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Stephen A. Smith to Host NBA Finals SportsCenter Edition

Brandon Contes

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The NBA Playoffs have been garnering strong viewership, so it makes sense for ESPN to take advantage by creating additional basketball coverage. Who better to anchor that basketball coverage than Stephen A. Smith.

According to ESPN’s Andy Hall, Smith will be prominently featured during the 6 p.m. ET edition of SportsCenter during the NBA Conference Finals and anchor a 7 p.m. ET version of SportsCenter preceding each NBA Finals game.

“Stephen A. Smith is an authority on the NBA and we’re excited to provide another way to showcase and maximize his contributions to our NBA coverage,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor, studio production. “With the SportsCenter editions originating from the game sites, there will be ample opportunities for A-List guests to join him and prepare fans for the night’s action.”

According to ESPN, their 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter has enjoyed an increase in viewership for April and March over the corresponding months in 2017. In February 2017, ESPN rebranding the 6 p.m. SportsCenter as SC6, hosted by Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Often criticized for being too opinionated, at times diving into topics outside the realm of sports news, Michael Smith and Jemele Hill were removed as hosts, reverting back to a traditional version of SportsCenter for the 6 p.m. hour.

More widely known for hosting First Take weekday mornings on ESPN, as well as his successful radio show, Stephen A. recognizes the importance of SportsCenter to the network.

“It is the SportsCenter brand that has made ESPN what we’ve become. To have my name up in lights as HOST during the NBA Finals is unreal. An incredible honor for me. And I plan on making the most of it. Buckle up! Stay Tuned. And don’t miss it.”

While Stephen A. has made a variety of controversial statements throughout his career and remains a highly opinionated personality, the focus of his SportsCenter involvement will be the NBA Conference Finals and NBA Finals. Whether or not ESPN has larger plans for the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, after the NBA season is over, remains to be seen.

Coming off Stephen A. hosting the show, ESPN could continue a more creative approach to the program, but the recent ratings increase from the traditional SportsCenter will probably keep the networking for trying something similar to SC6.

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

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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