ESPN for the first time led all nominees for the 15th annual Sports Emmy Awards, which will be presentedApril 19.

The cable network received 22 nominations (up from 14 last year), followed by NBC with 19 and 14 apiece for ABC and NBC.

HBO also made a strong showing with 12 nods; syndicated programs totaled seven nominations, TNT nabbed two, while cable webs CNN, MTV, USA and The Disney Channel snagged one apiece.

In terms of personalities, ESPN’s John Saunders and Chris Berman will compete in the studio host category with NBC’s Bob Costas and Jim Lampley and Greg Gumbel of CBS.

Bound for Fox

John Madden, a multi-Emmy-winning analyst bound for Fox Sports, headlines that field along with Mike Ditka, Hubie Brown, Tim McCarver and Billy Packer. Jim McKay, Al Michaels, Keith Jackson, Marv Albert and Dick Enberg round out the nominees for play-by-play announcing.

Nominees for live sports series are “The NFL on NBC,””Notre Dame Football, “”NFL on CBS,””Monday Night Football” and “ESPN Major League Baseball.”

MTV, meanwhile, broke into the edited series balloting with “MTV Sports,” which joins “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,””NBC SportsWorld,” and the syndicated “This Is the NFL” and “This Week in Baseball.”

As a footnote, NBC West Coast prexy Don Ohlmeyer picked up a nomination in the live sports special area as director of ABC’s Indianapolis 500 telecast, which is joined by the World Series, NBA Finals, AFC Wild Card Game and Bowe vs. Holyfield rematch.

Awards in 26 categories are presented by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, with the ceremony to be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York.

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