Sports Radio News
75 Losing Jobs At CSN Houston
Seventy-five of the 115 employees of Comcast SportsNet Houston were informed Tuesday their jobs will be eliminated if a bankruptcy judge approves a plan backed by the Astros and Rockets to sell the financially troubled network to DirecTV and AT&T.
Employees were informed of the potential layoffs as mandated by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies with at least 100 workers to provide 60-day notice in advance of certain plant closings or mass layoffs.
As company officials delivered the news, one employee said a funereal atmosphere descended over the network’s studios in downtown Houston, midway between Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center.
“You just watched rows and rows of people walk into a room and come out with letters telling them, ‘Hey, thanks for two years, and now you’ve got nothing,’” the employee said. “There wasn’t a lot of outward anger. It was pretty subdued.”
But after the announcements, another employee said, “Everybody was back at their desks, working on the next show.”
Based on details in letters prepared for city and state officials, 40 employees were notified their jobs will be retained by the AT&T/DirecTV partnership, which will rebrand CSN Houston as Root Sports Houston under a Chapter 11 reorganization plan pending before Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur.
Isgur is scheduled to decide Oct. 2 whether to approve the plan, which is opposed by Comcast. If the reorganization is not approved, the Astros-Rockets-Comcast partnership will be liquidated and all jobs eliminated.
Root Sports will include distribution on DirecTV and AT&T U-verse in addition to Comcast. The AT&T/DirecTV partnership plans to drop its contract for Dynamo games, but team officials say the network has expressed interest in a new deal for the 2015 season.
Most employees who will be retained for Root Sports Houston are employed in game production. Also retained will be Rockets broadcasters Bill Worrell, Matt Bullard and Calvin Murphy; Astros field reporter Julia Morales; and sportscasters Bart Enis and Kevin Eschenfelder.
Astros announcers Bill Brown, Alan Ashby and Geoff Blum and Rockets analyst Clyde Drexler are team employees and are not affected.
Among those whose contracts are not being retained by AT&T/DirecTV, according to court documents, include reporters and anchors Tiffany Blackmon, Steve Bunin, Howard Chen, Bill Doleman, Sara Eckert, Cory Hepola, Kelli Johnson, John Kelly, James Palmer, Marius Payton, Leila Rahimi and Sebastian Salazar.
Several of those likely will be offered jobs with other NBC Sports Group networks. Johnson, Doleman, Palmer and Payton came to Houston from other NBC-owned networks.
The announcement came on the same day it was announced that CSN Houston has been nominated for 16 regional Emmy Awards, including several of those who face layoffs next month.
For more visit the Houston Chronicle where this story was originally published
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Fred Toucher: Stephen A. Smith is in TV Prison
“He’s basically in a television prison all day. He’s not allowed out.”
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson overshadowed part of the NBA Finals action Wednesday after it was announced that he and his girlfriend Ahkeema were expecting a baby girl. Yet a string of tweets from OnlyFans model Moriah Mills have shifted the discussion, suggesting they had seen one another at a point without Mills knowing about Williamson having another relationship. Basketball fans across social media bombarded Williamson after the revelation became public, and it was a topic of discussion on coverage of the league throughout the ensuing days. On the latest edition of the eponymously named The Stephen A. Smith Show, Stephen A. Smith spoke about Williamson and surmised that he had figured out why Williamson only played 29 games during this past season.
“I’ve been waiting for the leg to heal Zion,” Smith said. “….New Orleans has been waiting for a while. I mean, we’ve been waiting, man. No wonder you ain’t healthy; I’m talking about your legs. I’m just saying, man. What I’m concerned about is we need those legs spry, but you can’t get healthy. Your lower extremities were compromised.”
Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb of 98.5 The Sports Hub never thought that one of their morning show’s newest segments – titled “Stephen A. Smith is horny” – would take place more than once over a six-week span. Yet it has quickly become a hit, with show listeners messaging Shertenlieb on social media whenever they see a clip that could fit the comedic bit. Because of the situation regarding Williamson and Smith’s reaction to it, which was filled with caesura and vocal intonation, the segment made its third appearance in the past two weeks on Thursday morning.
“ESPN is committed to just basically featuring two people – Mike Greenberg and Stephen A. Smith,” Toucher said. “If there’s a third I forget it – oh yeah, they’re bringing in… Pat McAfee. So there’ll be three people that are doing all of it.”
Toucher has concluded that Smith has a live microphone in front of him at all times, with ESPN recognizing his appeal to its consumers. After all, Smith is a featured commentator on First Take, works on NBA Countdown, hosts an alternate game telecast for select NBA matchups and podcasts at least three times a week.
“He’s basically in a television prison all day,” Toucher said of Smith. “He’s not allowed out. He is a man after all – he’s not old. I’d imagine he’s around 50; that doesn’t mean he’s dead.”
Smith, 55, was mocked throughout the latest edition of the segment for his breaths and phrasing, filled with both hosts doing impressions of him. It even resulted in a production person creating a soundboard where the show quickly replayed soundbites from Smith’s statements on Williamson. Eventually, the show put it to the tune of “Mah Na Mah Na,” a song made famous by The Muppets, leading to unrestrained, mirthful laughter from those in the studio.
“Stephen A. Smith turns into Christopher Lloyd and Roger Rabbit when he’s horny,” Shertenlieb said, referring to Smith’s fluctuating vocal range.
“He’s in that TV prison horny as hell,” Toucher added.
As the segment concluded, Toucher wondered if Smith would ever be allowed off of the ESPN airwaves for a day, as he seems to always be part of the network’s subconscious. Smith is reportedly paid $8 million annually by ESPN and is perceived as someone untouchable as The Walt Disney Company nears its conclusion of laying off 7,000 employees. Pat McAfee is set to join the network this fall in a multiyear, multi-million dollar agreement, and will host The Pat McAfee Show afternoons on ESPN’s linear channel and on various digital platforms.
“It’s without fail now – at least once a week, he gets horny,” Shertenlieb expressed.
Sports Radio News
USL, SiriusXM Renew Agreement
“SiriusXM has been a great partner the last three years and extending this relationship on the men’s side was an easy choice.”
The United Soccer League (USL) and SiriusXM have inked a new agreement that extends its media rights deal through 2025. The deal ensures SiriusXM will be the audio home of USL Championship games, including the USL Championship Final, USL Super League inaugural Final, the USL League One Final and USL League Two Final. SiriusXM subscribers can listen to games on channel No. 157 and on the SiriusXM app.
“At the USL, we want to ensure that our games are available to our fans wherever they want to experience them,” Court Jeske, USL chief commercial officer, said in a statement. “SiriusXM has been a great partner the last three years and extending this relationship on the men’s side was an easy choice. We are also incredibly proud that they will offer coverage of the USL Super League, our new women’s professional league, with the inaugural season beginning in August of 2024.”
The SiriusXM FC channel has been the broadcast home of the USL Championship since 2020, and also airs a USL Game of the Week for consumers in the United States and Canada. Additional future coverage will include games from the 2024-2025 USL Super League season. Moreover, USL All-Access will resume with hosts Mike Watts and Devon Kerr, offering listeners new perspectives on the league, and a broad view of highlights and storylines.
“The USL has a terrific and dedicated fanbase across the country and we’re pleased to deliver those fans both the action on the pitch and a show dedicated to their league,” said Eric Spitz, SiriusXM vice president of sports programming, in a statement. “We’re excited to not only renew our agreement with the USL for multiple years, but also expand our coverage and be the exclusive audio home of the USL Championship Final, League One Final, League Two Final and the new USL Super League Final.”
Watts has been the play-by-play announcer for the USL Championship since 2015, and he continues to work on Westwood One’s college football game of the week and serves as a backup public address announcer at Madison Square Garden. Furthermore, he called eight domestic and international finals in 2021, including the U.S. Men’s National Team victories in the Concacaf Nations League and Concacaf Gold Cup.
Kerr serves as an analyst for MLS Season Pass on Apple TV and contributes to FOX Sports as well. He has been the lead analyst for the USL Championship since 2018, and works in a similar role for the NCAA Men’s College Cup on ESPN and Concacaf events. Aside from his work with Apple TV and FOX Sports, Kerr has appeared on platforms for ESPN, EA Sports, the NCAA and MLS.
Broadcasts started Wednesday night, but the next game airing on SiriusXM FC will be a matchup between the San Diego Loyal and Sacramento Republic at 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PST. Games have been announced through July 3, and additional matchups will be announced at a later date.
Sports Radio News
Audacy Names Lee Davis SVP of Sports Monetization Overseeing New Sales Team
“Through our best-in-class sports audio portfolio, powered by over 150 flagship team partnerships, iconic local broadcast brands, award-winning podcasts and sports betting content, Audacy is uniquely positioned to capitalize on a new sales strategy in this arena.”
Audacy is has a newly organized sports sales team. Lee Davis will be its leader. He has been named the company’s SVP of Sports Monetization.
The team will oversee “sales and execution, managing the entire client lifecycle” for Audacy’s sports properties. They will provide solutions for both on-air and digital platforms and work on both local and national properties.
“No medium delivers more value for sports than Audio. People are spending more time than ever with broadcast Radio, streaming and podcasts, and the demand for compelling sports content across these channels is growing exponentially,” Brian Benedik, Audacy’s Chief Revenue Officer, said in a press release. “Through our best-in-class sports audio portfolio, powered by over 150 flagship team partnerships, iconic local broadcast brands, award-winning podcasts and sports betting content, Audacy is uniquely positioned to capitalize on a new sales strategy in this arena.”
Lee Davis worked with WFAN from 1990 until 2005. He returned to Audacy in 2018 to over see the company’s Traffic, Weather, Information and News (TWIN) offering.