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Networks Trying to Fill NFL Broadcast Booth Openings

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It was a busy weekend for TV networks trying to recruit former NFL players and coaches. Over the past few days, reports have Jason Witten heading to the Monday Night Football booth, Bruce Arians to CBS and Jay Cutler returning to FOX.

On Friday, Chris Mortenson reported Jason Witten would retire from football and join ESPN to fill the MNF void left by Jon Gruden. This represented an about-face for Witten, who just recently spoke of plans to continue his playing career for multiple seasons.

“There’s been a lot of things said over the years, especially the last few months,” Witten told Clarence Hill of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram just two weeks ago. “I guess that’s what happens when you get old. Maybe one day that will happen, but hopefully I can play until I’m 40 like some of these other guys. I’ll take it one day at a time. My plan is to be here with the Cowboys. Absolutely.”

Jerry Jones responded to Mortenson’s report over the weekend stating, “He has not made any decisions that are definite at this time.”

“He has some things to think about and discuss with his family from a professional perspective. He also told me that those things are going to require a few more days of consideration, at least through the weekend,” said the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Additionally, Ian Rapaport reported Jay Cutler will retire from the NFL for the second year in a row. Last season, Cutler was set to partner with Kevin Burkhardt of FOX before the Dolphins desperately requested he return to the NFL after quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s season ending injury. While rejoining FOX is on the table, according to Rapaport, Cutler also “may be coming to a reality show near you, as will his wife [former Laguna Beachstar Kristin Cavallari].”

More definitive than the future of both Witten and Cutler, is the report sending Bruce Arians to CBS Sports. According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, Arians will join Greg Gumbel and Trent Green to form a three-person booth for the upcoming NFL season.

Arians, who retired from coaching in January, quickly expressed his desire to remain involved with the game. Arians cited the little broadcasting experience he has, covering Pennsylvania high school championship games in the late 80s.

“I loved it,” Arians told Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals writer for ESPN, regarding his brief tenure on television. “I went down and moms are crying, and I’m interviewing the moms on the field. I said, ‘You guys get paid to do this s—? This is fun.’ It’s always been in the back of my mind.”

Witten will most likely make a final decision on his NFL future this week, with an announcement from CBS regarding Arians joining their football coverage expected soon as well.

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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Tim Tebow Signs With Jags, What Now For ESPN, SEC Network?

“A one year contract is no guarantee that Tebow will make the roster, so it is possible Bristol will go into “wait and see” mode.”

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It only took a decade but Tim Tebow is finally willing to move to tight end, and it looks like he is back in the NFL. Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network report that the Jacksonville Jaguars will sign the ESPN college football analyst to a one year contract. It will be the first time Tebow has been on an NFL roster since 2012.

A 33-year-old that has never played tight end before wouldn’t be an attractive prospect to a lot of NFL teams. It certainly is good for Tebow that his college coach, Urban Meyer, is the new head coach in Jacksonville.

Since leaving the league the first time, Tebow has been part of the ESPN roster. He made his debut in August 2014 as part of the SEC Network and has seen his role at the company grow since then. During the off-season, he even made time to play baseball in the Mets’ minor league system.

News of a tryout in Jacksonville for Tebow first broke on draft day. It seemed like a long shot that he would make the team. BSM’s own Demetri Ravanos even suggested that ESPN tell Tebow that it was time to stop “cosplaying as an athlete” and dedicate himself to broadcasting.

Call it failing up. Call it divine intervention. Call it whatever you want. Tim Tebow has apparently proven doubters wrong.

Details of how this will effect ESPN are yet to be announced. A one year contract is no guarantee that Tebow will make the roster, so it is possible Bristol will go into “wait and see” mode. However, this isn’t baseball. Tim Tebow is a college football analyst. ESPN may not feel like it can be patient before making a move.

Currently, Tim Tebow hosts the SEC Network’s traveling pregame show SEC Nation. He also makes regular appearances on ESPN as part of SportsCenter, First Take, Get Up!, and College Football Live.

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Experts Expect Major Bounce Back For NBA Finals Ratings

“Lewis is bullish on the NBA. He says so much of last year’s decline in viewership for the Finals and the playoffs can be attributed to what Covid-19 did to the league’s schedule. With things closer to normal for 2021, he expects a major bounce back.”

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Richard Deitsch of The Athletic used his Friday column to ask two sports media watchers what they made of recent television ratings for the NFL Draft and the Kentucky Derby. Deitsch is of the opinion that they may signal a turnaround for sports on TV. He asked Sports Media Watch’s Jon Lewis and Sports Business Daily’s Austin Karp to get specific.

Lewis is bullish on the NBA. He says so much of last year’s decline in viewership for the Finals and the playoffs can be attributed to what Covid-19 did to the league’s schedule. With things closer to normal for 2021, he expects a major bounce back.

“It would be absolutely shocking if the ratings of the NBA Finals were not up double digits,” he said.

Timing is the key in Jon Lewis’s mind. He notes that the first round is supposed to tip off on Memorial Day. That is virtually in lock-step with the more normal start that we saw in 2019, when the playoffs started the day after the holiday. He also noted the elephant in the room: given the choice between the NBA Playoffs and any NFL football, America tends to choose the NFL.

“Last year if they had had the Finals out of the way by maybe Week 1 of the NFL season, I think they would have gotten some better numbers,” Lewis said of last year’s disappointing ratings for the NBA Playoffs. “Nothing dramatically better, but still better than what they got. So time of year matters.

Karp added that there is another key advantage the NBA would have in achieving a ratings rebound. The New York Knicks are not just relevant. They are actually good.

“If they can make a run here and make it to maybe the Eastern Conference semifinals or finals, you’re going to see a huge number coming out of the New York market,” he said. “That’s really going to help boost some of those numbers.”

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FP Santangelo Off MASN Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Santangelo has been in and out of the broadcast booth this week amid the allegations.

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There’s a reason MASN viewers have seen Nationals color commentator FP Santangelo on the air sporadically lately. According to The Athletic, The network and club “have been made aware of a sexual misconduct allegation” made against Santangelo. The broadcaster was absent from Saturday and Sunday’s matchup against the Yankees and missed last weekend’s series against the Marlins along with Thursday’s MLB Network/YouTube game.

Britany Ghiroli’s report brought forward a 31-year-old woman who accused Santangelo of making “an unwanted advance several years ago,” and that he “ignored her when she repeatedly told him to stop, and sexually assaulted her.”

When she tried to stop his advances, the woman said Santangelo sent “angry text messages and blocked her on social media after their one and only in-person interaction.” The woman posted these allegations anonymously on Instagram, which peaked the attention of Santangelo’s employers.

Santangelo responded to The Athletic and the Washington Post after their stories published, claiming the allegation was “untrue and did not happen. This is not representative of who I am as a man or a professional. I am confident that my name and reputation will be fully cleared.”

Santangelo has been the color commentator for Nationals games since 2011. The 53-year-old broadcaster got his start in the business following a seven-year MLB career. There is a disconnect between the team and its broadcast partner on this situation.

“Late last week, we were made aware of allegations of conduct by FP Santangelo that are inconsistent with our values as an organization,” The Nationals said in a statement. “We alerted MASN and revoked our approval of him as a member of our broadcast team. MASN assured us that they would investigate these allegations thoroughly. After MASN notified us that their investigation was complete and that FP should be reinstated, additional posts appeared. Once again, we notified MASN and revoked our approval of FP as a member of our broadcast team indefinitely. Moving forward, we will refer all questions regarding this investigation to FP’s employer, MASN.”

It’s a mystery when Santangelo will be back in the booth again with MASN.

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