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Disney Aims To Keep Its Two Draft Telecasts Separate

“The only person who will appear on both the ABC and ESPN productions is draft analyst Todd McShay.”

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With ABC joining in the proceedings this year, the NFL Draft will be an even bigger undertaking than it already was for the Walt Disney Company. In an interview with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN VP of event and studio production, Seth Markman says that the comapny’s focus will be on ensuring that ABC and ESPN offer viewers two very different products.

In order to do that, the largest production staff ever dedicated to the event will be in Nashville. The production staff of 600 is twice the size of the staff that covered the 2018 NFL. It is also larger than the production staff ESPN had on hand for Clemson’s win over Alabama at college football’s National Championship Game this year. “I think this shows how important we think this is and how much this is part of the DNA of our company,” Markham says.

As previously reported by multiple outlets, ESPN’s telecast will be anchored by its NFL analysts, while ABC’s coverage will feature Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and American Idol’s Luke Bryan focusing on the human interest stories and ESPN’s College GameDay crew handling the football analysis.

Markman told Deitsch that he had a hard time deciding which network Kirk Herbstriet should appear on. Last year the College GameDay analyst was a part of ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage. This year though he will stay with the rest of his usual crew and appear on ABC. The only person who will appear on both the ABC and ESPN productions is draft analyst Todd McShay.

Both telecasts will feature the same reporters including Josina Anderson in Arizona, Dan Graziano in Oakland, Sal Paolantonio in New York with the Giants, Jeff Darlington in Miami, Dianna Russini in Washington, DC, and Jen Lada who will be in Gaithersburg, MD at a draft night party for Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins’s friends and family.

Behind the scenes, Disney has put in a lot of work as well. Markman says his staff has put together more than 600 highlight packages and more than 100 player personality bumps to go into and out of commercials. ESPN’s production alone will utilize 57 cameras and 70 microphones.

As for viewership, Markman told Deitsch that he doesn’t care how the audience is split between the two networks. “If a viewer is watching it on ESPN or ABC, we don’t care. As long as we are giving them the experience they want and they chose to watch it or one or the other, we will be happy.”

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Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”

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Thursday Night Football

In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.

During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.

ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.

NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.

Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.

One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.

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Michael Irvin Removed From NFL Network Super Bowl Coverage

“I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds.”

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A complaint from a female to NFL Network has caused the network to remove Michael Irvin from its Super Bowl coverage.

NFL Network did not comment on the nature of the complaint or the allegation of any impropriety by Irvin, simply stating Irvin would not be a participant in coverage of the event from Arizona.

“Michael Irvin will not be a part of NFL Network’s Super Bowl LVII week coverage,” said NFL Media Vice President of Communications Alex Riethmiller in a statement.

Irvin claimed the interaction happened during a brief moment Sunday after having dinner and drinks with former Cowboy defensive back Michael Brooks.

“This all happened in a 45-second conversation in the lobby,” Irvin told The Dallas Morning News. “When I got back after going out … I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds. We shook hands. Then, I left…That’s all I know.”

Irvin, 56, admitted he didn’t recall the conversation between him and the female but called the interaction “just a friendly conversation”. He defended himself by saying “There was definitely nothing physical”.

The report from The Dallas Morning News added that Glendale police officials do not know about any incident regarding Irvin.

A report from Front Office Sports claims ESPN executives are “poised to pull the plug” on Irvin’s scheduled appearance on First Take from Radio Row Friday.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer has been with NFL Network since 2009, and in August of last year signed an extension to remain with the cable channel.

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Pro Bowl Lowest Rated Since 2006

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues.

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The NFL completely revamped its Pro Bowl format for the 2022 season, and the changes did not garner more viewers.

An average of 6.28 million viewers tuned into the event across ABC, ESPN, and DisneyXD Sunday for the first 7-on-7 event. That number is a decrease of 6% compared to last year and is the lowest-rated Pro Bowl since the 2006 event saw just 5.96 million viewers. That figure excludes the 2021 Pro Bowl, which was a “virtual” event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest-rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues, with the MLB All-Star Game seeing an average viewership of 7.51 million. The 6.28 million who watched the Pro Bowl is a virtual tie with last season’s NBA All-Star Game.

The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge — now produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions — did see a large increase in viewership compared to last year. More than 1 million viewers tuned into the Thursday night primetime event, which is the second-best figure on record. That audience is a 23% increase compared to last year’s event.

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