“I Just Died A Little Inside” – Deadline


A promotion for House of the Dragon during last night’s New York Yankees-Cleveland Guardians playoff baseball game on TBS is continuing to draw online eyerolls the day after the stunt.

With parent company Warner Bros Discovery looking to make use of every pixel of promotional real estate, the notion of plugging the Game of Thrones prequel during a widely viewed live event like the Major League Baseball playoffs isn’t a surprise. Fox, after all, has pioneered the notion of wedging network pom-pom moments into its fall baseball coverage. But what mostly soured a vocal assortment of viewers and media watchers was the way the plug was executed.

Bob Costas, who was handling play-by-play duties, introduced the 40-second bit with a setup that was deadpan but resonated to some as earnest, especially among Yankee fans living in a city that has been the epicenter of a number of actual emergencies. “You know, big sellout crowd here, but we weren’t 100% sure this game was going to be played tonight,” Costas said coming out of a commercial time-out. With a final setup — “it’s shocking” — he tossed to Turner Sports colleague Lauren Shehadi.

“Apparently, one of the stars of HBO’s House of the Dragon has decided to take in a ball game here in the Bronx,” she said, as a CGI dragon flapped its oversized wings and appeared to do a flyover above the field. “Officials are hopeful the dragon won’t breathe fire during game play, but we’ll see if he complies.”

Costas, mindful that game action would soon force the end of the segment, wrapped it up with a reference to Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 performance of War of the Worlds, which prompted an actual panic among New Yorkers persuaded the sci-fi disaster tale was actually playing out in the city. “Maybe we’re actually frightening some gullible people, that some Rodan-like creature is hovering over Yankee Stadium,” Costas said. “Do not be alarmed, folks.”

Viewers, particularly media types aware of the cross-promotional effort, were not feeling warm and fuzzy about it. “I just died a little inside,” tweeted Brian Curtis of The Ringer. Katie Nolan, a baseball analyst for Apple TV+ and a former ESPN host wondered, after an extended elipsis, “what was that.”

Craig Carton, who has a daily chat show on FS1 and also co-hosts a drive-time radio show on New York sports talk station WFAN, admitted he’d been fooled by the promo. “I love Bob Costas, he’s one of the great announcers of all time,” Carton said. Based on the announcer’s delivery and credibility, Carton added, “I thought there was something terrible going on.” Only a truly awful scenario — violent crime, a fire, an invasion — seemed the logical cause for such sobriety. Instead, Carton said, “Costas proceeded to walk us through one of the dumbest things broadcast television has ever perpetrated on us.”

Some context may be warranted: In the annals of shameless synergistic shilling, this didn’t seem like dramatic departure. GoT itself, after all, plugged its final season via a collaboration with Bud Light on an extended-length Super Bowl ad in 2019, hardly the norm for prestige fare airing on HBO. And the bar has not exactly been rising in terms of how live sports telecasts — the last beacon of hope for the dwindling pay-TV bundle — can be used to draw attention for network owners’ other businesses. Disney, for example, mashed up Marvel and the NBA in a superhero-skewed game telecast on ESPN in 2021. And WBD has made little secret of its efforts to use Food Network talent and Discovery’s Shark Week franchise to cross-promote all manner of initiatives. (Prior Warner steward AT&T was hardly shy about inserting dragons all up in everyone’s business, using NCAA March Madness telecasts and wireless phone ads as new canvases for tubthumping.)

And yet, something did feel a bit “new-low-ish” about the baseball stunt. “No one liked it,” Lauren Theisen wrote on Defector. “It’s embarrassing that Costas and Shehadi would actively try and trick baseball fans into paying attention to an advertisement, sacrificing the future credibility of all their back-from-break intros and sideline reporting on the altar of corporate synergy. What a stupid tradeoff to make, especially for a product that doesn’t even need this extra push to pull a massive audience.”

Here’s the clip from the game that’s been bouncing around social media:


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