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Through the Wire

7/08/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

Contributors: Steve Donohue, Mike Reynolds, R. Thomas Umstead

Out Goes a Foxx, In Comes a 'Friend’

Matthew Perry has a tough act to follow when he hosts the upcoming ESPY Awards show on ESPN. He succeeds Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, who brought the house down with his skits during the ESPY ceremonies last year and in 2003.

But if Perry conjures up the kind of one-liners he gave reporters on an ESPYs conference call Thursday, the former Friends star should do fine.

Why is ESPN running the ESPYs on tape delay, shooting the ceremony on July 13 and airing the show four nights later?

“I think it’s tape delay rather than live, just to make sure we don’t make any mistakes,” Perry said, responding to a reporter’s question. “We were looking at the seating chart, and we placed a lot of the jockeys behind the basketball players,” he added, noting that the delay would “fix problems like that.”

Another reporter asked, “Are there going to be many costume changes?”

Replied Perry: “Three or four. I’ll be wearing a nice suit at the beginning, and segue slowly into scuba gear.”

Is Perry concerned about following in the footsteps of Foxx, who after his ESPYs stint won the Oscar for best actor for his role playing Ray Charles in Ray? “I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to do that, but hopefully I’ll be able to do a good job, and hopefully as a result win the best actor Academy Award,” Perry said.

ESPN will shoot the ESPY ceremony on July 13, at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. It will run the program on July 17, at 8 p.m. Among the celebrities scheduled to attend are Jessica Simpson and the cast of Home Box Office’s Entourage.

No Gambler, Paul Lee Wins With Williamses

While the English have been known to plunk down a pound or 10 on Wimbledon results, ABC Family head Paul Lee, a Brit, spoiled some stereotypes for a Wire reporter.

“No, and I wasn’t drinking or smoking in some pub and watching the match either,” said Lee, asked if he had placed a wager on Venus Williams winning the recent fortnight. “I was watching with my two sons, very early in the morning in Los Angeles. We were so excited, the boys more so than me.”

Lee had plenty to feel giddy about. “We kind of already made a winning bet,” he said, referring to Venus & Serena: For Real, a six-part reality series bowing on the network beginning July 20. Filmed in April and May, it follows Venus, now a five-time Grand Slam winner, and younger sister Serena, who has won seven slams, onto and off the court.

Lee says Venus is more reserved but both sisters are “oozing with personality. It’s just that Serena’s a little more noisy with it. But what you see in the show is that Venus is no less determined to win. You get to see her grit and determination, working on her game and running on the beach. We knew she was quite fit going in [to Wimbledon].”

Serena was nursing an injured ankle, and cameras captured her spending plenty of time with what Lee identified as “her not-the-best-behaved-dog” Jackie.

Last week, ABC Family was trying to obtain footage of Venus’s Wimbledon exploits for promotional purposes. Either way, the show will receive plenty of publicity at the upcoming Television Critics Association press tour and as the Williams sisters make the rounds on Good Morning America, Live With Regis and Kelly and the like.

As for his own game, Lee has played some grass-court tennis.

“Usually barefoot with my brothers,” he said. “That’s about as close as I came to Wimbledon.”

Regional Sports Nets Salute Troops on 4th

Fox Sports Ohio spent part of its July 4 broadcast day saluting our armed forces around the world with a special primetime, commercial-free broadcast of the Cleveland Indians-Detroit Tigers Major League Baseball game.

Between innings of the game, carried worldwide by the American Forces Network, FSN televised as many as 65 personal messages and greetings from loved ones cobbled together from the various FSN regional sports networks, network officials say.

Service members were also able to communicate to family via as many as 300 e-mail messages sent to the network during the game, many of them read on the air.

The players even joined in, signing jerseys after the game for delivery to soldiers, sailors and Marines out of the country. And Indian Travis Hafner went one better: An e-mail from the troops of 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Platoon Alpha 1-41FA Tikrit asked the designated hitter to sock a home run for them, and he complied in the eighth inning.

Overall, the telecast generated an 8.0 rating, 31% better than FSN Ohio’s 6.1 average for the season.

We Take Our Martinis With Gin, Not Vodka

Now that a consortium led by Sony Corp. has acquired MGM Studios Inc., Sony Pictures Television has taken over as the domestic distributor of both studios’ video-on-demand and pay-per-view product.

Recently the marketing and licensing team at SPT trumpeted the new distribution arrangement by sending a gift package to its main clients including In Demand, DirecTV Inc., EchoStar Communications Corp., Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable.

The gifts invite clients to “Be Cool and celebrate the Hitch,” tying in two of the studio’s big July titles.

Each package contained a silver ice bucket, two martini glasses, a red cocktail shaker and a stylish card with contact information for the new team — all branded with logos from the two films.

With the James Bond movies now part of Sony’s library, the martini premiums could inspire clients to live out their own scenarios using 007’s favorite phrase, “Shaken, not stirred.”

June