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Remy’s Status At NESN Is Unclear

Jason Barrett

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There were many word choices by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner in his only public comments thus far regarding the decision to replace popular NESN play-by-play voice Don Orsillo with ESPN and WEEI’s Dave O’Brien next season.

But in that forum — Steve Buckley’s column last Saturday night on the Boston Herald website — there was one word in particular that practically bounded off the screen, leaving me as bewildered with Werner and NESN’s reasoning as I am with the decision itself. Here’s what Werner said: “I understand it has created some controversy. And I also understand that Don is a great broadcaster, but we felt that starting next year it was worth going in a different direction reenergizing the broadcast.”

Reenergizing the broadcast? Reenergizing it? I recognize that a vague verb such as reenergize comes in handy as corporate speak for, “We wanted to make a change, Dave O’Brien is great and his contract at WEEI is up, it’s our prerogative, and you and that little petition isn’t going to change our minds.”

What gets me is that a reenergized broadcast is precisely what NESN has had this year. What it hasn’t had, at least until the last few weeks in this long-lost season, is a particularly energized or effective baseball team, which is why ratings dipped in the second half after being the sixth highest in baseball among regional cable networks at the All-Star break.

None of this is on the broadcasters. In fact, I’d argue that Orsillo and Jerry Remy have had their most energized and enjoyable broadcasts in years. That especially applies to Remy, whose status for next year and beyond has been something of an afterthought amid the backlash regarding the graceless split with Orsillo.

If the banter between Orsillo and Remy — a huge reason for the initial growth of their mutual popularity in their 15 years together — had been minimized in recent years, well, there were understandable reasons. Remy had a recurring battle with lung cancer, which took him away from the broadcast booth for various and often extensive lengths of time. In August 2013, Remy’s son, Jared, was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel. He pled guilty in August 2014.

Remy took an immediate leave of absence in 2013 after his son was charged. Upon announcing his decision to return last January during a meeting with a small group of reporters at NESN headquarters, he acknowledged how much the job means to him.

“It’s always been my comfort zone, for 40 years. I can’t sit there. I just can’t sit in my chair [at home],’’ he said. “I’ve been there long enough already. I’ve got to be busy. I’ve got to do something to preoccupy myself. I need to do something I enjoy. And this is what I enjoy doing and I always have . . . I still enjoy it. I’m not crazy about the 4 o’clock arrivals, but the game itself I truly love, and I always have and I still do, and that’s not going to go away.”

That enjoyment of the job was not evident last year. But this year has brought back the Remy of old, an incisive, sharp analyst with a knack for recognizing what might or should happen before it does. He is back in that comfort zone, and viewers are back to being comfortable with him. He should be back next year. He deserves to be back, and he is under contract, having signed what he said was a five-year deal in April 2013.

The question remains: Will he be back? When WEEI’s Gerry Callahan broke the news of Orsillo’s departure during last Tuesday’s “Dennis and Callahan” program, he also said that Remy would work a reduced schedule next year, possibly in the range of 40 games.

Reached by phone Thursday, Remy said he could not comment on his status. When asked for comment, NESN spokesman Gary Roy referred to Buckley’s nearly-week-old Herald column. In that piece, NESN president and CEO Sean McGrail said Remy is in the network’s plans for next season, but a role hadn’t been finalized. When asked if the role would be reduced, McGrail said: “We don’t know yet. We’re working through that. We weren’t going to talk about that until October, but he will be with us, for sure.”

To read the rest of the story visit the Boston Globe where it was originally published

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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