“First Take” is one of ESPN’s most successful — and controversial — studio shows, thanks to the often provocative takes of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. But for the third person in the ring, the format eventually grew too limiting.
So host Cari Champion left the show last month. At 11 a.m. Thursday, she will debut in her new gig as a “SportsCenter” anchor alongside fellow former “First Take” host Jay Crawford.
“Let me tell you, the transition was tough because I really enjoyed the show in terms of what we were able to build over the past two-and-a-half, three years,” she said Wednesday between hosting panel discussions at Beyond Sport United, an event at the Prudential Center to promote and discuss social consciousness in sports.
“But I’m very aware of the position. It was the middle seat, the moderator to get the questions laid out. It’s a great platform. It was a wonderfully watched show, but the ceiling was really low. I had the skill set to do more.
“I’m a local journalist. I was an anchor. I’ve worked in this business for a very long time and so I wanted to do more. The end game wasn’t always just ‘SportsCenter,’ but you know how that place works in terms of if you want to do something else, you have to be seen on ‘SportsCenter.’ It’s the show that’s regarded, it’s the show that you cut your teeth on and can show the rest of the world what you can do. So for me it was the only thing that made sense.
“It was really strategic. It was very much a decision that I had to make when you remove the emotion from it. I didn’t want to leave Skip and Stephen A. and I didn’t want to leave what we had already built. But at the same time, I knew that it was their show, and no matter how much I was a part of it and no matter how much fun I had, it was limiting, and not in a bad way, because if there was no ‘First Take,’ there would be no ‘SportsCenter’ opportunity and there wouldn’t be these opportunities [at Beyond Sport]. I’m excited about it.”
Champion will host 9 and 11 a.m. shows for now, but in February she will be one of the hosts of a new 7 a.m. “SportsCenter.”
“I had been at ‘First Take’ for about a year and I went and knocked on some doors; you somewhat campaign for yourself,” she said of the transition. “There’s a lot of politics there and you want to make sure everyone is OK with it . . . They loved ‘First Take’ and loved me on it. It gets a lot of attention. But what else could I have done? I honestly believe that’s what that moderator role is: two years max and you move on.
“The position could evolve. I hope whoever is the next host gets an opportunity to do more than just what I was able to do because I feel the show needs to evolve. Eventually you have to have somebody in the middle who can participate and can go back and forth, if need be. That’s a role. That’s a real position. You need someone to move the conversation along.”
Credit to Newsday who originally published this article
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.
Kay Adams: Pat McAfee Has Built ‘The Dream’
“it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
Many in sports media have respect for former NFL punter Pat McAfee for what he has accomplished in his media endeavors, and you can add FanDuel TV host Kay Adams to that list.
“I’m just blown away by the success and by the leverage he has,” Adams said on the My Other Passion podcast. “It is uncanny, it is aspirational, and it is self-made, so it is a beautiful thing. I — of course — watch what he does. I don’t want to be just like him but I do think he is so disruptive.
“He has such a chip on his shoulder. It drives him but I almost wish I could see it relieved a little bit. He’s thriving, he’s happy, and I think the thing that sticks out to me about him is that he’s truly grateful. Truly is grateful for everything he has, his opportunities. He’s worked his ass off for it.”
Adams pointed to McAfee’s recent spat with the NFL over use of the league’s logos as an indicator of not only his success but his influence in the sports landscape.
“He is true to himself but he mostly leads with gratitude, which I think is the epitome of success. But he’s out there show you what can be done. He’s the first, but will he be the last to have that sort of platform? That sort of swing? What he does with the NFL the other week, I’m paying attention to that.
“Because I wanna see: is the NFL gonna bend the knee to Pat McAfee? Does the NFL care what he says? But it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
The NFL did eventually “bend the knee” and reversed course on limiting McAfee’s use of league trademarks.
John Skipper: Bob Iger’s Return Won’t Effect ESPN
“If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
There have been many questions about what Bob Iger’s return to Disney will mean for ESPN, but former ESPN President John Skipper believes it won’t change much.
Skipper pointed to Iger’s relationships with powerbrokers in the sports world as a positive, and also believes that the “streaming wars” will be won by those who hold the rights to live sports.
“As a moat, to get the pay-TV fees and to get people to pay more money to subscribe,” Skipper pointed to Sportico as the reason for ESPN to still have an agreement with the NBA for linear TV. He later added “If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
Skipper also said the network used to invest in constant studio programming but said that’s no longer a necessity.
“We did that type of programming because the economics were different at the time,” Skipper said.
Warner Bros. Discovery Sports President Departs
“His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”
Lenny Daniels is leaving Warner Bros. Discovery after 27 years with the company.
Daniels is the President of the company’s sports division in the United States, overseeing the contracts and strategic vision for the organization.
In a memo sent to staff obtained by Sports Business Journal, CEO Luis Silberwasser said “While this change will take place right away, Lenny has agreed to work with me to ensure a smooth transition.” He also added “I have enjoyed working with Lenny during these past few months and I respect his decision. Lenny has never been one to place a spotlight on himself; he’s always been quick to shine it on those around him. His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”
The departure by Daniels coincides with a round of layoffs by the company and also the beginning of long-term agreements with the NHL and MLB. The network is also about to embark on negotiations with the NBA for its next media rights deal, with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and President David Zaslav recently saying “we don’t have to have the NBA“.