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ESPN and Jason Whitlock Part Ways

Jason Barrett

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ESPN and sports commentator Jason Whitlock have parted ways.

Again.

After hiring Whitlock in August 2013 to be the founding editor for a still-yet-to-launch website (The Undefeated) on the intersection of race and sports—a talent acquisition that was also part of a spending spree to counter the launch of Fox Sports 1—ESPN has bought out the remainder of Whitlock’s contract. This ends the second go-around for ESPN and Whitlock, who worked from ESPN from 2002 to 2006 as an ESPN.com writer and frequently opinionist on its studio shows. The buyout was quietly negotiated a couple of weeks ago.

When contacted by SI.com on Sunday afternoon, an ESPN spokesperson forwarded the following from the company, “We have mutually agreed to part ways, which was Jason’s preference following the shift from his role as Editor-in-Chief. Jason is a talented print and television commentator, and we wish him success in his next chapter. ESPN remains fully committed to The Undefeated and plans continue toward an official launch.”

The troubled editorship and eventual ouster of Whitlock as the lead editor of the still yet-to-launch site has been well chronicled, from the New York Times to multiple longform pieces by Deadspin writer Greg Howard.

Here was ESPN’s statement at the time of Whitlock’s removal. Whitlock continued to appear on ESPN’s airwaves throughout this summer on Pardon The Interruption, where he is a favorite of executive producer Erik Rydholm and on-air staffers Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. It’s expected Whitlock will continue to appear on that show in the near-term.

What’s next? Well, given Fox Sports National Networks President Jamie Horowitz is a Professor Emeritus of the Morton Downey Jr. College of Television, given Horowitz shares mutual professional friends with Whitlock, and given the recent report from Sports Business Daily media reporter John Ourand that FS1 is looking for more opinionated hosts for its afternoon block, Whitlock appears to be a lock to re-join Fox Sports, where he worked from 2007 to 2013. FS1 is rebranding its afternoon format around Colin Cowherd and provocative sports talk in an effort toturn around low ratings. Whitlock could serve as a partner with Cowherd on a still-to-be built late afternoon show or co-host his own show. Will FS1 viewers watch a bloc of programming featuring ex-ESPN talkers? Time will tell.

A Fox spokesperson declined to comment.

Credit to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated who originally published this article

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FOX Sports Moving UFL Games to Friday Nights in 2025

“The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year.”

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The United Football League logo

FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently confirmed a report from Deadline last month that said United Football League games would move to Friday nights in 2025. The Deadline report had said FOX planned to replace WWE Smackdown with sports coverage from college football and basketball as well as games from the UFL.

Shanks’ comments were made during a Zoom with reporters about the news of their new agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series. SI’s Mike Mitchell reported that the UFL worked with FOX to move the games so they could complete their auto racing deal.

Shanks said many of FOX’s UFL games would be moved to Friday night when asked about the change but did not provide more detail.

The UFL was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this season. The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year and the recent conference championship games were up 57% over the averages from the USFL and XFL last season. According to Mitchell, the league saw a large increase in the 18-49 demographic on FOX compared to USFL programming in 2023.

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Report: WNBA Could Quadruple Media Rights Fees

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion.

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: Women's National Basketball Association

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video expected to be worth a collective $76 billion over the course of the deal. At the same time, the NBA is also negotiating media rights for the WNBA in which it has an ownership stake of approximately 60%. The WNBA could quadruple its annual media rights fee within these negotiations, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion. Throughout the season thus far, the WNBA has seen its ratings increase, drawing more than 1 million viewers across several matchups throughout the regular season. Moreover, discussion surrounding the league is further assimilating into the sports vernacular surrounding stars such as Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson, Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.

Ben Strauss of The Washington Post outlined how the NBA is in the process of considering one total bid from media companies that combines the value of media rights for the NBA and WNBA. With the league itself determining the value of media rights for the WNBA, he argues that it could either be “rocket fuel” for the league or that its augmented popularity “is more of an afterthought.” The possibility exists that it could be a combination of both extremes as well, but by having the league negotiate its media rights deal, quantifying the true value could be a more difficult task.

In a report from earlier in the year, McCarthy stated that the WNBA is likely to negotiate its own separate media rights deal if it is not receiving the remuneration that it wants. The WNBA attained its most-watched opening month in league history, averaging 1.32 million viewers for games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, Ion and NBA TV. Moreover, the league had its most-attended opening month in its 26-year history with 400,000 fans at games through the end of May and a rise in sales of WNBA-branded merchandise by 236% year-over-year.

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NBA Finals Game 3 Up 2% on ABC and ESPN

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Graphic for the NBA Finals

Game 3 of the NBA Finals series which saw Boston take a three games to none lead in the series was up 2% from last year’s Game 3. The game averaged 11,426,000 viewers and peaked at 13,926,000 at 10:45 p.m. ET.

The game was the top draw in all of television for the night and took the top spot in all of the key demographics. So far through three games, the series is even with the television numbers from 2023.

NBA Countdown, the show which airs right before the game begins, was also up two percent compared to the same show a year ago. NBA Countdown averaged 4,330,000 viewers. Through three games, the show is up five percent from last season’s pregame shows.

The Celtics will look to secure their 18th NBA Championship when the two teams meet again for Game 4 tonight at 8:30 ET. If a Game 5 is necessary, it would be played on Monday, June 17.

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