Written by Russell Meyer
Published: April 20, 2005 at 9:06 PM
Howard Cosell must be rolling over in his grave, as the American cultural institution that he created in 1970 no longer has enough relevance to deserve a spot on network television. ABC’s sister cable network ESPN won the bid to “score” the weekday primetime NFL telecast for the next 8 years for a whopping $8.8 billion. While MNF has been a losing venture for ABC over the past few years, despite paying John Madden a cruiser full of dough to try to revitalize the franchise after the Dennis Miller debacle, Disney is keeping the broadcast in the family. NBC/Universal cleaned up the scraps after the dust settled, by snatching up the NFL Sunday night broadcast for 6 years at a paltry $3.6 billion. In the process, NBC also scored the rights to 2 Super Bowls and playoff games through the duration of the contract. In turn, Disney loses its share of the playoff kitty, and is just left with the irrelevant Pro Bowl, traditionally held in Hawaii a week after the Super Bowl. Robert Iger’s first official decision as Disney boss would initially have to be classified as a big disappointment. Not only did Disney overpay to renew MNF, but they’re moving it to cable, where the built-in viewership disadvantage of about 15 million households will assuredly continue the franchise’s ratings decline. The loss of playoff and Super Bowl broadcasts, which can easily make up for standard broadcasts in one fell swoop, is huge, and ESPN is going to have to work really hard to just maintain the disappointing ratings ABC was scoring on Monday nights. The first decision ESPN needs to make is on a broadcast team. Rumors are flying as to who will occupy the new MNF booth, and surprisingly very few of them revolve around the current broadcast team of Al Michaels and John Madden. In fact, most industry experts have NBC stepping up to grab Madden to pair with Bob Costas using the money they were able to save in the Sunday night steal. Not only is it a sad day for Disney, but I think it’s also a sad day for the NFL who has just handed broadcast rights over to a network whose best football production in the past 10 years was of a league owned by Vince McMahon (XFL). NBC has also been broadcasting Notre Dame college football, the Toyota Gator Bowl, and the pathetically irrelevant Arena Football League, but one could hardly consider any of those games successful broadcasts. ESPN is going to pull out all of the stops to try to re-invent Monday Night Football, but anything short of a miracle is going to end the prestige of prime time professional football.
As predicted by many, Six Flags Great Adventure’s scheduled media day for Kingda Ka has been postponed. Six Flags has stated, “…additional test cycles must be completed before the ride opens.” In other words, we were jumping the gun in trying to rush the tallest fastest roller coaster on earth into service, and the maintenance staff and Intamin AG are not comfortable premiering the ride just yet. A new date has not been set, and information has not been released publicly as to the status of those who won the right to ride on the coaster’s first ride through the Ebay charity auction. It has also not been determined whether or not the Golden Kingdom, which was also slated to open this weekend, will be open despite the non-operational status of its premier attraction. It’s no surprise that this delay has occurred, since the coaster just made a full circuit with only one operating train a couple of days ago. Six Flags, in its desire to grab huge headlines before other major attractions debut in May, may take an even bigger hit than Cedar Point did with Top Thrill Dragster. It was pretty common knowledge that rocket coasters take some intensive testing to get them to work consistently (it took Dragster over a year to run reasonably consistently), so to think that all of that tweaking and testing could be done in a couple of weeks was incredibly short-sighted, and let me be the first one to wag my index finger at them… Bad, Bad Six Flags.
However, in a bit of possitive news for the struggling franchise, Six Flags New England was able to launch its newest roller coaster in semi-grand fashion complete with green and orange confetti and the old guy, Mr. Six himself. Mr. Six’s Pandemonium is not nearly the massive attraction that Kingda Ka is, but at least its opening went off without a hitch. The Gerstlauer spinning wild mouse coaster is targeted at adults and kids of all ages, and appears to be a pretty exciting stock roller coaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if these coasters start popping up at Six Flags parks around the country in the next few years.
Busch Gearing Up
St. Petersburg Times 4/20/05
Both Busch Gardens parks are getting ready to debut two of the most highly anticipated attractions of 2005. I, for one, am extremely excited to take a drive down to Williamsburg next Friday for The Curse of DarKastle premier. Over the past couple of weeks, my mailbox has been full of all things DarKastle, including a DVD trailer of the attraction, and numerous press releases. Needless to say, next Friday cannot come soon enough, and you can expect a huge review of the ride in just a little more than a week. The public opening of the attraction has been officially announced as May 1, 2005, but it is possible that the ride may operate on Saturday, April 30, 2005 on a limited basis.
The Tampa, Florida park will be following close behind, as it will officially debut SheiKra to the media on May 19 and 20, 2005. While I won’t be able to drive all the way to Tampa in three weeks (I’ll be too busy watching Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith), I’m sure reviews will abound on the first dive coaster to be built in the United States. The park has already held a couple of media events to preview the attraction, and it just recently carried its first passengers, including coaster designer Walter Bolliger, the “B” of B&M. Bolliger admits that B&M is not about breaking height or speed records, but providing riders with a smooth ride that mimics the movements of an aerobatic airplane. SheiKra still has a little ways to go before it is ready (the splashdown and queue areas appear to be the farthest from completion), but unlike Kingda Ka, it has already made a number of complete circuits with every train weeks ahead of its official media debut. I’ll have to wait until November to catch a ride on the double-vertical dropping monster, but it will open officially to the public on Saturday, May 21, 2005.