Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


-- television -- no football wives

US TV - News - ABC drops US 'Footballers' Wives' - Digital Spy

ABC has axed plans for an American version of Footballers' Wives due to potential conflicts with the National Football League. The network and its parent company Disney, which also owns sports network ESPN, carry extensive coverage of NFL games. It is understood that Disney and the NFL raised concerns that Football Wives, as the US version would have been called, would not sit well with NFL coverage on ABC.

Shed Productions is now understood to be shopping the show to other US broadcasters.

You know, what baffles me about this whole extravaganza is that Disney has owned both ESPN and ABC for some years now. Disney owned ESPN back when they were broadcasting Playmakers, a soapy drama about football players that sent the NFL into fits, and which the NFL essentially forced ESPN to cancel.

ESPN cancels show that drew criticism from the NFL and some players
Posted 2/4/2004 5:55 PM

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — ESPN canceled Playmakers after one season Wednesday, ending a show that drew criticism from the National Football League and some players. The show focused on a fictional team and featured plots that included drug use, marital infidelity, racism and homophobia.

ESPN is paying the NFL $4.8 billion over eight seasons for the rights to Sunday night games. League commissioner Paul Tagliabue had expressed concerns that Playmakers was one-dimensional and perpetuated racial stereotypes. "Many considerations went into this decision, not the least of which was the reaction from a longtime and valued partner," said Mark Shapiro, ESPN's vice president of programming and production said.

Playmakers garnered critical praise and was watched by an average of 2 million people each week, five times the ratings the network drew for that time slot the previous year. The show also drew criticism from current players, with Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp refusing to do interviews with ESPN. But by the end of the season players reportedly approached the network to inquire about roles on the show.

Football Wives was based on the British series Footballers' Wives, with UK soccer transposed into American football. Footballers' Wives has had storylines dealing with adultery, bisexuality, homophobia, drug use, racism, sexual harrassment and murder.

Sound familiar?

From the NFL point of view, the problem with Playmakers and Football Wives was not, and wouldn't be, the unrealism. The problem would be that they were entirely too real. After all, we've had two NFL players go to jail this year alone for repeat offenses; Ricky Williams is about to be denied re-entry into the NFL after failing Yet Another Test (for pot, again, of course). We've had players coming out of the closet after their career, and clearly stating that the homophobia was so virulent that they never even conceived of coming out while they played. One player's wife accused him not only of adultery, but of committing it with his best (male) friend, although she later withdrew that accusation. There's even been a murder, although the player who died committed no crime and was in no way to blame. The problem with Playmakers, and the problem with Football Wives is that they would have taken these scandals -- Ripped from the headlines, as the "Law and Order" shows like to put it -- and presented them to us for our delectation, in a nicely cheesy format, just as the NFL was hoping to sweep everything under the rug and present to us its nice corporate face, squeaky clean, new enforcement policies in place to maintain cleanliness, all is right with the world. Can't have some stupid soap opera reminding people that NFL players are human and screw up really badly at times. No sir, just can't have that.

You really wonder what made any division of Disney think that they could possibly get away with it.

I wish Shed Productions great good luck in shipping this to other networks. Every single US network is currently in bed with the NFL in one way or another, either directly or indirectly. NBC has Sunday Night Football, ESPN has Monday Night Football, Fox and CBS have the NFC and AFC games respectively. That leaves just the CW, which is an oddball sibling of CBS, and don't think that the NFL wouldn't point that out, and MyNetworkTV, which nobody watches. On top of that, "Football Wives" would almost certainly skew both too old and too male to match any of the CW's other shows. The only option reasonably open would be to take it to cable. Of those, the only one of the most watched channels that's both nonsports and non-children's programming is TNT -- which, through CW's tenuous attachment to Warner Brothers through the dearly departed WB (Warner) and UPN (Viacom/Paramount) netlets, is also an oddball sibling to CBS. Even so, TNT may be distant enough that the NFL would ignore it; that said, the content is well out of TNT's original series wheelhouse. Maybe they're looking to expand their reach.

Even if it does manage to find its way onto a cable channel somewhere, the question remains: what on earth was Disney thinking?

Posted by iain at 04:34 PM in category television