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A Dream Year For Chris Fowler

Jason Barrett

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This has been another dream year in a fantasy-like career for ESPN sportscaster Chris Fowler. He has called national and international championships in his two favorite sports, college football and tennis, and now is on an assignment for the ages—being behind the mic at the U.S. Open starting today to cover Serena Williams’ quest for tennis’ first singles Grand Slam in 27 years.

“In terms of documenting an achievement, it would be the most amazing thing I’ve seen,” says Fowler, who has spent nearly three decades covering a wide world of sports from high school games to World Cup matches. “Any Grand Slam event is a piece of tennis history. When you add on to it what Serena could achieve and put it in New York in the biggest tennis stadium in the world, it’s hard to imagine anything more. There will be a wild scene—it will be electric.”

Fowler has a chance to help lay down the soundtrack for potential sports history because ESPN is beginning an 11-year deal for start-to-finish coverage of the Open, ending CBS’ 47- year run at the Flushing, N.Y., fortnight. Fowler, who covered early-round Open matches for ESPN the past six years, will be in the booth three additional days (for a total of 10) and call three more matches (18 total) than last year.

But he will break away this weekend for his other big gig, as play-by-play guy on ESPN’s Saturday primetime, college football games on ABC, heading to Arlington, Texas, to cover Alabama vs. Wisconsin.

Fowler then will fly back East to call the Ohio State-Virginia Tech game on ESPN Labor Day evening before returning to New York for the last six days of the Open, including the women’s championship Saturday afternoon, Sept. 12, and the men’s final Sunday afternoon, Sept. 13.

Fowler will skip the Sept. 12 Oregon- Michigan State grid game to be at the Open. “It’s very important for me to call the finals,” he says. “For years I’ve eyeballed that booth, so finally it is kind of a dream to be able to do it.”

Fowler has called two of Williams’ three major tournament wins this year, the Australian Open and Wimbledon. A title in New York, along with her French Open trophy, would make Williams the first singles player to win all four majors in a calendar year—the Grand Slam—since Steffi Graf in 1988.

Fowler built his success as a host but has gradually gravitated back to his first love, play-by-play, which he fell hard for growing up in Rockford, Ill., listening to fabled Chicago sportscasters Lloyd Pettit and Jack Brick-house.

“Calling games always has been my passion, never reading scores or highlights,” he says.

About 95% of his tennis workload now is play-by-play, and although he would like to mix in some hosting at the Open, he’s hesitant to because of the unpredictable length of matches.

Fowler knows all about that. He and analyst Patrick McEnroe called the longest Grand Slam final in history, 5 hours and 53 minutes, between winner Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the 2012 Australian Open.

“I’m a little bit claustrophobic,” Fowler says, “so sometimes a tennis booth is not a comfortable place to be unless the action out the window is really fun and exciting. Then you forget about what a small space you’re in.”

Longtime ESPN executive John A. Walsh and other key talent evaluators considered Fowler a keeper early in his career and gave him his big break in 1990, tapping him to host weekly college football pregame show College GameDay.

“It soon became obvious to everyone that he was made for hosting, he was made for college sports, that he understood it all,” says Walsh, who retired this year as ESPN executive editor and senior VP. “Chris is very smart, very contemporary. He’s a student of everything that he does and is in a perpetual state of learning.”

To read the rest of the article visit BroadcastingCable.com where it was originally published

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Report: Netflix Looking for Production Partner for NFL Christmas Day Game Broadcasts

The report also indicates that there could be “more resistance among current NFL partners to help out Netflix” because the company may be looking to become a long-term media rights partner for the league in the future.

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Netflix will stream two National Football League games on Christmas Day this year as part of a new deal with the league that was inked ahead of the official release of the regular-season schedule. The company is starting to prepare for these matchups by reportedly reaching out to broadcasters in an effort to find a partner to produce these matchups, the first of which is an AFC tilt between the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. EST. Some of the broadcasters with whom Netflix has reportedly spoken with are ESPN, NBCUniversal and CBS Sports, according to a new report from Lillian Rizzo and Alex Sherman of CNBC.

The Walt Disney Company, which has a majority ownership stake of ESPN, will reportedly not produce these games since it has college football matchups on the same day, according to people familiar with the situation. CBS Sports and FOX Sports produce several games in different regions every week, which could make producing games with Netflix somewhat of a burden. The report also indicates that there could be “more resistance among current NFL partners to help out Netflix” because the company may be looking to become a long-term media rights partner for the league in the future. The NFL is able to opt out of its current media contracts following the 2029-30 season.

Over the years, Netflix has produced a variety of sports-related content in the form of documentaries and live specials. The company signed a media rights agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment to become the new broadcast home of the WWE Raw series beginning in 2025 reportedly worth $5 billion over 10 years.

Netflix also released the trailer for Receiver, the NFL docuseries following players on and off the field throughout the 2023-24 season, which is produced by NFL Films, Omaha Productions and 2PM Productions. The eight-episode series, which is a sequel to Quarterback, will feature Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

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Amazon Prime Video to Broadcast Weekly NHL Whiparound Show in Canada

“We are thrilled to work with NHL Productions on this new concept for hockey offering the ultimate destination for all the NHL action.”

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Courtesy: National Hockey League, Prime Video & Amazon MGM Studios

The National Hockey League and Amazon’s Prime Video have announced the creation of NHL Coast To Coast, a new weekly whiparound live look-in show airing on Thursday nights in Canada. This new program will feature live views, highlights and analysis of every NHL game on the schedule as Prime Video prepares to embark on a two-year sublicensing deal with the league and Rogers Communications to present live games on Monday nights. The series is produced by NHL Productions in collaboration with Prime Video, and more information, including details surrounding the talent and production for the show, will be revealed at a later date.

“We are thrilled to work with NHL Productions on this new concept for hockey offering the ultimate destination for all the NHL action,” Magda Grace, head of Prime Video, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement. “NHL Coast To Coast will provide fans with a comprehensive look at the latest key moments in games, as-they-happen highlights, interviews and analysis from the world of hockey featuring top players, coaches and commentators. The show will bring innovation and offer more to fans of the game than ever before, all in one place with their Prime membership.”

Earlier in the month, Prime Video and NHL Productions unveiled an untitled docuseries with Box to Box Films that will provide consumers with access to compelling players from around the league at different stages of their careers all trying to win the Stanley Cup. The series will include interviews with players, their rivals and those in their inner circle, trying to accurately depict what life is like for these players on and off the ice.

Amazon and the NHL have worked together since 2021 on their cloud-based delivery system, which has facilitated the delivery of in-game analytics and video highlights to enhance the overall fan experience. Among these ventures is the NHL Edge IQ stats portfolio that implements advanced analytical outputs to engender a better understanding of the on-ice action.

NHL Coast To Coast is yet another example of Amazon’s extraordinary investment in hockey programming and commitment to delivering an enhanced viewing experience for hockey fans,” Steve Mayer, senior executive vice president and chief content officer of the National Hockey League, said in a statement. “We are impressed with Amazon’s all-in approach to hockey and the NHL. Together with our amazing team at NHL Productions, Amazon continues to build on its mission to serve hockey fans across Canada with whiparound coverage that will make Thursday nights appointment viewing.”

Over the last several years, Amazon has expanded its presence in sports media through the acquisition of broadcasting rights within the National Football League, NASCAR, National Women’s Soccer League and Overtime Elite. The company is reportedly set to acquire media rights within the National Basketball Association’s new broadcasting deal, which is also said to include The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) and NBCUniversal, although no deals have currently been announced.

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NBC Sports Announces Olympic Commentators for Swimming, Diving, Track and Gymnastics

In swimming, Dan Hicks, covering his 14th Olympics, will once again work with Rowdy Gaines.

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U.S. Olympic Team Trials for swimming, diving, track & field and gymnastics will be taking place from June 15-June 30 for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Those trials will be presented across NBC, Peacock and USA Network. With that, NBC Sports also announced its roster of announcers who will call those sports during the Olympics.

In swimming, Dan Hicks, covering his 14th Olympics, will once again work with Rowdy Gaines. The pair will have Elizabeth Beisel, working her second Olympics and Melissa Stark who will be working her fourth Olympics.

Jason Knapp will also provide swimming play-by-play and he will do so with Amy Van Dyken and Heathe Olson as analysts.

In diving, Ted Robinson will call the play-by-play and work with analysts Cynthia Potter and Laura Wilkinson. Andrea Joyce will serve as a reporter. Robinson will be working his 14th overall Olympics and 13th with NBC.

Track & Field will have Leigh Diffey, Paul Swangard and Bill Spaulding calling the play-by-play. Analysts for track include Ato Boldon, Sanya Richards-Ross, Kara Goucher, Trey Hardee, Lewis Johnson, Dawn Harper-Nelson and Shannon Rowbury.

Terry Gannon and Rich Lerner will be on play-by-play for gymnastics. Gannon will work the primetime show with analysts Tim Daggett, Samantha Peszek, John Roethlisberger and Zora Stephenson. Lerner will be teamed with Laurie Hernandez and Justin Spring.

The Olympics will conclude on August 11.

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