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Disney Demands ESPN Budget Cuts



Despite holding the television rights to nearly every sport that anyone wants to watch, ESPN apparently is not the cash cow that it once was for parent company Disney, which reportedly is demanding that the all-sports network slash its budget over the next two years.

In Wednesday’s story about Keith Olbermann’s impending departure from the network, the Hollywood Reporter says Disney is forcing ESPN to cut $100 million from its budget next year and a staggering $250 million from its budget in 2017. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that ESPN has lost 3.2 million subscribers in more than a year and that ESPN’s reach in U.S. households has fallen 7.2 percent since 2011. Last month, Bloomberg reported that operating income dropped 2 percent at Disney’s media networks division, which includes ESPN.

Not renewing Olbermann’s contract when it expires at the end of the month is just one sign of the serious cost-cutting at ESPN:

It didn’t renew Bill Simmons’s contract after he reportedly demanded $6 million per year.

— It reversed course on moving the “Mike & Mike” radio show to the same Times Square studio used for Olbermann’s show after making a very public announcement that the show would be moving from Bristol to the Big Apple. ESPN leases the studio from Disney at a cost of $40 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

— Lou Holtz, Bobby Knight, Mark Schlereth, Bram Weinstein: All allowed to retire or walk away or agreed to have their roles drastically reduced. Weinstein reportedly wanted more money than ESPN wanted to pay him.

And that could merely be a taste of what’s to come, especially with ESPN’s NBA costs ballooning from $485 million per year to to $1.47 billion annually starting in 2016-17. The Big Ten’s TV rights are coming up for renewal soon — it’s the only major U.S. sports entity with a looming negotiation — and considering the current economic climate at ESPN, it wouldn’t be surprising if the conference’s games move someplace else after the 2016-17 season, when the current deal ends. The network currently pays the conference $100 million a year to televise college football and basketball games, and that number is sure to significantly increase.

Viewers also likely can expect to see ESPN’s announcers call even more college basketball games from a studio in Bristol instead of live at the stadium, as they did for 47 games last year (to tepid reviews). Those traveling “SportsCenter” extravaganzas you’re seeing this summer also could get cut back.

And if I were working for a Simmons-less Grantland, 538 or the perpetually stalled Undefeated project, I’d also be a little wary.

In the meantime, we’ll all wait and see what ESPN does with radio host Colin Cowherd with his contract expiring later this year. He’ll want more than he’s making now, obviously. Whether ESPN will pay him remains to be seen.

Credit to the Washington Post who originally published this story

Sports TV News

NFL Likely To Launch NFL+ Streaming Service This Summer

“A source tells Fischer that a $5 per month price has been discussed for NFL+.”



According to the Sports Business Journal, consumers could be downloading NFL+ by July. Now, just what NFL+ will be is still yet to be finalized.

Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal reported in the site’s newsletter that live games will certainly be at the center of the league-owned streaming service. It is likely to only be available on phones and tablets with no option to stream to a larger monitor.

The viewing options would be limited. No out of market games would be available on the app. It is meant to replace the deals that recently expired with Yahoo and mobile phone carriers that recently expired.

The app could also include other content. Radio calls, team-created digital content, and league-owned podcasts are all options. 

NFL+ would make NFL Media more valuable. The league is trying to sell an equity stake in its linear TV and digital media properties. Amazon and Apple are considered the most likely to make a deal. 

A source tells Fischer that a $5 per month price has been discussed for NFL+. The pricing structure can and likely will change before the app hits the market.

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Sports TV News

Stephen A. Smith To Charles Barkley: ‘I Worry Because You’re Big’

“You’ve always been big. But now you’re bigger.”



ESPN host Stephen A. Smith is concerned about his friend Charles Barkley.

Barkley, while in Dallas with TNT for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Mavericks and Golden State Warriors, Barkley hopped on a horse. The clip Stephen A. used in his ESPN+ show Stephen A’s World showed Barkley needing assistance by handlers to get off the horse.

Stephen A. was astounded.

“Ain’t no way Charles Barkley needs that much help getting off the horse,” Smith said. “But he did – he did!”

Smith then used the closing seconds to express his concern about Barkley’s size.

“I worry about you cause you’re a big boy,” he said. “You’ve always been big. But now you’re bigger.”

Barkley hasn’t had any publicized major health incidents stemming from his weight, but still Stephen A. was hopeful his friend might take some time and initiative to work on cutting a few pounds.

“Let’s address that, because I need you around,” Smith said. “I love you bro.”

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Sports TV News

NFL Considers Ending Pro Bowl Amidst Low Ratings

“Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.”



The NFL is obsessed with TV ratings. It isn’t a surprise that the league may not be willing to tolerate the Pro Bowl underperforming for much longer. 

In 2022, the NFL’s all-star game produced it’s lowest ratings in 16 years. Fewer that 7 million people tuned in to watch the game across ABC, ESPN and DisneyXD. 

“The (Pro Bowl) game doesn’t work,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday after the owners’ meeting in Atlanta. “We need to find another way to celebrate the players.”

There are two proposed alternatives that have been reported. The Washington Post says the league is considering launching a seven-on-seven competition. It would not include tackling or full clocks. The other report comes from Ian Rapport of the NFL Network. He says the league is considering hosting a series of skills competitions over the course of what would be branded an all-star week. The NFL has partnered with DirecTV in the past to present similar events during Super Bowl Week. 

No details have emerged or final decisions made. Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.

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