Play Stephen Colbert’s new celebrity pickleball on Sports Frenzy TV
Stephen Colbert has a new game that many TV networks might want to play.
With the anger and demand for sports programming growing by the day, CBS has teamed up with Colbert and Fanny O’Day to produce The Celebrity Tournament that will air on November 17. Viewers of “Battle of the Network Stars” in the 1970s – but it has serious implications for an industry that increasingly relies on sports in all its forms.
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In Pickle, Colbert joins sportscasters Bill Raftery and Carrie Champion to comment on the oddball games involving everyone from Sugar Ray Leonard to Will Ferrell and Emma Watson. According to Colbert, who began playing racquetball in January, competitions for the taped tournament are intense: “You can’t get a full job in Hollywood unless you’re competitive, and these guys are running out of blood at all times.”
As well as networks that may broadcast such programs. In an age when more people are turning to live broadcasts, sports are the only category that seems to be able to draw audiences into linear television. the problem? Sports rights fees have grown from being prohibitive to high, and many traditional media companies are pushing themselves to the financial edge to keep live games on their screens.
With that in mind, the networks are looking beyond traditional league play. Found Warner Bros. Discovery some attraction with “The Match,” a popular golf tournament that often features the best soccer players. Nickelodeon of Paramount Global piloted the “Slime Cup” golf event last summer. “It’s really about controlling and owning versus renting intellectual property, which is what networks typically do with live sports,” says Daniel Cohen, executive vice president of global media rights consulting at Octagon, an Interpublic Group sports management company.
Pickleball was about to become something of a national pastime. More than 4.8 million people in the United States play the sport, up 39.3% over the past two years, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
Colbert says its appeal comes from the fact that anyone can play. “You really get the feeling that the best pickle ball player in the world is twice as good as the worst pickle ball player,” he says.
The participants in the “Pickle” took the charity contest seriously. “I think Emma Watson would surprise a lot of people,” Colbert said. “Dirx Bentley is going to have some tricks up his sleeve.”
The combination of comedy and sports also attracts Funny or Die, which rivals Netflix and TikTok for eyeballs. “The thing about the sport is that if you’re doing it right, people want to stay around and see who wins,” says Joe Farrell, chief creative officer of Funny or Die. “Pickle” may give a boost to people who like to laugh. Comedy fans can find it everywhere, whether it’s in specials on Netflix or podcasts on TikTok, which makes the task of producing a viable comedy show all the more challenging, Farrell suggests. One solution: Make jokes part of a game.
Even Colbert learned some lessons from the movie Pickled. When he’s live on The Late Show on CBS, he basically knows where the show is supposed to go. But with sports, no one can predict where the event might take the masses. “It’s extraordinarily complex and difficult,” he says. “There are so many items, so many cameras.”
Maybe it’s worth it. Both Colbert and Farrell say they are open to doing more events like this, possibly linking tournaments to holidays or special causes. As long as athletic programs are required, the two may have to keep swinging.
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