Wee-hours viewers of ESPN have for the last six years counted on Neil Everett and Stan Verrett to get them through the night. And while some other mainstays at the Walt Disney sports-media outlet have departed, this duo won’t be one of them.
Verrett and Everett, who host the 1 a.m. eastern edition of the network’s flagship “SportsCenter,” will stick with the outlet under new “multi-year” deals, ESPN is expected to unveil Friday. “I signed first,” Verrett recounted in an interview, and immediately told his partner, “I’m done. Don’t leave me!:”
ESPN likely hopes the announcement will quell the notion that top employees are leaving the network for other opportunities as its executives navigate a new playing field of sorts: maintaining cost controls as the rights fees it must pay for live-sports content escalate. ESPN has appeared in recent months to take a harder look at deals with talent, cutting ties with personality and “Grantland” founder Bill Simmons and then parting ways with Keith Olbermann after his ESPN2 program didn’t notch the ratings executives had wanted. ESPN Radio personality Colin Cowherd has also exited, though the network is said to have initially tried to keep him on board.
Verrett and Everett may not have achieved Simmons’ level of fame, but their presence at the network is an important one. They hold forth from Los Angeles, not the network’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters. As such, they lend a West Coast sensibility to their programming – which also happens to stand as the network’s last live news dispatch of the night for most of its viewers (their edition of “SportsCenter” airs several more times during overnights and into early morning).
“In Bristol, there’s a huge pool of people to pick from. On Monday, I might be announcing with this guy, with that guy directing and that person producing, and I wouldn’t even know the graphics guy,” Everett explained. “On Tuesday, I might be anchoring with her, she’s producing. You don’’ know until you go to your team meeting or your show meeting. Our show has succeeded because our collective group is in it.” Viewers understand, he added, there’s a certain bunch that handles the latenight program. “There’s a lot of us here who have been there since day one.”
ESPN launched the West Coast effort in 2009, opening a production center near L.A.’s Staples Center, in hopes of adding some geographic balance to a schedule that originated largely from the East.”It seems like we have a relationship with viewers and it’s something that we want to continue,” Verrett said.
Both anchors joined ESPN in 2000 within months of each other: Everett in July, Verrett in September.
Verrett had been a weekend sports anchor and reporter at WDSU-TV, an NBC affiliate, in his hometown of New Orleans. He has also worked as sports anchor and reporter in Norfolk, Va., at ABC affiliate WVEC-TV and NBC affiliate WAVY-TV, and was a morning show personality at several radio stations in Washington, D.C., Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk.
Everett came to ESPN after working for 15 years for various affiliates in Honolulu, most recently KGMB-TV, the CBS affiliate where he was the sports director and weekday anchor. Prior to his TV news career, Everett served as an assistant athletic director and sports information director at Hawaii Pacific University.
“The on-air chemistry Neil and Stan have can’t be manufactured,” said Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president of “SportsCenter” and News, in a prepared statement. “It’s as authentic as it gets, and we look forward to having them as part of our team for years to come.”
Credit to Variety 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“.