In a move that shocked both the media and football worlds, Jason Witten has announced that he will not return to ESPN for the 2019 Monday Night Football season. Instead he will end his retirement and rejoin the Dallas Cowboys.
Witten made eleven Pro Bowls during his initial 15-year run with the Cowboys, and in a statement he said that he couldn’t resist at least one more season.
“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” said Witten. He was also quick to point out that despite largely negative reviews for his first season in the booth, ESPN was not pressuring him to find a new job.
“This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it.”
Dallas has three tight ends under contract, so while you could argue that Witten doesn’t fill a pressing need, he is certainly an upgrade over the team’s current options. For Witten, there are some career milestones within site. He currently sits fourth on the NFL’s all-time receptions list with 1152. He is also second in receiving yards amongst all tight ends, about 2700 yards behind Tony Gonzales.
As for ESPN, they have some options for what to do about the opening this creates in the Monday Night Football booth. As Andrew Marchand reported earlier this week, the network is said to have strong interest in Greg Olsen. He is currently a member of the Carolina Panthers, but has explored his broadcasting options each of the last two off-seasons.
Booger McFarland could move into the booth. The Booger Mobile, the mobile broadcast perch that gave McFarland a view from above the sidelines last season, was the topic of much conversation, very little of it good. Moving McFarland into the booth alongside Joe Tessitore would create a more traditional set up for ESPN.
One other option could be making another run at Peyton Manning. The two-time Super Bowl champ was ESPN’s top target in 2018 after Jon Gruden announced he was returning to coaching. While those negotiations ultimately did not pan out, there was no report of bad blood or animosity. It isn’t out of the question that ESPN might try again and Manning is certainly the option that would create the biggest splash.
Former Hulu Exec Michael Schneider Hired To Run Bally Sports+
“Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.”
Schneider will oversee the direct-to-consumer platform that will also be the hub for Bally Sports live programming.
Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.
“Throughout his career, Michael has successfully launched and developed DTC streaming and service platforms and created immersive engagement experiences,” said Sinclair COO and president of broadcast Rob Weisbord. “He is a terrific addition to the team as we build out the Bally Sports+ offering, its exclusive content and passionate fan community.”
Even before Hulu, Schneider had a hand in streaming. He was a founding member of the PlayStation Vue launch team.
Marquee Sports Network Weighs Streaming Options Outside of Bally Sports+
“Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.”
As Sinclair Broadcast Group prepares to launch Bally Sports+, its direct-to-consumer platform that will be home to Bally Sports live events, the Chicago Cubs are weighing their options for Marquee Sports Network, which the team co-owns with Sinclair.
Despite being under the Sinclair umbrella, Marquee is its own free-standing RSN from the rest of the Bally Sports networks across the country.
Marquee is readily available on a number of cable providers, but the only thing that’s really missing is its own standalone streaming platform for games. Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.
“We’re always interested in being on the cutting edge with the ultimate deliverable to our consumer,” McCarthy said. “But there isn’t any contractual clock ticking to make us feel that way. It’s how we’ve approached things from the beginning. Between our two ownership groups, there’s a lot of aggression to get it right. And I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”
The TV ratings will always be of top interest for MLB, especially regional ratings. But as the league has worked to embrace more streaming options for games, striking deals with Apple and Peacock for rights this season, it’s all about providing what the fans and viewers want.
“We now have the ability to do so much more, to properly tell the story of a 162-game season,” said Crane Kenney, Chicago Cubs president of business operations. Kenney was instrumental in the launch of Marquee. “We love baseball, we love the game, and we love the opportunity we have to share it with our fans in really deep ways.”
Laura Rutledge Celebrates Chemistry Of NFL Live
“It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”
Laura Rutledge is very happy with where NFL Live is as the current lineup gets set to enter its third season together. She told The Big Lead that there is genuine chemistry between herself, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes, and Dan Orlovsky and that is why she doesn’t feel the need to emulate any of sports television’s many debate shows.
“You don’t want to see people yelling at each other all the time and I’m really proud of the chemistry that we have struck and just letting that breathe on air and having so much fun. It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”
The 2022 NFL season will have a very different feel for ESPN. The addition of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for Monday Night Football adds new expectations to the network.
Rutledge said that the attention on the network means that she and her colleagues have to raise their respective games, but that shouldn’t be hard. There is always material to work with in this league.
“We’ve seen this offseason, we saw the previous offseason, how the NFL news cycle never stops. It’s funny because the news cycle becomes such a big piece of the story, but we’re like, we can’t wait for the games,” she said.