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Jason Witten Officially Joins ESPN

Brandon Contes

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ESPN finally has their replacement for Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football. After courting Peyton Manning earlier this off-season, amid months of speculation as to who will join the telecast, future Hall-of-Fame tight-end Jason Witten has officially agreed to retire from the NFL and head to ESPN.

For the second straight season a prominent Dallas Cowboy will go directly from the field to the broadcast booth after quarterback Tony Romo made the jump to CBS last year. The news was first reported by Mike Greenberg on his morning television show Get Up. “It is now official. Jason Witten is retiring from the Dallas Cowboys and coming to work with us,” Greenberg said. “He will join ESPN as an analyst for Monday Night Football.”

Just a few weeks ago, Witten calmed the reports he could be leaving the Cowboys by expressing a desire to continue playing for a few more years. “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. “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.”

While Witten could certainly play one or two more seasons in the NFL and expect a broadcast job to be available to him whenever he retires, he can’t count on an opportunity as high-profile as the Monday Night Football gig to wait for him.

During the off-season, Witten reworked his contract with the Cowboys, agreeing to a 4-year extension, but also taking an annual paycut, providing the team with more cap space. With reports of ESPN offering between $4 and $4.5 million to Witten, the former All-Pro tight end will earn more than double what he would’ve been paid by the Cowboys for the upcoming NFL season.

Witten was still a serviceable tight-end, but when an aging NFL player is presented with a more lucrative opportunity to join broadcasting, it’s hard to see them turning that down. Witten will step away from the football field healthy and on his own terms, joining play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore for ESPN’s coverage of Monday Night Football.

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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Sports TV News

Scripps Sports Exec: Teams Are Making Contingency Deals For After Bally Sports Bankruptcy

Lawlor said that Scripps Sports “already has deals in place with at least a couple of teams as a contingency in case Bally halts broadcasts before the end of the 2024 season.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Scripps Sports

With the writing on the wall that Diamond Sports Group will drop its regional sports contracts after next year, entities like Scripps Sports are bracing for additional opportunities to work with various teams.

Scripps Sports president Brian Lawlor recently said teams and leagues are already thinking ahead.

“There’s a lot of contingency planning by teams and leagues to have distribution options if the creditors pull the rug out early,” Lawlor told Cincinnati Business Courier. “It’s really messy right now.”

Lawlor added that Scripps has already been involved in contingency planning with those leagues and teams, with talks having gone on for months in some instances.

“(Scripps) already has deals in place with at least a couple of teams as a contingency in case Bally halts broadcasts before the end of the 2024 season.

Scripps Sports already stepped in to help provide a new TV home for both the Vegas Golden Knights and the Arizona Coyotes. Lawlor said returns with those teams, particularly in Vegas, have been great.

“We’ve been blown away by the Golden Knights over-the-air ratings and the number of people who have subscribed to direct-to-consumer,” he said.

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Bob Iger: ESPN Could ‘Go It Alone’ and Not Take Financial Partners

“We are fully prepared to do that. It would be a little more challenging if we did.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Bob Iger
Courtesy: CNBC

As Disney continues to consider selling an ownership stake in ESPN, Disney CEO Bob Iger told employees he’s not ruling out the possibility of not bringing in new financial partners.

Front Office Sports reported Wednesday that Iger spoke at a Disney town hall on Tuesday and there’s no requirement in place that says Disney must seek out new investors to maintain ESPN’s financial future.

“We could go it alone,” he said. “We are fully prepared to do that. It would be a little more challenging if we did.”

Disney has already had some level of conversations with potential partners including pro sports leagues and big tech companies.

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NASCAR to Announce $1.1B Rights Deal with FOX, NBC, Prime Video, TNT

The $1.1 billion figure represents a nearly 40% increase in what the organization receives from its current deals.

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A photo of the NASCAR Cup Series, FOX, Prime Video, TNT, and NBC Sports logos

NASCAR is on the verge of announcing a new TV rights deal that will see the racing organization bring in $1.1 billion annually from five TV partners.

The $1.1 billion figure represents a nearly 40% increase in what the organization receives from its current deals.

Beginning in 2025 and running through the 2031 season, NASCAR will air its first 14 Cup Series events with FOX and FS1. The next five events will air on Amazon Prime Video, making the first time a NASCAR event will be shown exclusively on a streaming service.

Following Amazon’s portion of the schedule, another five events will be broadcast on both TNT and the B/R Sports tier of the Max streaming service. The final 14 races of the year will be broadcast with NBC, USA Network, and Peacock, according to reporting from Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern.

Previously, FOX Sports aired 18 races, while NBC aired 20, which includes two exhibition events.

In addition to its new deals with Amazon Prime Video and TNT for the Cup Series, NASCAR also has a previously announced new broadcast agreement with The CW to air each race of the Xfinity Series.

The upcoming announcement, which is expected either Wednesday or Thursday, comes on the heels of NASCAR President Steve Phelps admitting new TV partners would be entering the fray in the next contract.

“We are going to have an additional partner and we may have two additional partners,” Phelps told NBC Sports. “That’s kind of where we’re trying to figure out in these last few weeks — what that’s going to look like, but we already know we’re going to have more partners.”

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