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ESPN Pulls The Plug on Grantland

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The network said the site was “suspended” effective immediately, and a senior ESPN source confirmed that there are no plans to bring it back.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” ESPN said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The surprising announcement came five months after ESPN split up with Grantland’s founding editor Bill Simmons. There has been an exodus of talent from the site since then.

About 40 writers, producers and editors will be affected by the decision. Writers who have contracts will be honored. Some will continue to write for ESPN’s website and produce videos for the ESPN Films unit.

But an unknown number of others will be leaving. Some of the site’s most distinctive work, like its television show recaps and features about movies, will be going away.

“We’re getting out of the pop culture business,” the senior ESPN source said.

ESPN executives are meeting with the affected staffers on Friday afternoon. Michael Baumann, a freelancer, complained that he found out about the closure through Twitter, not from the company directly.

There was such an outpouring of affection for the site that “Grantland” was a top trending topic on Twitter within half an hour of the announcement.

“I loved Grantland more than I’ve ever loved anything on the Internet,” wrote alum Kevin Lincoln, now an editor for New York magazine.

ESPN’s statement praised Grantland for having “quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun” and singled out Simmons for being “an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent.”

Simmons’ replacement, Chris Connelly, will “return to his prior role” at “SportsCenter” and the newsmagazine “E:60,” the statement said.

An ESPN spokeswoman said the company remains “totally committed” to two of its other digital offshoots, FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated. Those two were modeled after Grantland.

Half an hour after the announcement, Simmons tweeted his reaction to the news: “Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling.”

In retrospect, the shuttering of Grantland may have started many months ago. Simmons’ divorce with ESPN came after he frequently clashed with the channel’s higher-ups.

He was hit with a well-publicized suspension last year after he practically dared his bosses to discipline him for his public criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In May, Simmons found out via a story in The New York Times that his contract was not being renewed. Since then, he has continued to criticize ESPN in public appearances and on his podcast. He recently commented that the network “is in the bag for the NFL.”

In the first half of 2016 Simmons will start hosting a weekly series for HBO.

Credit to CNN who originally published this article

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NBA Playoff Ratings Hit 8-Year Highs

“At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.”

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More people are watching the NBA Playoffs than have done so in a long time. Through the first two rounds in 2022, the league is enjoying its best postseason ratings in eight years.

The average audience across TNT, ESPN, ABC and NBA TV is 3.71 million people per game. If you take the less widely available NBA TV out of the mix, the NBA is averaging 4.08 million viewers per game.

At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.

The Boston Celtics have been one of the most reliable performers this postseason. They have been involved in two of the three most-watched games. Sunday’s Game 7 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks is one of two games this postseason that now rank as the most-watched early round games in a decade. The other was Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Golden State has also been a hot draw. The Warriors have been involved in four of the seven most-watched playoff games.

With both teams still alive and plenty of star power left in the playoffs, the NBA is poised to deliver one of its most-watched postseasons in years.

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Domonique Foxworth: Tom Brady Contract Is About Impressing NFL

“I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”

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The shake-up of NFL TV broadcast booths has been one of the top storylines in the league this offseason.

Part of the reasoning is because of the massive sums of money involved. Whether it’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman or Tom Brady, NFL broadcasters have been getting paid. And it doesn’t seem like the spending is going to slow down anytime soon.

Speaking to Bomani Jones on The Right Time, Domonique Foxworth said the NFL just wants to continue to get bigger and bigger even with its broadcast crews.

“These TV partners want to be in good with the league. And I think that’s what this Tom Brady contract comes down to,” Foxworth said. “I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”

Even with some feeling like Brady is uninteresting and likely won’t move the needle as an analyst, it’s the name recognition factor that will set the table for Brady in the booth.

“I do believe that if you turn on an NFL game, and Tom Brady’s talking about it, it feels bigger no matter what he’s saying,” Foxworth said.

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Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Visit Bristol For First Time Since Signing With ESPN

“My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

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Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to have a new sound this year with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth. The deal is reportedly worth a combined $165 million, and will officially begin on September 12 when the Denver Broncos visit the Seattle Seahawks at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN.

“I’m thrilled to officially welcome Joe and Troy to ESPN and Monday Night Football,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “They are elite broadcasters who have been at the forefront of our industry for more than two decades [and] are universally respected, and fans truly appreciate their candor and expertise.”

Buck and Aikman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol for the first time today. The broadcast duo, now entering their 21st season in the booth together, are switching networks for the first time, a move that was initiated because of Aikman’s expiring contract. Throughout the season, Aikman had an inclination that it would be his last at Fox; however, he would have stayed at the network. The original thought, according to Aikman, was that he would call Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime while continuing his role in doubleheader games with Fox – but it was quickly realized that it would not be feasible.

“ESPN began conversations with me, and it was an opportunity that was just the best fit for me,” said Aikman. “I didn’t think that was going to happen until a little bit after the Super Bowl.”

Buck’s contract was not set to expire until the end of this season, but after watching his veteran partner change networks, the possibility existed that he too would depart.

“When I knew Troy was gone, I think there was a little bit more intensity in my talks with Fox about ‘Was I going to stay there?,’ or ‘Was I going to try to continue my relationship on-air with Troy?’,” Buck reflected.

After approximately a month of negotiations between Buck and Fox, the broadcaster was off to ESPN. While the negotiations moved quickly, Buck never felt like he was taken for granted by Fox after working there for 28 years.

“They tell you how much you’re worth to them every time a check arrives,” said Buck. “They prove all that stuff by letting you continue to do it, and the relationships that we had. It was very collegial and very friendship-driven, much more so than employer-employee at Fox, and I expect the same will continue here at ESPN.”

Much of the media landscape across the National Football League has been significantly altered going into next season. Whether it is Buck and Aikman going from Fox to ESPN; the new Fox booth of Kevin Burkhardt and, upon his retirement, Tom Brady; the addition of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit; and Mike Tirico being moved into the lead Sunday Night Football role with Cris Collinsworth, the game will adopt a new sound upon the season’s opening kickoff.

ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley commented that amid the new broadcast landscape, the network believes it now has the number one football broadcast booth in the country. Additionally, she revealed the addition of a second Monday Night Football booth to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the network’s new broadcast rights deal with the NFL. The secondary booth will be calling three games this year and five games next year, and an announcement with more details is forthcoming.

For Buck, being welcomed to ESPN was representative of a full-circle moment, as his father Jack called Monday Night Football on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram. While Buck idolized his father and strived to one day be like him, he was always attentive as to what was going on in one of the other booths in the stadium.

“I knew as a little kid something special was going on two doors down, and that was when Howard Cosell was there; Don Meredith was there; Frank Gifford was there – and it was, ‘Man, that is the peak of sports and media,’” said Buck. “My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

“This is an opportunity with ESPN that I’m really excited about,” added Aikman. “We’ve been doing it so long in one way [and] it feels like it’s 2001 again…. I have nothing but respect for the people I worked [for] at Fox, and appreciate the way I was treated for the 21 years I was there, but am excited for the next chapter.”

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