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CFL Hopes For Growth With ESPN

Jason Barrett

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The CFL would love to take its new broadcasting agreement with ESPN and turn it into something even bigger down the road.

That is the reason why the league entered into an exclusive, multi-year deal with “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” late last month. One ESPN platform or another will carry every CFL game this season.

“What we are looking at is something that gives us great exposure, and what we hope for after a four- or five-year period is that we’ll be able to really build an audience with ESPN and build a U.S. audience,” CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said earlier this month.

Last year the network aired six games on ESPN2 and another package of contests on ESPN3, its digital network. Cohon said the ESPN2 matches drew approximately 300,000 viewers south of the border, and the network was happy with the results.

“The ESPN2 games did adequate in the spots we programmed them,” Gregg Morriss, ESPN’s manager of programming and acquisitions, told the Sun.

“It was more kind of an experiment to see how they would do, and they met those expectations. Now, with a little more consistency and having more ability to do more games, working directly with the league, we see some upside there.”

Cohon is shooting for the stars. ESPN was part of a new broadcasting deal with Major League Soccer in May. Three networks, including ESPN, are reportedly paying a combined $90 million per season for the MLS broadcasting rights.

“I’m not saying that we can get to an MLS-style deal, but if you look at Major League Soccer, they had similar sized audiences,” Cohon said.

“Over time, five years from now or six years from now, it would be great if this league was announcing a major deal in the U.S. with some revenues for the league.”

The current deal with ESPN is only just the beginning, as Cohon said it is netting the league only six figures. The fact every game can be seen on one network is likely the best news for the CFL, which ESPN aired often during its early days.

“We’ve had a fairly long history with the league, kind of stretching back to our inception in the early ’80s. There’s some familiarity there,” Morriss said. “And certainly the growth of the appetite for football in the U.S. is, as it’s stretched to a year-round proposition, this is really quality content for us to program in the off-season for the NFL — especially in the summer. But we also think there’s some appeal to it into the fall, and having digital networks now to be able to distribute all the games is certainly helpful in that regard.”

Morriss said the number of people watching the CFL on the digital platform of ESPN3 is not huge, but they are engaged.

“It’s not the largest audience, but they’re staying and they’re watching a lot,” Morriss said. “Now we’re just trying to find a way to get more people in that door. Once they’re in there, I think they’ll stay.”

OPPORTUNITY LOST

ESPN was going to show one CFL game on its main network this summer, but it has decided to push it back to ESPN3.

The contest was going to be Hamilton’s second home game at brand new Tim Hortons Field, on July 31 against Winnipeg, but the park isn’t ready yet, so the game is moving to McMaster’s Ron Joyce Stadium.

“Originally this game was scheduled to be on ESPN to showcase Hamilton’s new stadium,” ESPN said in a statement.

“But since the game has been moved to Ron Joyce Stadium, it will now be carried on ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network, ESPN3. ESPN will explore opportunities to feature Hamilton’s new stadium on one of its linear TV networks later on in the season.”

For more on this story visit the Welland Tribune where it was originally published

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Mark Schlereth: Level of Intrigue for ‘Receiver’ on Netflix is ‘Not Less Than Zero, Although It’s Close’

“It’s not zero.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Mark Schlereth
Courtesy: FOX Sports

Netflix recently released the trailer for Receiver, a 10-part docuseries produced by NFL Films, Omaha Productions and 2PM Productions that will premiere on July 10. The show features NFL stars Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Amon-Ra St. Brown, giving viewers a look into their lives on and off the gridiron. The series is a sequel to Quarterback, which premiered last summer and received stellar reviews from a large faction of viewers when it highlighted quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota. Mat Smith, who was filling in for Mike Evans on Friday’s edition of Schlereth and Evans, mentioned the series as part of the show’s “4 Down Territory” segment in which they discuss key topics from the world of football.

Smith outlined that the show had problems getting more quarterbacks to commit last year and could not really pull off the concept because of its intensity. The show, however, did exhibit parts of their personal lives and ended up following Mahomes as he won Super Bowl LVII from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Heading into the new season, Smith was curious to get Schlereth’s perspective on the level of intrigue he had in the sequel.

“It’s not zero,” Schlereth said. “It’s not less than zero, although it’s close.”

Schlereth played 12 seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman and currently serves as a broadcast analyst for FOX Sports in addition to co-hosting morning drive on Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan. Smith then asked him if he would be interested should the third season of the show be titled Offensive Lineman and presumably follow athletes in that position.

“Zero,” Schlereth said. “Yeah, I already did that – I lived that. That was the thing with the Quarterback thing. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you got to watch this, you got to watch it. Oh, it’s unbelievable, you’ve got to watch it,’ and so I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll watch one episode,’ and I watched it and I was completely bored with it.”

Since he was a former NFL player, Schlereth did not need for the program to divulge what happens behind the scenes. In fact, he was somewhat indifferent towards the whole venture, not really finding it interesting for him because he previously lived in a similar situation. To close the segment, Smith wanted to know if his interest would change if the series was simply called Schlereth and ostensibly chronicled his life along the same premise.

“I think it would be the worst show ever produced on television,” Schlereth said, “because you would think you were getting into something really juicy and you realize how freaking boring I am.”

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Caroline Fenton Announces She is Leaving 102.5 The Game

“Please bear with me today as I work through the emotions of leaving a place that has become my home with people that grew into family.”

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Logo for 102.5 The Game in Nashville and a photo of Caroline Fenton
Photo Courtesy: 102.5 The Game

Caroline Fenton, who has been a part of 102.5 The Game in Nashville since 2021, announced today on her X account that today will be her last day with the station. She did not say what she’d be doing next but said she would announce that soon.

Fenton’s announcement said, “Today is my last day at 102.5 The Game. Please bear with me today as I work through the emotions of leaving a place that has become my home with people that grew into family. I’ve felt so much love this week, so thank you.”

Fenton joined the station in 2021 as part of the Stillman & Company show in afternoon drive. When the station shuffled its lineup around in January 2023, Fenton was moved to middays where she has been part of Caroline, Willy & DMase with Willy Daunic and former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Derrick Mason.

Fenton came to Nashville from ESPN in Bristol, CT where she created content and contributed on-air as a social/digital video producer. She is a native of St. Louis and a graduate of LSU.

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Sean Pendergast: I Didn’t Know Brian Windhorst Had This in Him

“He destroyed Luka in the postgame after Game 3.”

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Brian Windhorst
Courtesy: Juan Ocampo, ESPN Images

The Boston Celtics are preparing to take the court Friday night with a 3-0 series lead in the NBA Finals, only needing to secure one more victory to obtain the 18th championship in franchise history. Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, who helped lead the team to the NBA Finals with a strong postseason performance, has struggled throughout the series and been on the receiving end of criticism about his conduct and play on the court. Seth Payne and Sean Pendergast of SportsRadio 610 in Houston spoke about how Dončić was evoking a similar sentiment to that of former Rockets guard James Harden in that he is an offensive-minded player who demonstrates minimal effort on the defensive end.

Payne expressed that Rockets fans had been frustrated that Dončić would be praised for his style of play while Harden would be somewhat castigated over the years. The plaudits that he has received though seems to have taken a turn amid this series because of the lackluster play.

“This is not a great Finals – [it] could get closed out tonight – and Luka in Game 3 was a mess,” Pendergast said. “He’s arguing with the refs, he’s arguing with his bench… yelling like a child at his coaches. Not a good look.”

The criticism of Dončić from ESPN senior NBA writer Brian Windhorst on SportsCenter with SVP gained notoriety on Wednesday night because of the tone used and the way in which Dončić was called out for carrying himself. The Payne & Pendergast morning drive show played audio of Windhorst delivering his analysis of what occurred on the court and the sentiment surrounding the team.

“Brian Windhorst, man,” Pendergast said. “I didn’t know Windhorst had this in him. He destroyed Luka in the postgame after Game 3.”

Windhorst believed that Dončić put himself in an unacceptable position fouling out of Game 3, specifically in how he looked at his bench after committing his sixth foul and stating that they “better bleeping challenge it.” Within his report, he stated that he was standing in the Mavericks tunnel and that the winners are within the Celtics tunnel and then referenced what Dončić would have to do in order to render the Mavericks tunnel the location of the winners.

“His defensive performance is unacceptable – he is a hole on the court; the Celtics are attacking him,” Windhorst said. “They are ahead in this series because they have attacked him defensively, and you’ve got a situation here where Luka’s complaining about the officiating. They have begged him – they have talked with him, they have pleaded with him. He is costing his team because of how he treats the officials.”

Windhorst continued to voice that Dončić was going to have to get over it, but the fact that he blamed the officials after the game demonstrated to him that he is not close. The performance he had in Game 3 is one that Windhorst called “unacceptable” and attributed it to a reason as to why the Mavericks are not going to win.

“So maybe over the summer somebody will get to him because nobody with the Mavericks or anybody else in his life has, and that’s where the Mavericks are at this point,” Windhorst said. “They’re never going to get to this tunnel with the trophy if he doesn’t improve those aspects of his game.”

The comments from Windhorst elicited further discussion on SportsRadio 610 about the similarities and differences between Dončić and Harden. Whereas Dončić is gaining a reputation for complaining to the officials, Payne conveyed that Harden was “surgical” in his understanding of how to create fouls during the game. Although everyone in the league “begs for calls at some point,” according to Payne, he never recalled Harden having an issue with the officials throughout an entire series.

“If they get swept out of the Finals, that’s going to be a huge story,” Pendergast said. “That’s going to hover over him all summer, like the poor performance in the Finals [and] just the complete fade. You could argue Luka would have been better off playing heroically in a seven-game loss in the Conference Finals than making it to the Finals and getting destroyed.”

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