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ESPN Reveals New Shows, Still Uncertain on Playmakers

The future of football drama Playmakers is still unclear, but ESPN expects to make a decision on the show by early March.

ESPN senior vice president of original programming Ron Semaio said the network is taking the National Football League’s objections into consideration as it debates the show’s future.

"We are not in the business of antagonizing our partners or rights holders," Semiao said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles. "Clearly we have offended them and we are taking that into consideration."

Series executive producer Orly Adelson, who is also executive producing an original movie for ESPN about late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, said she hopes the series gets a second season. "We set out to do a good series and a fictional series."

ESPN is determined to stick with scripted drama. In addition to a series pilot from filmmaker Spike Lee based on his movie He Got Game, Semiao is looking at several other projects and may have some news in about a month. ESPN is angling to eventually air two original series per year a window from June to November. If Playmakers returns, Semaio said it could be ready for September 2004. He doesn’t expect another new series to be ready before June 2005.

Meanwhile, ESPN is pushing ahead with original movies. The network has slated 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story for summer 2004. With Pete Rose making headlines, ESPN unwrapped plans for a biopic about the disgraced baseball legend. Hustled: The Pete Rose Story is in development and could be ready as soon as October. The script is based on Major League Baseball’s report on Rose’s alleged gambling on baseball and, because of that, Semaio said he doesn’t expect objections from MLB on the project.

Other movies in development include Four Minutes, about Roger Bannister’s breaking of the four-minute mile in 1953; The Bob Delaney Story, a biopic on NBA referee Bob Delaney who as an undercover agent infiltrated the New Jersey mob; West Point Scandal, based on a Sports Illustrated article, looks at the 1951 Army football team cribbing scandal; and October Men, based on a book by baseball author Roger Kahn, recalls the New York Yankees storied 1977 and 1978 seasons.