Houston Rockets General Manager Darryl Morey has been at the center of an international incident this week after tweeting support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The NBA has been dealing with backlash from the Chinese government as the Lakers and Nets are set to play two preseason games in the country this week.
The story has lead several episodes of SportsCenter on ESPN and been scrolling across the network’s Bottom Line. Those paying attention might notice that the network itself offers very little detail of what Morey is supporting.
Deadspin‘s Laura Wagner writes that the site has obtained an internal memo from ESPN senior news director Chuck Salituro. In it, Salituro mandated that any discussions of the topic not veer into Chinese politics or what has happened on the ground during the protests in Hong Kong. “Multiple ESPN sources confirmed to Deadspin that network higher-ups were keeping a close eye on how the topic was discussed on ESPN’s airwave,” wrote Wagner.
The Deadspin column went on to detail all of the ways ESPN personalities on TV and radio danced around the subject of democracy and the Chinese government in general. Kevin Blackistone was the only personality to offer details of what has happened in Hong Kong.
As Wagner points out, Morey’s tweet and China’s reaction does seem to fall under the parameters of when ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro would be comfortable with ESPN talent talking about politics, but the network is still locking discussion down. That could have something to do with fears of retaliation from Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which entered into a business deal with ESPN in 2016.
Diamond Sports Group Reportedly Trying to Reach Rights Fee Discount with NBA, NHL
Other sources concurred that Diamond will ultimately shutter, but not before making money from some of its more profitable contracts.
As Diamond Sports Group seeks to emerge from Ch. 11 bankruptcy and nears a Saturday deadline to agree to a reorganization plan with its creditors, the regional sports network operator has reportedly made a final offer to the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League. With the start of the regular season approaching for both leagues, the company is looking to slash its local broadcast fees for NBA and NHL games by up to 20%, respectively, to avoid liquidation in today’s dynamic sports media ecosystem.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group subsidiary has $9 billion in debt and owns the broadcast rights to 27 teams across the two professional sports leagues, not to mention an additional 12 Major League Baseball teams. Earlier in the year, the company ceded rights for San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks games, which have been produced by MLB’s local media department over the last several months.
Diamond Sports Group pays the NBA approximately $600 million annually in broadcast rights, according to the report from the New York Post, while specific financial metrics pertaining to the NHL are unknown. Both leagues are reportedly inclined to take the deal, which would give the company the ability to avoid liquidity for another year, according to a source. Based on the intel, it seems the leagues are not prepared for the magnitude of this kind of shakeup, which could have resounding effects on competitive balance. After all, Major League Baseball paid both the Padres and Diamondbacks at least 80% of what was owed to them from the Diamond deals in order to maintain this ability.
Another source, however, emphasized that it believes the reorganization will ultimately result in the liquidation of Diamond Sports Group. Other sources concurred that Diamond will ultimately shutter, but not before making money from some of its more profitable contracts. The Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans received rights payments prior to the Sept. 1 deadline, and the company also recently inked a multi-year extension with the Los Angeles Kings.
Diamond Sports Group originally sought to institute a Nov. 9 deadline; however, that request was denied by a bankruptcy court. The NHL also asserted in August that it may look for emergency relief to forgo contracts if no plan is reached. While specific contingency plans for the NHL are largely unknown, the NBA is prepared to produce games for affected teams itself, along with assuming responsibility for negotiating linear distribution means and selling advertising.
The company had been in negotiations with Comcast that recently came to a close, ending in a one-year agreement between the two sides. Moreover, Diamond and DIRECTV have reportedly come to terms on a new deal before its cessation next month, which ensures that its users will still be able to access local broadcasts of their favorite teams. Significant carriage negotiations with Charter Communications are still forthcoming since the existing contract expires in February.
Diamond Sports Group is also suing its parent company, Sinclair, Inc., affirming that it received $1.5 billion because of misconduct. Sinclair, which reported its own 8% year-over-year (YoY) decline in revenue, insinuated that its subsidiary will not emerge from bankruptcy.
NBC to Capitalize on Taylor Swift for ‘Sunday Night Football’
“If the Vegas line is 22 shots of Taylor during the game, bet the under.”
The group behind Sunday Night Football, prime time television’s No. 1 program for 12 consecutive years, participated in a behind-the-scenes talkback session from The Paley Center for Media in New York, N.Y. on Thursday, during which they divulged details regarding what has become an even more highly-anticipated Sunday night broadcast. Since reports have been published stating that Grammy Award-winning music superstar Taylor Swift will be in attendance at MetLife Stadium, ticket prices have rapidly increased, concurrent with heightened interest in the game. Over the last several weeks, rumors have suggested that Swift is dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, especially since she attended his game last week from GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium unannounced.
FOX Sports announced an average of 24.3 million viewers for “America’s Game of the Week” and first-place finishes in key female demographics, and many people are anticipating NBC Sports to shatter expectations of the game. The matchup was slightly dampened upon the season-ending left Achilles injury to New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but he may reportedly be in attendance anyway, presumably pending doctor approval to fly back to New Jersey.
Nonetheless, NBC Sports is embracing the opportunity that has been placed before them, even cutting a promo with Swift’s hit song, “Welcome to New York” in the background. The network is also in the midst of filming a Swift-themed broadcast open in Los Angeles, Calif. to air ahead of the game.
Savannah Guthrie, NBC Today co-anchor and chief legal correspondent, was on hand to moderate the panel, which featured coordinating producer Rob Hyland, director Drew Esocoff and broadcasters Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark. Guthrie gave each one of the participants bracelets at the start that read “SNF Swiftie,” and implored everyone to wear them on the air this Sunday. While it is unknown if her sports colleagues will follow through on this request, they do plan on incorporating the musical sensation into the presentation.
“If the Vegas line is 22 shots of Taylor during the game, bet the under,” Esocoff said, according to Paley Center curator Jason Lynch. The only exception to this rule would be if the game ends up being a blowout by the Chiefs. Football experts project the team to have a considerable advantage over the New York Jets, who are playing under third-year quarterback and projected backup Zach Wilson.
Swift and Kelce had reportedly hung out together multiple times over the last few months as fans are infatuated about their whereabouts and relationship status. Kelce rented out a popular restaurant in Kansas City following the Chiefs’ blowout win over the Chicago Bears last week, hosting Swift, his teammates and other family and friends for a private party.
Kelce addressed the matter on his podcast, New Heights, that he hosts with his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce and admitted that the superstar showing up to the game was a “ballsy move.” Additionally, he shared that increased scrutiny and attention has caused paparazzi to stage outside of his home and suggested that he wants to keep the matter as concealed as possible.
If Swift indeed shows up at MetLife Stadium, NBC Sports will surely have their cameras in the area where she is situated. Swift is currently taking a break as she prepares for an international run of the “Eras” Tour, showcasing her musical portfolio and vast discography. It is unknown if Swift will continue to regularly attend Kelce’s games, especially as her schedule becomes packed with tour dates in the coming weeks. Yet if she chooses to go to U.S. Bank Stadium to see the Chiefs play the Minnesota Vikings next week, she has an open invitation to call some plays on the Vikings’ radio broadcast.
Deion Sanders Thanks Skip Bayless For Giving Black Talent TV Opportunities
“You have given us, you all know darn well what I’m talking about, so many opportunities, man.”
Fans have their opinions of Skip Bayless. The FS1 host its polarizing, no doubt, but plenty of people currently or formerly in the broadcast industry will speak up when others criticize Bayless.
Add Deion Sanders to that list.
Undisputed originated from Boulder, Colorado on Friday. The Buffaloes’ head football coach stopped by to visit with Bayless, Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Irvin. Before he left and the show went off the air, Sanders wanted to make his feelings about Bayless clear.
“Thank you, because you get heat oftentimes, but you’ve given a lot of us opportunities that people look past and they don’t understand, they don’t recognize,” Coach Prime said to Bayless.
Bayless has been accused of many things. Few in the industry question his ability to recognize talent and give it a platform.
“None of us are perfect, but you have given us, you all know darn well what I’m talking about, so many opportunities, man,” Sanders said to the largely white crowd that had gathered behind the desk to watch the show. “I appreciate you for that.”
Sanders’s sentiments are similar to one expressed by Bayless’s former First Take partner Stephen A. Smith earlier this year. Smith pointed out that there are plenty of Black journalists and former players that owe Bayless a debt of gratitude for helping start or elevate their TV careers.
Bayless told Sanders he loved him and the two embraced as the show went off the air.