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Sports TV News

Strong Market For Orsillo

Jason Barrett

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This continues to be a difficult time for NESN play-by-play broadcaster Don Orsillo, who has told friends that his lame-duck status in the booth makes showing up at the ballpark feel “like I’m going to my own funeral.”

But Orsillo has not let his feelings interfere with his work since NESN announced he would not be returning for a 16th season — note his enthusiastic call of David Ortiz’s 500th home run Saturday night. And while the outpouring of support from his fans — more than 60,000 signatures have been collected on an on-line petition — will not alter NESN’s plans, multiple sources say that Orsillo’s prospects of landing another broadcasting job look very promising.

One source in charge of broadcasting with another major-league club pointed to San Diego, where Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg will be entering the last year of his deal next season, as a strong contender for Orsillo’s services. Orsillo’s agent, Brad Blank, said Monday night that he would not identify the teams and networks that have shown interest in Orsillo, but confirmed there are a number of potential landing spots.

Blank said he also has no issue with the Red Sox electing to hire Dave O’Brien, who is regarded as one of the top broadcasters in the business, working for ESPN in addition to his work on radio for the Red Sox the last nine years.

“At the end of a contract, if the terms have been satisfied and they’ve paid what they said they would pay, NESN doesn’t owe anything,’’ Blank said. “That’s how it works.

“If I thought something bad might happen to Don, I might feel differently, but I know he’s going to be fine.’’

O’Brien, like Orsillo a New England native, has been in an awkward position since NESN’s announcement that he would be succeeding Orsillo, the news leaking last month. O’Brien had spoken last summer with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but according to a broadcasting source, no offer was made. Another industry source said that the parameters of a deal were discussed, but there was no written offer.

Regardless of whether O’Brien broached an opportunity with the Dodgers in his talks with the Red Sox, NESN and team sources indicated that they already had decided they wanted to take their broadcasts in a different direction, and viewed O’Brien as an elite talent with the kind of resume that would appeal to advertisers and sponsors.

NESN’s handling of the change, however, has been widely condemned for what has been perceived as insensitivity to Orsillo and an indifference to his popularity with the team’s fan base. The Sox have encountered similar blowback in the past with Sean McDonough, whose dismissal provoked outrage. McDonough’s replacement as the Sox primary TV voice? Orsillo.

While sensitive to how personally disappointed his client is, Blank insists he bears no ill will toward NESN or the Red Sox. “I give NESN and the Red Sox credit for being helpful’’ he said.

Credit to ESPN who originally published this article.

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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