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Sports Titles Heat Up Fall

18 Oct, 2001 By: John Jimenez

October is traditionally a big sports month. The baseball postseason is in full swing, the NFL is well under way and the NBA is beginning its preseason. And studios like USA and Q Video are making sure fans have the opportunity to own their favorite sports moments on video.

Major League Baseball has had one of its biggest years in history: the Seattle Mariners tied a major league record by winning 116 games; Japanese phenom Ichiro Suzuki became an overnight sensation; Rickey Henderson broke Ty Cobb's all-time runs record; Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs; and Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn played their final games. And that only scratches the surface.

That seems to be plenty of fodder for Q Video, holder of MLB video rights. The company is responding by releasing Cal Ripken Jr.: The Ironman's Legendary Career on VHS Nov. 27 at $14.95 (prebook Oct. 31).The title follows the career of one of baseball's most beloved stars. Ripken has been wearing a microphone much of the year to chronicle his final season, which was highlighted in ESPN's television show, “The Year.” Q's Ripken video is a contrast to that show.

“Our video is all career highlights with a little footage of the last year and behind-the-scenes footage sprinkled in,” says Don Spielvogel, director of sales and marketing for Q Video.

Ripken will be advertised in trade magazines and on “This Week in Baseball” and “Baseball Max,” with some help from Cal himself.

Q's other big baseball title is Unhittable: No-Hitters, Perfect Games & Near Misses, which explores the greatest pitching performances in the last 50 years, and came out Oct. 16. The VHS sells for $14.95 and the DVD for $19.95.

“[Unhittable] is packed with really exciting footage,” Spielvogel says. “It's all MLB footage with a little of the talking heads mixed in.”

Some of the title's footage examines great plays that have saved no-hitters and a look at unlikely pitchers who achieved the feat.

The DVD also presents longer versions of the title's interviews and the final inning of all seven of Nolan Ryan's no-hitters.

Q Video is also releasing the traditional World Series video, this year day-and-date on DVD for the first time.

Spielvogel says there are no plans for a Barry Bonds home run video, despite the Sosa/McGwire video that came out after the previous home run record fell in 1998, but the company does have plans to release a retrospective of the historic year.

“We're trying to figure out the best way to present that material,” Spielvogel says.

USA Home Entertainment, which owns the rights to the other big three sports leagues, has some major plans for NFL titles on DVD.

USA plans to release four recent VHS titles — 21st Century NFL Follies; The NFL's Hard-Hitting Grooves, a music-driven title targeted to 12- to 22-year-olds; 50 Greatest Quarterbacks; and NFL Match-Up of the Millenium, which simulates match-ups between the greatest NFL teams ever — on DVD Oct. 30 at $14.95 each.

“The purpose of that is to build the NFL library on DVD,” says Sal Scamardo, USA's v.p. of business development and sports. “We wanted to have some low price-point titles out there available for DVD.”

Two new titles are also being released Oct. 30 (VHS, $14.95; DVD, $19.95). NFL Insider is an in-depth look at the NFL, featuring players like Marshall Faulk and Peyton Manning, while NFL: The Greatest Highlights of Hall of Famers, with DVD bonus features including home pages offering biographical information on every member of the Hall.

The Superbowl video comes out three weeks after the big game day-and-date on VHS and DVD.

“Going forward, you'll probably see less and less of us going back into the catalog [for DVD] and more and more new releases, and those will have the bells and whistles,” says Scamardo. The catalog NFL titles are virtually the same as their VHS counterparts.

One of USA's biggest sports titles is Ultimate Jordan, streeting Oct. 23 on DVD for $26.95. The title has more than six hours of footage, including five previous Jordan films with additional footage spanning his whole career, a feature covering his old Nike commercials and a trading card gallery, allowing viewers to trace Jordan's career through his trading cards.

The title will be promoted with a major Web presence, in print magazines, and through tie-ins with Nike and Electronic Arts.

Scamardo also expects heightened interest in the title due to Jordan's latest return to the NBA from retirement.

However, “We thought that the video would have done well by itself even if he didn't return,” Scamardo says. “Michael Jordan is the biggest-selling sports video guy on the planet.”

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