, strong images and even a little news — with coach James Franklin at one point noting his desire to be the first African-American coach to win a national championship. Still, it was mostly a feel-good infomercial as opposed to some controversy seeking piece. As a result, it boosted the the program’s generally strong public perception.

While some associated with the program might want to script ways to garner attention and make news, there’s no way anyone could’ve scripted what has happened in the past few weeks for Penn State.

It’s been positive in almost every way.

Two 30s

ESPN’s growing and ongoing relationship with UFC produced a sports documentary as part of its “30 for 30” series last week.

“Chuck & Tito,” focusing on popular former fighters and one-time friends Chuck Liddell and Tito Oritiz, drew strong reviews from critics and it could be the first of more documentaries in the series that focus on MMA.

That’s because the sport produces characters (and good stories are about people), and because cameras have been trained on the combatants for years, which provides a fertile repository of video for any such efforts.

Another scheduled movie in the “30 for 30” series was pulled and will not air next week as planned.

“Down in the Valley” focuses on the Sacramento Kings and efforts to keep the team from moving out of the city. However, former NBA standout and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has been the subject of recent allegations, and he’s a key figure in the film. So, it will remain on the shelf for a while.

World watching

Fox Sports will televise the World Series beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Subsequent games will be Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and, if necessary, Oct. 27, 29 and 30.

Baseball coverage from Fox Sports typically serves fans well, with Joe Buck handling play-by-play duties, John Smoltz as color commentator and reporters Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci atop a deep and talented on-air roster.

Tuner tidbits

n Must be about time for the NBA regular season to tip off, right? Because it feels like all NBA on broadcast partner ESPN at times. And it has not all been reporting about the controversy in China.

n Local news still draws decent viewership in our region, especially as a lead-in to network newscasts. So it’s interesting to me how channels craft their newscasts and what they value. It seems that more hyper-local and original topics, high school sports and features, for example, would be attention-grabbing and interesting. At the same time, the default and generally easy access to Penn State often makes stories from campus more prominent, regular content.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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