Summer is fast approaching and MSG Network is preparing a programming block party.
Leveraging assets that are part of parent Madison Square Garden Inc., in particular the New York Knicks and Rangers, as well as library and archival fare, MSG Network will host themed programming nights, beginning the week before Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer.
The "Summer Block Party" will showcase two new original series, TXT MSG and MSG Countdown, new episodes of MSG Vault, Game 365 and Halls of Fame, plus an array of hit concerts and classic movies, as the regional sports network schedules around the absence of traditional warm-weather hallmark from its lineup: Major League Baseball.
"We've been doing this for a number of years now and are expanding our lineup to a seven-day platform," said Dan Ronayne executive vice president and general manager of MSG Networks. "We think this lineup has broad appeal."
Ronayne said the season gives MSGN a chance to shine."We had 74 [New York chapter] Emmy nominations and 16 wins, with much of the acknowledgement for this kind of entertainment content," he said. "It's something we've become known. Summer is a great time to showcase our creative talents"
Ronayne also reported that MSGN had sold presenting sponsorship packages to a pair of advertisers, replete with a significant amount of inventory within the night each will support. Negotiations are under way with other interested parties. "Our team is selling each night. We hope to have everything settled by the first week of June," he said, noting the packages include integrated components.
Premiering May 24, TXT MSG will meld portions of vintage moments from the MSG library, including games, press conferences and locker room celebrations. Throughout the half-hour show, quirky and entertaining details relative to each clip will appear on-screen in the form of text messages, giving viewers a contemporary look into some of their favorite moments in and around The Garden.
"Think Pop-up Video. These elements will add new context to some memorable events at MSG," said Ronayne, who points to such oddities as sports radio talk show host Mike Francesa chatting with the late Al Lewis of The Munsters fame on MSGN's former Live from the Play By Play show. He said that Lewis was not only good at playing Grandpa on the sitcom spoof, but had an eye for hoops as a college scout.
"Classic Mondays" will also feature new installments of MSG Vault, gleaned from over 90,000 tapes, including "MVP! MVP! MVP! Willis Reed & 1970 NBA All-Star Game," "The Pearl and the Magician" and the fifth game of the 1970 NBA Finals. New installments of Game 365 and Halls of Fame, feature Fran Healy interview top sports personalities, are also on tap.
With "Countdown Tuesdays," beginning May 25, the RSN will be home to the new MSG Countdown, which will play through the top 25 moments in different categories. "For the Knicks, it's the top buzzer beaters," said Ronayne. "For the Rangers, we'll have some of the best fights."
Immediately following the half-hour program, Countdown In 60 - one-hour versions of MSG games -- will feature the No. 1 moment from the preceding MSG Countdown. The network will also reprise 50 Greatest Moments, featuring Matthew Modine celebrating the 50 most important moments at the" world's most famous arena
MSGN will air 14 half-hour episodes of each MSG. TXT and MSG Countdown. Ronayne said "three or four are in the can. So, these are going to be fresh as they're produced." Content will be also be available on MSG.com, where voters will have a chance to shape the countdown episodes with their votes.
"Boxing Wednesdays" relives top matches from the 1930s through the 1980s, like the1951 encounter between Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis and the 1965 tussle of Floyd Patterson and George Chuvalo. There will also be Golden Gloves action, including six new fights, and a spotlight shone on eight of Irish star John Duddy's nine matches.
"Knicks Thursdays" not only feature 60-minute takedowns of classic games, but Knicks Poetry Slam, a six-part series of a spoken word competitions involving hundreds of students. The show, premiering May 27, features the 13 top poets who won more than $350,000 in scholarships and prizes.
"Music Fridays" showcases top concerts from Led Zeppelin, John Mayer, The Grateful Dead. Kanye West and Jay-Z, among others, at MSG-owned venues, The Garden, Radio City, Beacon and Chicago Theatres. There are also performances from the from Fuse Fest: Bonnaroo 2009 from Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Phish, Pearl Jam, Snoop Dogg, O.A.R, Metallica, Death Cab for Cutie, Kings of Leon, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Buffet.
Emerging artists will also get to gain exposure on MSG's Indie NYC - powered by Baeblemusic.
Meanwhile, MSGN will go cinematic on the weekends with such theatricals as The Endless Summer, Vision Quest, That Championship Season, One on One, Hoosiers, Diggstown, Ruffian, Paper Lion, Rocky, Without Limits, Rollerball and Everybody's All American.
"For the most part, the movies are connected to sports, but obviously they touch on bigger themes," said Ronayne. "This is the best group of films we've licensed thus far."
Asked if there's a documentary in the mix about a certain high-profile, free agent basketball star that New Yorkers would love to see don the orange blue, starting with the 2010-11 NBA season, Ronayne rejoined: "We have an entire night devoted to the Knicks. We don't have anything specific right now, but we'll see after July 1."
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