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Cubs TV Future Factors Into All Business Decisions

Jason Barrett

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Telecasting nonstop programming from Kyle Schwarber‘s tape-measure home run to Ron Santo clicking his heels after victories is a vision that runs deep in the minds of Cubs executives.

“We look forward to the day we have the rights to start our own channel,” Chairman Tom Ricketts said recently at the Cubs Convention.

But as profitably tempting as operating their own regional sports channel may be — as the Yankees can attest through the YES Network — there are many variables that have the Cubs keeping an open mind for 2020 when they can control television rights for their games.

“We’re studying it to death to look at pros and cons and weigh the risks of launching on our own or launching with a partner,” Crane Kenney, the Cubs’ business president, said.

The structuring of contracts for free agents Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist suggests the Cubs will have deeper financial pockets in 2019 and beyond, which also will allow them to retain talents such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell in their arbitration years.

“The money is still out there,” media analyst Jeff Kagan said. “(The Cubs) brand is recognized around the country, and now they’re viewed as winners.”

But Kenney realizes that grossing millions of dollars that can bankroll the player payroll easily doesn’t guarantee a new contract will be a success. Because of distribution issues, less than 40 percent of the Southern California audience has TV access to Dodgers games.

And the Pacific-12 Network hasn’t reached a deal with DirecTV to carry its football games for the last four seasons.

Kenney acknowledged that the Cubs are continuing to negotiate with Comcast SportsNet Chicago, in which they hold a 20 percent ownership stake. Two years ago, the Phillies and their local Comcast affiliate agreed to a 25-year, $2.5 billion contract.

“(But) as we have conversations, which are on-going with all sorts of partners, if somebody offers us something dramatically better, we’ll of course look at it,” Kenney said. “But what we control is the idea of launching our own network in 2019.”

But the biggest decision, should the Cubs choose their own network, is selecting the right business partner. The YES Network has achieved success through the 80 percent ownership backing of 21st Century Fox. The Dodgers’ 25-year, $8.35 billion contract is considered an anomaly because Time Warner has absorbed all the financial risks.

 

Kenney said the Cubs would need a two-year setup before televising games in 2020 if they choose to operate their own channel. But they won’t be rushed into making a deal soon.

“Maybe aside from changing (baseball) leadership, this is the biggest decision we’ll have,” Ricketts said. “So we have to get it right.”

To read the full article visit the Chicago Tribune where it was originally published

 

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Jules Breach Ready to Occupy the Hosting Chair for FOX Sports Coverage of UEFA EURO 2024

“I am the biggest football fan, so to be hosting a tournament as big as this for a network as big as FOX is genuinely a dream come true.”

Derek Futterman

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Jules Breach
Courtesy: James Gill, Danehouse/Getty Images

Throughout her broadcast career, Jules Breach has had a variety of opportunities to cover football (soccer) across various professional entities. As the lead reporter and presenter for TNT Sports in the United Kingdom, she is responsible for keeping viewers informed and entertained throughout the coverage of the game within a panoply of competitive fields such as the Premier League, Europa League and Champions League.

Breach will now have a new opportunity to demonstrate her football knowledge and media proficiency in the United States as the lead host for UEFA EURO Match Day, the FOX Sports studio show surrounding UEFA EURO 2024. The program will provide viewers with extensive pre-match and post-match coverage from the group stage to the championship round on FOX and FS1.

FOX Sports secured the media rights to the tournament through a six-year agreement with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), which implements several championship matches and national team competitions. Coverage of UEFA EURO 2024 begins on Friday, June 14 at 3 p.m. EST when Germany opens group stage play against Scotland broadcast on the FOX television network. As a whole, the division will broadcast 46 UEFA 2024 and 32 CONMEBOL Copa América 2024 matches live on FOX, FS1 and FS2, and all matches will also be available to stream live on the FOX Sports app.

“It’s an absolute honor to be the lead host for FOX Sports’ coverage of the Euros this summer,” Breach said. “I’m absolutely buzzing. I am the biggest football fan, so to be hosting a tournament as big as this for a network as big as FOX is genuinely a dream come true.”

Breach articulated that she will bring the perspective of the fans to the airwaves while also being able to effectively contextualize the action through her previous experiences. At the same time, she possesses genuine excitement surrounding the sport and an inclination to align her colleagues with broadcast success.

Although the full roster of analysts has yet to be revealed, Breach hinted that it will include an array of different nationalities that will foster a congenial environment. One of the analysts joining Breach in studio is former center-back and Team Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini, someone from whom she will look to extrapolate perspectives pertaining to his team’s championship run in the 2020 iteration of the tournament.

“The analysts that we have – and we’ve got an amazing group of people that I’m going to be sat with every day – they bring the expertise,” Breach said. “They can tell us from their experiences of playing in these big matches what it’s like.”

Breach has been on the air for several different events both at the local and national level during her career working in sports media. Aside from her occupation with TNT Sports, she is the host for Channel 4 coverage of England national football team matches in the United Kingdom.

Moreover, she has covered the UEFA EURO 2020 and two FIFA World Cup tournaments for Optus Sport Australia, along with reporting and hosting for coverage of the UEFA Champions League from CBS Sports. No matter the assignment, Breach finds there to be a catalyzing element to sports that ultimately promulgates fellowship and rapport amid a backdrop of competition, zeal and felicitation.

“We use sport as a way to escape and as a means of entertainment and fun, so I guess I like to bring that side because when I watch sport; when I watch football, that’s what I want to see,” Breach said. “I want to see people smiling and having fun and enjoying it, but obviously there’s also a serious side to sport at times as well, so it’s getting the right balance when you need to.”

During tournament play, FOX Sports will broadcast matchups featuring both established veterans and rising stars within the sport. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappé, Luka Modrić and Warren Zaïre-Emery encompass some of the standout performers that will take part in the tournament proceedings. The popularity of football (soccer) continues to flourish globally, demonstrated by record-breaking television audiences, merchandise sales and a blend of domestic and international interest.

Viewership for UEFA EURO 2020, which was delayed by the global pandemic and played in June and July 2021, garnered a live match cumulative event audience of 5.23 billion viewers. Additionally, the live average match audiences for the tournament surpassed 100 million viewers.

“I love that there’s such a huge interest in the Euros,” Breach said. “Obviously this is the first time that FOX is showing the Euros as well, so it’s a really exciting thing for the network, and I’m excited that I can be part of that, but ultimately I think the sport will continue to grow in popularity in the States just because it’s a great sport to watch.”

The UEFA Euro Match Day program from FOX Sports will implement various elements to engage with younger audiences, including a travel series with mirthful and appealing pieces. Although the sport is perceived to be the most popular in the world, the program will aim to resonate with savants who possess a keen aptitude of the game on and off the pitch, along with novices inquisitive to delve deeper into the game. Broadcasts of the show will commence one hour before matches televised on FOX and FS1 throughout the month-long endeavor.

“We’re going to be bringing so much coverage,” Breach said. “There’s going to be our buildup into pretty much every single Euros game that we show, and we’ll make sure that we break things down so people are educated as well as entertained, and we’ll do that with the best analysts.”

Breach has covered the England national football team’s journey to UEFA EURO 2024 and UEFA Nations League campaign on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and is grateful for the chance to continue following the club. Although she hopes that England will ultimately hoist the Henri Delaunay Trophy for the first time in tournament history, she is anticipating UEFA EURO 2024 in its totality and her new hosting role with FOX Sports. Breach will leverage her reporting acumen and conversations with players into her hosting obligations in addition to a broad, comprehensive discernment pertaining to individual and team odysseys towards the prestigious tournament.

“I love the fact that FOX has given me this opportunity, and hopefully I can continue to cover international tournaments for the network,” Breach said. “That’s the dream; that’s what I want to keep doing.”

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Report: Warner Bros. Discovery Considering Matching Amazon NBA Package, Not NBC

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has told others he believes NBCUniversal is overpaying for the NBA based on their research.

Barrett Sports Media

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Another day, another new possibility in the ongoing saga of the future NBA media rights packages. Yesterday, Sports Business Journal reported the NBA would soon formalize their agreements with The Walt Disney Company/ESPN, Comcast/NBCUniversal/NBC/Peacock and Amazon for rights which would begin after next season. There has been much speculation about the matching rights Warner Bros. Discovery has in their deal and most of the chatter has been related to them possibly trying to match NBC’s bid. A new report from CNBC’s Alex Sherman says it might be the Amazon package for Prime Video that NBC tries to match.

It is clear WBD prefers to keep a rights agreement with the NBA for TNT, a partnership which goes back nearly 40 years. However, as Sherman points out there is the matter of their $42 billion gross debt. This may be a big reason they might try and match the Amazon offer, believed to be worth $1.8 billion per year, whereas the NBC package is believed to be priced at $2.5 billion. WBD is reportedly paying $1.2 billion per year currently.

If and when those packages are signed, that is when the matching clause for WBD will come in to play, so they have not yet been forced to make a decision. Sherman reports they would have five days to match an offer according to someone familiar with the language of the deal.

Sherman says it is still possible WBD does not try and match either offer and brings up the possibility of the league carving out a fourth packages, however, it is unknown if the league would be able to consider such an idea based on having already created a third package.

WBD has the Max platform to use as a streaming service, but Sherman notes that service plans to tier its sports programming, something the NBA would not like compared to Prime Video’s plan of continuing their current price structure.

One other note from Sherman’s report says Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has told others he believes NBCUniversal is overpaying for the NBA based on their research.

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Ed Werder Moves on from ESPN

“While this marks the end of my partnership with ESPN, I expect to continue working because, as so many studio hosts have proclaimed—and I still devoutly believe—’Ed Werder has more.’”

Barrett Sports Media

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Photo of Ed Werder and a logo for ESPN
Photo Courtesy: ESPN

After more than a couple of decades of work at ESPN, Ed Werder took to social media to announce he is no longer with the company.

“For 26 years, I’ve had the privilege of reporting on the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys while holding an ESPN microphone,” he wrote. “But that time is coming to an end. I will immediately begin considering other opportunities to continue my work covering the NFL.

“My ESPN career was highlighted by being assigned to cover 20 consecutive Super Bowls and included having my contributions honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I would be remiss if I didn’t express appreciation to my incredible colleagues and to the players, coaches and other NFL team members who trusted me with their unique insight when covering their games or breaking news. I’ve created some incredible lifelong memories. My gratitude to all who have been in the audience, and I remain thankful to have been provided the most coveted platform in broadcast journalism.”

Werder made it clear he is not retiring or looking to stop covering the NFL, saying, “While this marks the end of my partnership with ESPN, I expect to continue working because, as so many studio hosts have proclaimed—and I still devoutly believe—’Ed Werder has more.’”

Werder was laid off by the company back in 2017 but returned in 2019 to be the bureau reporter for the Dallas market. Werder also hosts The Doomsday Podcast with Matt Mosley with weekly Dallas Cowboys coverage.

ESPN released a statement about Werder’s departure. “Ed Werder has been a mainstay on ESPN’s NFL coverage for more than 25 seasons. He has elevated our programs, including Sunday NFL Countdown, and the multiple platforms he’s contributed to while reporting at signature games, Super Bowls, and nearly all league events. His journalistic instincts and relationships have benefitted fans throughout the years. We thank Ed for everything he contributed and wish him success in the future.”

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