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After 20 Years, ‘Real Sports’ Still Hits Hard

At a dinner last week celebrating his 20th year as host of HBO’s sports magazine show Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, veteran TV journalist Bryant Gumbel said the show’s mission to cover the issues, personalities and controversies of the sports world hasn’t changed since its launch in 1995.

And, in Gumbel’s view, that keeps his Peabody Award-winning show unique.

More than 220 episodes and 28 Sports Emmys later, Gumbel said that not enough of today’s sports media outlets are as committed to delivering hard-hitting, investigative news stories as Real Sports is.

“I still think what passes for sports coverage is sadly sycophantic,” the 67-year-old Gumbel told The Wire during the dinner at New York’s Aureole restaurant. “Obviously there are exceptions — I’d like to see more exceptions — but the money has become so big now and there’s so much competition that it’s di_ cult for a show that’s interested in pursuing truth to find subjects to do it with, because they all have their own networks.”

Gumbel called the athlete-supported The Player’s Tribune website a shining example of the new sports outlets that blur the lines of news, social media and public relations. On that site, athletes post their own stories and videos in an effort to talk directly to the fans.

“This is what it’s come to?” Gumbel said. “That’s where you go to tell your story? And we’re supposed to believe that? The version [of a story] you want is the one we’re supposed to buy — no questions asked? That’s a bad world.”

As to whether today’s sports media has tainted the viewer’s perception of sports news, Gumbel said he’s not sure the modern viewer “can discern the difference between a well-researched, objective, critical piece and an infomercial. My suspicion is not, and that’s kind of sad.”

Gumbel’s show returns with a new episode on Sunday, Dec. 22.

— R. Thomas Umstead

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Altice Ads Headed to U.S. Airwaves

When European telecom giant Altice gains a foothold in the United States — after completing the purchase of Suddenlink Communications, expected to happen before year’s end — U.S. audiences will start seeing the French telecommunications firm’s ads with its new spokesman, Portugese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is one of the world’s bestknown athletes. At the London premiere of his self-produced year-in-the-life film, Ronaldo, he was given a plaque commemorating his stature as the “most liked” person on Facebook.

Altice said the Real Madrid star’s “speed and power complement the international development of the Altice Group’s core businesses: high-speed broadband (fiber and 4G), content and media.”

Altice ads featuring “CR7” will soon be seen in Portugal, France and Israel, and adapted later in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic and the United States. Altice also is buying Cablevision Systems, for $17.7 billion, but that deal is expected to close after the Suddenlink merger.

— Mike Farrell