Networks out in full force for hearing

NEW YORK -- In a sign of the intense media spotlight that
awaits him, six cable TV networks provided live coverage Wednesday
of Kobe Bryant's brief court appearance on the sexual assault
charge against him.

The cable news networks -- CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC -- were
joined by Court TV, ESPN and E! Entertainment Television to monitor
the NBA star's appearance in Eagle County court in Colorado.

"All this media coverage for two words," said MSNBC's Keith
Olbermann, a former sportscaster who cut short his vacation to
anchor his network's coverage. Bryant addressed Judge Frederick
Gannett once in waiving his right to a quick hearing.

A few hours later, Bryant appeared on Fox in prime time to
accept a Teen Choice Award as favorite male athlete. The awards
show was taped Saturday.

"We're flying through some dark clouds," the Los Angeles
Lakers guard said. "With God's will, the sun will rise and shine
again. Thanks for your support, thanks for your prayers."

The Los Angeles-area audience cheered Bryant, although some boos
were audible. Bryant, wearing a Muhammad Ali T-shirt, briefly gave
a clenched-fist salute and also flashed a peace sign.

The court appearance led the sports network ESPN to bring in
former CNN legal expert Roger Cossack for analysis, and E! to
briefly stop talking about hairstyles and celebrity dating -- proof
Bryant's celebrity cuts across several worlds.

The quick, procedural hearing tested the TV networks' ability to
think of things to say. Fox News Channel discussed the meaning of
Bryant's wife's absence. Court TV dissected his clothing. And
Olbermann, broadly reaching, connected Bryant's exit in an SUV to
O.J. Simpson's Ford Bronco.

CNN talked about the crowd that shouted at Bryant as he left the

"Kobe Bryant was greeted with cheers and boos as if it were, in
fact, forgive the expression, a sporting event," anchor Lou Dobbs

Court TV measures public interest in the case not just in
ratings, but in how much its anchors and reporters are in demand to
come talk about the case on other networks, said Court TV president
Art Bell.

The network expanded Catherine Crier's nightly newscast for the
hearing and scheduled a prime-time documentary on the case.

It's a fascinating case that not only delves into the nuances of
what is or isn't sexual assault but puts a spotlight on how society
treats sports heroes, Bell said.

"I think there is a whole lot of interest," said Mark Effron,
vice president of live news programming at MSNBC. "It's one of
those stories that is the nexus of a lot of different points."

Familiar faces from past big trials made reappearances
throughout the television day, including Jeffrey Toobin and Nancy
Grace on CNN and Dan Abrams on MSNBC. Fox News Channel showed a
picture of its satellite truck to illustrate a segment on the
attention given to the case.

Bryant's legal troubles have pushed aside, at least for a time,
cable news' previous obsession: the Laci Peterson murder case from
California. A reporter MSNBC recently hired to cover the Peterson
case, Sumi Das, was sent to Colorado instead.