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First Take Two-A-Days Coming to ESPN in July

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While most TV shows are planning vacations the first week of July, ESPN’s First Take will be adding more hours. From July 2-6 viewers will see two different versions of First Take everyday. Guest hosts will handle the usual 10am – noon time slot, while the regular cast of Molly Qerim, Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith will host a special NBA themed afternoon edition of the show each day at 4:30.

The morning version of the show will be hosted by former Bachelorette contestant and avid basketball fan Rachel Lindsey, who has appeared as a guest on the show before. Amongst the commentators set to rotate through the morning show will be ESPN Radio’s Will Cain, the Undefeated’s Dominique Foxworth, ESPN Radio’s Jason Fitz, and ESPN NBA analyst Ryan Hollins.

The afternoon edition featuring First Take’s regular panel will be focused on NBA free agency (read as “LeBron James”) as well as storylines out of the NBA Draft. That show will take the afternoon of July 4 off. The morning show will be seen everyday during that week.

Dave Robert, ESPN’s vice president of network content says in a press release that the NBA is a year-round conversation, and this new schedule is designed to take advantage of the interests of the league’s large fanbase. “We are expanding our live programming to reinforce First Take’s commitment to being the first choice for lively debate and entertainment discussion on any major developments throughout the league – mornings and afternoons. With free agency up next, First Take will examine every angle through the two shows.”

 

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FOX Sports Draws Over 3 Million Viewers for USMNT Copa América Opener

This makes the game the most watched non-World Cup soccer telecast ever on FOX.

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Sunday night’s soccer matchup between the United States Men’s National Team and Bolivia, which the USMNT won 2-0 drew an average audience of 3,165,000 viewers on FOX Sports according to Nielsen Media Research and Adobe Analytics. This makes the game the most watched non-World Cup soccer telecast ever on FOX and the most watched English language Copa América telecast ever in the United States.

The game peaked at 4,013,000 viewers from 6:30 p.m. ET to 6:45 p.m. ET. The top local markets were San Diego, Washington D.C., Austin and Kansas City.

FOX Sports said the game was up 191% from last year’s USMNT Concacaf Gold Cup telecast and up 108% from the 2016 average of USMNT Copa América Group Stage telecasts which were carried on FS1.

The next USMNT Copa América game is scheduled for Thursday, Jun 27 against Panama at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, followed by another Group Stage game on Monday, July 1 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1. The CONMEBOL Copa América is taking place in the U.S. through Sunday, July 14.

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Stephen A. Smith Reportedly Looking for a ‘Pat McAfee Agreement’ with ESPN

“…Smith covets the blockbuster deal that the network used to persuade McAfee to decamp last year from FanDuel.”

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Stephen A. Smith

Last week John Ourand of Puck reported the news that negotiations had begun between ESPN and top personality Stephen A. Smith, host and Executive Producer of First Take. The report said ESPN had made an initial offer of 5 years and $90 million which would make Smith the top paid talent at ESPN. Yesterday Ourand reported the deal Smith is looking for is similar to the deal ESPN has with Pat McAfee which brought his The Pat McAfee Show over from Fan Duel.

Ourand writes, “…Smith covets the blockbuster deal that the network used to persuade McAfee to decamp last year from FanDuel. Notably, ESPN pays McAfee’s production company, which operates his talk show, $25 million a year—a fee that covers all its operating costs: salaries, insurance, fixed costs, etcetera. ESPN has also offered him about $5 million a year to appear on College GameDay, sources told me(McAfee has yet to sign the deal.)”

Some in the media have responded to the story about Smith’s contract and point to how much work he is already doing for ESPN and how often he appears on the network. According to Ourand, Smith isn’t looking for less work, he may in fact be looking for more.

Ourand wrote in his subscription newsletter, The Varsity, that he has been told Smith and his agents with WME have said Smith would like to be more involved in production, appear on more of its NFL programs and be available for anything needed by the advertising and affiliate relations departments.

Smith has not commented on the current negotiations, but when asked by Clay Travis recently if being the highest paid person at ESPN is important to him, Smith said:

“Yes. I’m not stuttering. Hell yes. I’ve mastered my own business. In the world of sports television, Clay Travis, I’ve been number one for twelve years…not only have I been number one every year I’ve been number one every week and every month of every year for the last twelve years. You don’t get to say that about too many people…I am so honored to have the colleagues I have…I’m the one that’s been No. 1 and at the end of the day, it would be nice one day for this man to stand before everyone and be like, ‘I’m No. 1 and this says I’m No. 1.”

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Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque: WWE-Netflix Deal is a ‘Game-Changing Moment’

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal.”

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Paul "Triple H" Levesque
Courtesy: World Wrestling Entertainment

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) is bringing Raw to Netflix beginning in January 2025 in a deal that is reportedly worth $5 billion over 10 years. Netflix reportedly has the option to opt out of the agreement after the first five years and extend the deal for an additional 10 years. As a result, Raw will be moving away from NBCUniversal platforms and cable television as a whole for the first time in 31 years, presenting an opportunity for WWE to continue innovating its presentation in a new way. NBCUniversal-owned USA Network, however, will begin broadcasting SmackDown beginning this October. Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the chief content officer of WWE, was asked by Ty Schmit of The Pat McAfee Show if the company is thinking about what will change with the new presentation of Raw on Netflix.

Levesque appeared on the program following the announcement that WWE had agreed to a deal with Indiana Sports Corp. that will bring WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble to Indianapolis. Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, will host all three premium live events that will begin with Royal Rumble on Feb. 1, 2025. Other WWE properties, including Raw, SmackDown, NXT and WWE Live Events will take place from arenas across the state of Indiana, including Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville, during the partnership. As Raw prepares to move to Netflix next year, Levesque revealed that the company is projecting the capabilities that the new partnership will allow.

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal,” Levesque said. “It’s a streaming service. How are commercials going to work? How are breaks going to work? What’s the length of time? What are the restrictions [and] what are not restrictions?”

Levesque mentioned how there are times when FOX has had to cut the audio and/or video when instances occur that could violate FCC broadcasting rules and regulations. McAfee believed that he was referencing when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had the crowd engage in a call-and-response chant calling Austin Theory an “a**hole.”

“The Rock comes in and you sort of kind of can’t tell The Rock what to do – what are we going to tell him – so he does what he does, but we won’t have those issues [on] Netflix,” Levesque said. “The ability to be live globally; the ability to have everything seen all at once everywhere, it’s a game-changing moment, and I think in many ways – not to disparage other partners because we want to be everywhere, but that’s sort of where the world is heading, right, is streaming services.”

Prognosticating towards the future of the Raw presentation, Levesque believes sports entities are going to be watching how the WWE and Netflix agreement materializes. As it pertains to the business logistics of the deal, he expects to have leagues watching what they will be doing, acknowledging that the NFL also reached an agreement with Netflix to broadcast Christmas Day games.

“Everybody from live content is very thankful you guys did a deal with Netflix for a weekly live show,” McAfee said. “Just want to let you know that.”

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