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ESPN Hopes Viewers Rally Around New Idea

ESPN's owned-and-operated X Games suggest what sports might be like if TV, rather than just underwriting sports, owned them.

On its X Games rally car racing Sunday, ESPN reporters will ride along. Literally.

Rally car racing normally can stretch for dozens of miles. At the X Games in Carson, Calif., heats will run 2 miles through a stadium - after ESPN, overnight, bulldozes away 1,000 truckloads of dirt it brought in for motorcycle events - and its parking lot. Usually, rally cars have "co-drivers" serving as navigators since drivers aren't allowed to see courses in advance. But there's no need for such front-seat drivers on the made-for-TV short course. So two people who've been co-drivers - Chrissie Beavis and Jen Horsey - will ride along strictly as ESPN analysts. X Games producer Phil Orlins suggests "they'll be the ultimate firsthand observers." The big picture, he adds, is that ESPN kept the sport's "great drivers and cars but made it into 1 hour, 45 minutes of live TV."

On tap: CBS will formally announce today that its College Sports Network will debut a new weekly college football show Sept. 8. As if there's a shortage of on-air sports yak.

But, says CBS' Mike Aresco, who'll oversee The Tony Barnhart Show, the program will be "a throwback, almost a retro show." It won't be "highlight-driven, and there'll be "no frill, no fancy stuff."

Aresco says Barnhart, a CBS college football reporter and ex-newspaper writer, will talk to a guest - and guests might include, say, college presidents -for a half-hour in the hourlong show, and topics might include lack of black coaches and academics. And the show includes this throwback: "We've thought about doing an Andy Rooney-type segment."

TV power: Power can be nebulous. In mediaite.com's "power" rankings of TV reporters - compiled from Google and blog buzz as well as TV airtime - ESPN's Erin Andrews ranks No. 1. Also-rans include CBS' Morley Safer (fourth) and Mike Wallace (fifth).

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