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Less of Musberger Is Not a Good Thing

Jason Barrett

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Spoke to Brent Musburger the other day, after realizing I hadn’t heard his voice all season. ESPN, in one of its oddest decisions, has relegated him to Southeastern Conference games, which is why we seldom see him anymore.

“You’ll just have to subscribe to the SEC Network,” he says.

That’s Musburger, all right: Still crazy after all these years.

The SEC remains a plum assignment, though sentencing Musburger to what essentially is a regional telecast is like booking Placido Domingo to sing in Marriott lounges. It’s good for Marriott, but not for opera overall.

I can’t help but note that sports’ signature voices are disappearing faster than white rhinos. Keith Jackson has retired. Next up Vin Scully and Dick Enberg. With every retirement toast, sports journalism gets a little more earnest and fresh-faced. And about as soulful and satisfying as a cup of microwave soup.

“You are looking live at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California,” Musburger would crow, and you’d know in an instant you were in for a feast.

When Jackson retired, Musburger became the voice of the Rose Bowl, not the smallest of footsteps in which to follow. He did what all the legendary announcers do, wove a storyline, introduced you to the cast — what the player’s daddy did, how until junior year in high school some fleet safety had focused more on the trombone than on football. It was homespun, a tad corny. And, in the end, as rich and autumnal as a Robert Frost poem.

For all its flaws, football remains the Great American Romance — we can’t get enough. We seem to want to make something mythic of this sport, when it’s far more than that. For most of us, the sport ranks somewhere between a fetish and a religion.

It’s as if football were brought here on the Mayflower, or placed as an addendum to the Declaration of Independence. The coaches all used to look like Teddy Roosevelt. Now most of them resemble your dentist. But the game … oh, what a rich and resonant game.

“One word: television,” Musburger says. “Football and television were made for each other.”

Yet, for vast technical achievements and amazing camera work, I’m struck by how dry and unmoving most of today’s announcers are.

“The biz and the industry have changed,” explains Musburger, now 76. Because of the conference TV deals, he says, telecasts are playing to more of a niche audience that has a lot of background to begin with.

“And a lot of the [great] storytellers were baseball guys — Scully and Jack Buck,” he says. “They came up through the game, and had to learn to keep things entertaining. But football works at a different pace, especially these days. You don’t have the time.”

I complain to him about Fox’s World Series announcers, who focused on pitch counts and slugging percentages while ignoring the grace and spirit of the sport. He agreed, saying, “I thought there was a lot of clutter.”

“I’m a people guy, that’s my background,” he says of his preference for more biography and less statistical goo.

Read the rest of this article in the LA Times where it was originally published

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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Sports TV News

ESPN Paying Nearly $45 Billion For Rights Fees Through 2027

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually

Jordan Bondurant

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The last year or two has been evident that the price of rights to airing major college and professional sporting events on television are only going up. But the various networks either with longstanding relationships with leagues and conferences or looking to break into the media rights landscape are willing to pay up. That’s no more evident with Disney, which will be shelling out tens of billions of dollars to have regular season and postseason events air on ESPN.

According to Sportico, which reviewed Disney’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESPN is set to spend $44.9 billion on sports media rights through 2027.

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually. Additionally, ESPN will pay $1.4 billion through the 2024-25 season for NBA rights.

The Sportico report noted ESPN will generate more than $8.1 billion in affiliate revenue to help offset those costs. The network will soon be entering talks to renew its media rights deal to be the exclusive home for nearly all NCAA Division I championships, as well as engaging in new NBA rights negotiations.

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