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ESPN Goes Big For CFB Playoff Final

Jason Barrett

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After finding critical and production success with its “BCS Megacast” for last year’s BCS National Championship Game, ESPN has plans to super-size its coverage for the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship on Jan. 12, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Though specific staffing plans are still being finalized, ESPN will offer multiple viewing options for what it is calling the “CFP Megacast,” the network’s biggest production to date. This upcoming Megacast will offer a different production on every ESPN television network (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line), multiple options on ESPN3, and the game coverage on ESPN Radio and ESPN International. The main broadcast will appear on ESPN.

As a reminder, ESPN used six of its television platforms last year as well as audio and digital outlets to offer viewers extra content for the Florida StateAuburnthriller. What stood out most for me — as well as ESPN execs — was the “BCS Film Room” featuring Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, Boston College coach Steve Addazio and Pitt coach Paul Chryst as well as ESPN analysts Matt Millen, Chris Spielman and (a really good) Tom Luginbill providing X-and-O analysis. It was smart television, minimally produced. It was one of the rare debut products by ESPN that produced near universal acclaim.

The Film Room will return, which is great news for X’s and O’s junkies. The network is still working out which coaches and ESPN talent will be part of the room.

• Other CFP Megacast platforms include “ESPN Voices,” which will be similar to last year’s BCS Title Talk. That platform (which played flat last year) had a rotating group of ESPN staffers discussing the game in real time.

• There will be a platform featuring only the natural sounds of the game and coverage of the halftime performances by each band.

• For the AlabamaOhio State Sugar Bowl semifinal on Thursday, ESPN will air an edition of the “Finebaum Film Room” on the SEC Network during the ESPN broadcast of the game. The program aired on the SEC Network for the Iron Bowl and featured SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum hosting his popular call-in show throughout the game, joined by SEC Network regulars. If Alabama defeats Ohio State, ESPN officials say they will consider airing an edition on the SEC Network for the title game.

• A new Megacast option with great potential: “Off the Ball” will feature former players and coaches, and current ESPN analysts, focusing on the plays away from the ball, including offensive and defensive line play, wide receiver-defensive back matchups, and coaching strategy.

• There will be a “DataCenter” featuring analytics, curated social media reaction and more.

• ESPN will have a channel called “Command Center” with enhanced statistics utilizing a split screen application with live game action and immediate replays of every play. The coverage will use the ESPN Radio broadcast call.

• There will be a platform where viewers can watch the title game from the above stadium “SpiderCam” angle.

• For those who love crowd shots, there will be a dedicated “Taco Bell Student Section” featuring a camera in the student section of each team.

One bit of staffing news for the semifinals: The following reporters will be embedded with each of the playoff teams leading up to the games: Tom Rinaldi (Oregon), Samantha Ponder (Florida State), Kaylee Hartung (Alabama), and Marty Smith (Ohio State).

Last year’s title game averaged 25.572 million viewers on ESPN, When the Megacast elements were added from ESPN2 and ESPNNEWS (the other ESPN platforms do not get rated), the game drew 26,061,000 viewers.  ESPN said WatchESPN (ESPN3) generated 773,000 unique viewers for viewers across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN3 and ESPN Goal Line collectively.

Credit to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated who originally published this article

Sports Radio News

Mike and The Mad Dog Reunion Set For First Take on February 1

“I can tell you this, no other people, the three of us for two hours. Think about that.”

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It’s not a rumor or a wishful thought anymore. According to Chris Russo, we are getting the long-awaited Mike and the Mad Dog reunion. Russo and Stephen A. Smith will be joined by Mike Francesa for the entire two hours of First Take on February 1.

Russo made the announcement on his SiriusXM show Thursday afternoon. It is possible that it was a mistake though.

“Did anybody catch the reunion we’re going to have on February 1?” he said. “Did everybody see that? Stevie did say it on Howard, didn’t he?”

Stephen A. Smith told Howard Stern earlier this week that he intends to reunite Mike and the Mad Dog, but he did not set an official date. Chris Russo acknowledged that he may not have been authorized to say it yet either, but now that the cat was out of the bag, he gave more details.

“It sounds like the big guy will return and we’ll have the three of us in there,” he told the audience. “I can tell you this, no other people, the three of us for two hours. Think about that. You talk about me being a fraud, Mike hated ESPN for 100 years!”

If Russo is correct, that means no rotating analysts and no Molly Qerim. If the goal is to give the audience more Mike and the Mad Dog, then ESPN is making sure nothing gets in the way.

An interesting question now is what is Stephen A. Smith’s role in the reunion. He likely played a pivotal role in closing the deal to get Francesa on ESPN for a day, but what will he do on camera on February 1?

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Shan & RJ Defend GBag Nation After Christian McCaffrey Comments

“Somewhere we lost the ability to know what irreverence sounds like.”

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It’s no secret that San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey has been injury prone during his NFL career. 105.3 The Fan’s GBag Nation said it would benefit the Cowboys for McCaffrey to come down with an injury ahead of the team’s NFC Divisional Round playoff matchup this week, and that message wasn’t well received by 49er fans.

A Twitter user –calling the comments “pathetic” — captured a 15-second clip of the show discussing McCaffrey, in which hosts Gavin Dawson and Bryan Broaddus said “We could use an injury, we really could” followed by saying “a hamstring would be good”. The clip has since garnered nearly 50,000 views.

On Thursday, Shan Shariff of Shan & RJ defended his colleagues by calling out 49er fans.

“Want another example of how soft and whiney these Bay Area fans are? Check out the complete meltdowns and crying over @gbagnation joking about Christian McCaffrey. Charles Barkley was right about everything he’s every said about your city and fans”, before tagging 95.7 The Game –sister station of 105.3 The Fan — and that station’s morning host Bonta Hill.

RJ Choppy, Shariff’s partner on the 105.3 The Fan morning show, continued the defense of the station’s afternoon show. He believed the comments from the show were sarcastic in nature.

“I would say I’m surprised that people are unable to pick up on the clear sarcasm” of the two hosts, before saying “but I’m not. Somewhere we lost the ability to know what irreverence sounds like”.

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Colin Dunlap: Coaches Will Never Eliminate Sideline Interviews From TV Contracts

“They absolutely could resist with the TV rights deals and say ‘we’re just not doing it,’ but they know part of their bread is buttered by having that access.”

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Melissa Stark’s sideline interview with Ravens coach John Harbaugh during the team’s Super Wild Card Round loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week has received plenty of attention. Harbaugh was less than pleased with being asked what it would take to change quarterbacks.

Erin Andrews addressed interactions with players and athletes like that on Calm Down, the podcast she co-hosts with Charissa Thompson. While Andrews never mentioned Stark by name in her profanity-laced rant, she did say that coaches and players know when someone is trying to make a name for themselves.

“You don’t have to be an asshole,” the FOX Sports sideline reporter said. “How about this? Stop trying to make a name for yourself or be clickbait with these questions that tie these guys down or put them in a bind where you want to be the person in the press conference. Don’t do that. They’re not animals. They’re not pieces of meat.”

On Thursday’s edition of The Fan Morning Show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Chris Mack objected to the idea that the interview was Stark trying to get attention.

“Melissa Stark has been doing this for years and I think is pretty good at it and I think those questions were all fair,” he said.

Co-host Dorin Dickerson saw it a little differently. In addition to his role on The Fan Morning Show, Dickerson is also a sideline reporter for the Pitt Panthers’ football radio network. He did not think Stark respected the reality of sideline interviews.

“What Melissa Stark did there, she was prying too much,” he said. “You know that you’re gonna get the run-of-the-mill answers when you ask a coach. The last thing a coach wants to do is talk to you after a bad first half.”

Colin Dunlap added that sideline interviews have value but are not necessary. He said that he enjoyed having access to coaches in the middle of a game, however, coaches could make a point of eliminating sideline interviews from future NFL TV contracts if they are a real problem. He doesn’t expect that would ever happen though.

“They could resist. They absolutely could resist with the TV rights deals and say ‘we’re just not doing it,’ but they know part of their bread is buttered by having that access. That’s built into the television contract.”

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