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Stadium’s Baseball Stories to Premiere April 10th

Brandon Contes

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Stadium announced an original 13 episode weekly interview series titled Baseball Stories, featuring senior baseball writer for The Athletic, Jayson Stark.

Each 30 minute episode will be available on Stadium’s linear TV channel as well as its digital platforms, with the premiere being Tuesday, April 10th at 7:00pm ET. Mark McGwire will be Stark’s first guest with the 1998 home run chase being the topic of discussion.

“The coolest thing about doing this series with Stadium is having the chance to sit down with a group of people who share an incredible passion for baseball and present it in a format that allows the world to see that passion as vividly as people inside the game see it,” said Stark. “On Baseball Stories, we’re going to let them tell their favorite stories, in their own words. And I’m really excited to play my part in letting the world hear those stories, in the kind of personal, informal setting you rarely see.”

Baseball Stories full schedule of guests:

  • Mark McGwire, San Diego Padres bench coach, 12-time All-Star, 2-time World Series Champion, 583 career homeruns (hit 70 HR in 1998).
  • Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees outfielder, 2017’s most-prized acquisition, 4-time All-Star and 2017 National League MVP.
  • Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians manager, 2-time World Series champion, 2-time American League manager of the year.
  • Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals pitcher, 3-time Cy Young Award winner, 5-time All-Star, 2,000+ career strikeouts, two career no-hitters.
  • Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman, 2017 NLCS MVP.
  • Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles Manager, 3-time American League Manager of the Year.
  • Justin Verlander, Houston Astros starting pitcher, 2017 World Series champion, 2011 American League MVP, A.L. Cy Young Award winner, 6-time All-Star, 2011 pitching Triple Crown winner, 2006 A.L. Rookie of the Year, ALCS MVP, 4-time A.L. strikeout leader, two career no-hitters.
  • Hank Azaria, 6-time Emmy Award winner, current star of IFC’s acclaimed baseball themed show, Brockmire.
  • Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays third baseman, 3-time All-Star, 2015 American League MVP, 2-time Silver Slugger.
  • Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox second baseman, 4-time All-Star, 2-time World Series Champion, 2008 American League MVP.
  • Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles outfielder, 5-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove Award winner.
  • Jeff Luhnow, Houston Astros General Manager and architect of the 2017 World Series champions, 2017 MLB Executive of the Year.
  • Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies third baseman, 3-time All-Star, only IF to win Gold Glove in each of first 5 MLB seasons, 3 straight Silver Slugger awards.

Stadium began as an OTT service less than a year ago, before expanding to include a broadcast channel available in over 75 markets. The platform, which already offers live games and studio coverage, is looking to expand into more original content with Baseball Stories being one of its first projects.

Jayson Stark signed on with The Athletic this past February, publishing his first article for the platform on April 1st. The former ESPN reporter will continue as a contributor for MLB Network in addition to his work with The Athletic and Stadium.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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Venu Sports Announces Founding Leadership Team

Barrett Sports Media

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Venu Sports Leadership Team
Courtesy: Venu Sports

Venu Sports, the new joint streaming venture from ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, has announced the members of its founding leadership team that will report to Pete Distad, the chief executive officer of the entity. The team will be based in New York and Los Angeles and features executives with vast experiences in entertainment, media, technology, sports and sports betting companies.

Brian Borkowski has been named the chief marketing officer for Venu Sports and will be responsible for marketing, branding and growth strategies to help the brand launch and grow. Borkowski previously worked at FanDuel where he was the senior vice president of marketing for the company as it continued its expansion. Additionally, he has held various leadership roles with Hulu, including vice president of media and acquisition, along with head of subscriber acquisition. Over the years, he worked as the chief marketing officer of analytics firm Verikai and also had marketing leadership roles with Neilson Financial Services and Farmers Insurance.

Jessica Casano-Antonellis will serve as the senior vice president and head of communications for Venu Sports. Casano-Antonellis previously led communications at SiriusXM and also worked as the vice president of communications for Disney+ and Hulu at The Walt Disney Company. Among her responsibilities were overseeing communications initiatives for streaming propositions, including launching and rolling out Disney’s flagship streaming service.

Tim Connolly is the chief business officer of the company, possessing responsibilities pertaining to strategic initiatives for the sports streaming platform. Some of these areas of focus include content rights and licensing, distribution and strategic partnership and subscriber growth and retention strategies. Connolly previously helped lead subscriber growth for Apple TV+ and MLS Season Pass at Apple, along with serving in senior leadership roles at Hulu and The Walt Disney Company.

Amit Dudakia will be responsible for product management and design, along with programming and editorial for Venu Sports in his new role of senior vice president and head of product. Dudakia most recently worked as the senior vice president of product management for Fox Technology and Digital where he led product and design for the FOX Sports division. Dudakia started working with the Fox Corporation at FX Network where he helped launch a variety of entities under its umbrella.

Skarpi Hedinsson has been named the chief technology officer of Venu Sports and will be responsible for technology strategy and execution for the streaming service. Hedinsson was previously the chief technology officer of the Los Angeles Rams and played an integral role leading the team envisioning, designing and implementing technology within SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park. Hedinsson is the former chief technology officer of Disney/ABC Television Group, working in the role amid the launch of the WATCH ABC and WATCH Disney services.

David Hillman will oversee legal matters for Venu Sports in his new role of chief legal officer. Before joining Venu Sports, Hillman worked on the corporate legal executive management team at Paramount Global, recently serving as executive vice president and general counsel for CBS Sports, CBS News and Stations and Broadcast Operations. Within his position, he observed negotiations for strategic content agreements across several genres. Hillman previously held similar positions at Simon & Schuster and Westwood One.

Gautam Ranji will serve as the chief financial officer for Venu Sports, having purview over financial operations for the joint streaming venture. Ranji is the former chief financial officer and treasurer for Sphere Entertainment, involved in fiscal functions and within the management team that launched the Sphere in Las Vegas, Nev. Before this endeavor, he was responsible for strategic planning and business development at CBS and was a co-leader for the integration following the merger between Viacom and CBS, currently known as Paramount Global.

Judy Schwab is the senior vice president and head of people at Venu Sports, overseeing workforce planning, organizational effectiveness and talent acquisition along with the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Schwab previously worked as a leader in human resources within the Apple Services division, and she was also a member of The Walt Disney Company leading human resources for its direct-to-consumer businesses. She was a key member of the leadership team that helped launch Disney+ and integrated Hulu as well.

In addition to the leadership team at Venu Sports, more than 150 engineers and executives are working to build the product that will look to serve sports fans without a traditional cable subscription. The service will combine several linear television networks owned by The Walt Disney Company, Fox Corporation and Warner Bros. Discovery that broadcast sports programming. Pricing and a launch date for the service have not yet been announced.

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FOX Sports Draws 1.59 Million Viewers for UFL Championship Game

This year’s championship game, which was called by Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt and also featured a visit from Tom Brady in the booth, peaked at 1,723,000 viewers from 6:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Photo of the UFL Championship game on FOX Sports
Photo Courtesy: FOX Sports

If television viewership is the barometer, spring football had a heck of season. It all culminated with FOX Sports drawing 1.59 million viewers for the United Football League championship game between the Birmingham Stallions and the San Antonio Brahmas, which the Stallions won 25-0.

The Stallions’ third consecutive championship was up 38% over their second championship a year ago when they played Pittsburgh in the USFL championship game. It was also an increase of 11% over the XFL Championship game from last year between Arlington and DC.

This year’s championship game, which was called by Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt and also featured a visit from Tom Brady in the booth, peaked at 1,723,000 viewers from 6:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.

The UFL regular season was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this year. 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 SI’s Mike 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: Pat McAfee Does Not Currently Have an Agreement to Return to ‘College GameDay’

“With the start of the season a little more than two months away, Pat McAfee remains unsigned with ESPN’s “College GameDay.”

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Screengrab of Pat McAfee on College GameDay
Screengrab: ESPN College GameDay

College GameDay, the beloved college football pre-game show on ESPN, has a big change in store for it this coming season with the addition of former Alabama head coach Nick Saban joining the team. According to a report today from Andrew Marchand of The Athletic, there is no guarantee their most recent addition prior to Saban will be back. Marchand says that Pat McAfee remains unsigned as far as returning to the show.

Marchand wrote, “With the start of the season a little more than two months away, Pat McAfee remains unsigned with ESPN’s “College GameDay,” sources briefed on McAfee’s contract talks told The Athletic.

“McAfee, the 37-year-old talk show host, wrestling analyst and firebrand, said late last year that he would return to the program, but a deal to make that official is still not completed. McAfee has a separate contract that allows ESPN to license his daily “The Pat McAfee Show” on its network and YouTube.”

Marchand reports the two sides are continuing to talk but no agreement has been reached as of yet.

McAfee spent college football Saturday’s last season with host Rece Davis and co-hosts Desmond Howard, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso. In October, a survey done by The Athletic showed that of 3,100 respondents, only 30.1% said they like McAfee on GameDay, with 48.9% saying they do not like him on the show. Another 21% said they had no opinion.

In response the survey, McAfee posted on X at the time, ““I have heard you all very loud and clear since the beginning of my stint with GameDay. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I have not resigned a contract with the legendary show,” he said. “I’m not right for some crowds and the ‘distinguished’ College Football folks are definitely one of those. Excited to enjoy the rest of this year, that’s shaping up to be a GREAT one, and then see what the future holds.”

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