With the upcoming U.S. Olympic trials in track and field, gymnastics and diving, and the Wimbledon tennis championships, the distribution of sports programming on multiple levels will be available on a wide scale.
This week, NBC Sports and World Championship Sports Network, which provides streaming video of Olympic sports year-round on the Internet, teamed up to create Universal Sports. Network executives hope that a combination of NBC's expertise in directing, production and distribution, and WCSN's online Olympic sports programming will make Universal Sports an Olympic sports fan's favorite, especially after the Summer Games in Beijing.
"I think this is the greatest chance to grow, leading up to the Winter Games in Vancouver," said Claude Ruibal, chairman and chief executive of WCSN. "There's a lot of great competition in the United States. Michael Phelps has competed in 36 swim meets and won 14 gold medals."
Ruibal added that Universal Sports would like to expose younger viewers to the less popular events such as fencing, skiing and curling, and also allow their athletes "a real opportunity to get the consistent exposure they deserve."
On the grass courts at the All England Club , nearly 100 hours of tennis will be available on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com, the network's broadband service, starting early Monday.
Although Roger Federer is favored to win his sixth Wimbledon title, he's not an overwhelming choice, according to Patrick McEnroe, who will be part of ESPN's broadcast team. "There's some real doubt," McEnroe said during a media conference call this week, "especially after the beating he took at the French Open." Rafael Nadal defeated him in straight sets in the French final.
Dick Enberg will share play-calling duties with Cliff Drysdale. McEnroe, Mary Joe Fernandez, Mary Carillo and Darren Cahill will add analysis and commentary.
ESPN announced that its ratings for the French Open were up 24% over last year.
Other events worth viewing this weekend:
Baseball, Angels at Philadelphia (today, 4 p.m. FSNW; Saturday, 4 p.m., FSNW; Sunday, 10:30 a.m., Channel 13). The Angels continue interleague play with three games against the NL East-leading Phillies, then travel to Washington to play the Nationals. The Angels' last visit to the nation's capital was in 1971; Richard Nixon was president and the Senators were getting ready to move to Texas, where they would become the Rangers the following season.
Baseball, Cleveland at Dodgers (today, 7:30 p.m. Prime; Saturday, 12:45 p.m., Channel 11; Sunday, 1 p.m., Prime). Although they play in different leagues, the Dodgers and Indians have something in common: Both clubs will be moving from Florida to new spring-training facilities in Arizona next year. After the Cleveland series, another future Cactus League opponent comes to town, the Chicago White Sox.
Gymnastics, U.S. Olympic trials (Saturday, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 6:30 p.m., Channel 4). From Philadelphia come the flips, twirls and tumbles for the coveted positions on the team that will go to Beijing. The leading contenders for the men include the Hamm twins, Paul and Morgan; reigning U.S. champion David Durante; and 2006 U.S. champion Alexander Artemev. On the women's side are world champion and two-time U.S. champion Shawn Johnson; two-time U.S. champion Nastia Liukin; 2005 world all-around champion Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone.
Diving, U.S. Olympic trials (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon, Channel 4). Laura Wilkinson, who won a gold medal at the Summer Games in Sydney eight years ago, tops a splashy lineup at Indianapolis that includes David Boudia, Thomas Finchum and two-time Olympian Troy Dumais.
Golf, Travelers Championship (today, noon, the Golf Channel; Saturday and Sunday, noon, Channel 2). The TV networks and the PGA Tour go on without Tiger Woods, beginning at the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
Auto Racing, NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350 (2 p.m., Sunday, TNT). The Sprint Cup Series comes to California wine country, specifically the road course at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. hopes to make it two consecutive wins after a vintage victory last weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Formula One, French Grand Prix (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11). Fox switches from stock cars to open-wheel racers. Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett call the race.
Boxing (Saturday, 9 p.m., Showtime). Undefeated IBF middleweight champion Arthur Abraham and challenger Edison Miranda meet in a rematch at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a bout that's delayed on the West Coast.