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Skipper’s Exit Led to ESPN’s UFC Deal

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John Ourand from Sports Business Daily has a new piece up today about how new TV deals for the UFC and the WWE came together at ESPN and Fox respectively. In the piece Ourand details just how valuable the UFC believed its product to be. According to the article, the UFC initially wanted between $400 and $450 million for its TV rights. That figure narrowed the field of potential suitors and the eventual price tag came in at only 50% of that.

But what is really interesting is that ESPN never would have made a deal with the UFC if the World Wide Leader in Sports hadn’t undergone a change in leadership. Ourand writes that the abrupt departure of John Skipper meant  Mark Shapiro (former Executive Vice President, Programming and Production at ESPN and current co-president at WME-IMG, which owns the UFC) wouldn’t be negotiating with someone that wasn’t a fan of his product.

During Skipper’s reign as president, ESPN showed little interest in a UFC deal. Skipper wasn’t a fan of the sport and didn’t believe it fit into ESPN’s schedule.

Watching Pitaro’s reactions that morning, Shapiro — for the first time — truly believed that a deal with ESPN could be possible.

In the end, new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro agreed to a $150 million TV rights deal with Shapiro. Shapiro then struck another $150 million deal with Disney. The second deal will allow ESPN+ to stream coverage of 15 UFC cards. Disney’s head of international and direct-to-consumer products, Kevin Mayer oversaw the second deal from the company’s headquarters in Burbank. That is an interesting tidbit according to Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz.

And the Mayer material here is notable, especially for its discussion of how certain key ESPN areas like ESPN+ and ad sales now report to him rather than to Pitaro. Given that Pitaro also came to ESPN from a senior role at Disney (he was previously chairman of consumer products and interactive media), there’s a case to be made that corporate parent Disney is now much more involved in the regular runnings of ESPN on several levels than they were during Skipper’s tenure.

Sports TV News

Chris Berman Says NBC Offered To Triple His Salary In 1989 to Leave ESPN

“(NBC) put an offer out there that was times three or four, which — ok — that took a while to get resolved.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Chris Berman has always felt like ESPN was home for him.

There have been a couple of instances throughout his more than four-decade career at The Worldwide Leader where Berman was entertaining offers to leave. But Berman told Jimmy Traina on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast he always knew ESPN was where he needed to be.

One instance came in 1989 when ESPN was still somewhat a single fledgling sports channel. Berman at the time was weighing leaving Bristol for NBC.

“ESPN was a different place,” Berman said. “We were only one channel then, remember.”

“(NBC) put an offer out there that was times three or four,” he added. “Which — ok — that took a while to get resolved.”

Berman said in terms of his career, deciding to remain at ESPN turned out to be the right choice.

“My God it’s the greatest move I never made,” he said. “At the time I was gonna be the number two guy behind Bob Costas doing football.

“Just job-wise, forget money and this – I’m not in it for that anyway,” Berman added. “I started at 16 thousand bucks.”

Chris talked about the coverage the potential move received. He said the decision was about something bigger than money. He loved getting to cover sports every day.

“That was not the point,” he said. “I wasn’t leveraging anything, and again thank God I’ve been here 43 years.”

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Sports TV News

ESPN, ESPN2 To Air 5 Hour NBA Trade Deadline Special Thursday

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The NBA trade deadline is this week, and ESPN is going all-in on coverage.

ESPN announced Monday that it will air a five-hour special across ESPN and ESPN2 making sure every deal leading up to the deadline is covered.

The NBA Today Trade Deadline Special will air starting at 1:00 PM on Thursday on ESPN, and the final two hours leading up to the official deadline will air on ESPN 2.

From Los Angeles, Malika Andrews will host. She will be joined by Jalen Rose, Zach Lowe, Chiney Ogwumike, Kendrick Perkins, Richard Jefferson, Ramona Shelburne, Brian Windhorst, and Vince Carter.

Adrian Wojnarowski will be breaking news from Bristol alongside Tim Legler and Bobby Marks. Meanwhile, Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon will be weighing in from Scottsdale, Arizona from ESPN’s Super Bowl set.

Several other ESPN NBA reporters will also be contributing coverage throughout the afternoon.

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Sports TV News

Tom Brady: I’ll Join FOX in 2024

“Even in the future, I wanna be great at what I do. That takes time strategizing, and learning, and evolving.”

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Many have questioned whether Tom Brady will actually join FOX Sports’ top NFL booth after he retires. Today, we have that answer.

During an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Brady confirmed he will indeed join Kevin Burkhardt in the network’s top NFL booth, but not until the 2024 season.

“Decompression is important,” Brady said, noting he’ll join the network’s NFL coverage after a year off from the game. “You’re on this kind of really crazy treadmill/hamster wheel, loving the moment, loving the journey, (but) at the same time there’s a daily fight. I have an appreciation to those who are so committed to showing up every day and putting in their max effort to their life and their career.

“I think — for me — I want to be great at what I do. So last week, talking with the people at FOX Sports and the leadership there allowing me to start my FOX opportunity in the fall of 2024 is something that’s great for me.”

Brady added he needs time to absorb a new career before jumping in head first.

“Take some time to really learn, become great at what I want to do, become great at thinking about the opportunity, and make sure I don’t rush into anything. Even in the future, I wanna be great at what I do. That takes time strategizing, and learning, and evolving, and I have so many people to rely on that can support me in that growth, too.”

The seven-time Super Bowl winning quarterback concluded by saying there are other aspects of his life outside of football that “need some catching up and energy”. He went through a high-profile divorce from supermodel Gisele Bündchen, reportedly stemming from his refusal to retire after the 2021 NFL season.

Brady signed a reported 10-year, $375 million contract with FOX Sports to join the network’s top NFL announcing crew, and serve as a brand ambassador in May of last year.

The addition of Brady to the FOX Sports booth creates a potential log jam in the analyst role. Current FOX Sports top NFL analyst Greg Olsen has received high praise from many both inside and outside the industry for his work with Burkhardt. Olsen hasn’t been shy about his wish to remain in the network’s top booth, saying that while the situation “sucks”, he is a “big boy” and “knows what he signed up for”.

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