ESPN will continue to increase their digital programming during 2020. According to Digiday, The Worldwide Leader will air more than 500 live original shows across its own digital platforms along with YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook.
The 500 live original shows is an increase from 2019 where ESPN aired closer to 400 digital programs, and a large spike from 2018 when that number was around 200.
“These shows are different than the shows we do on TV,” ESPN SVP of digital and social media content Ryan Spoon told Digiday. “If you think about what we did leading into college football, the social shows are often very relaxed. I put [an all-] capital ‘fun’ in front of the tone we want to see. They’re about driving interest and enjoyment around it.”
The continued increase in digital programming comes after ESPN plucked Omar Raja away from Bleacher Report late in 2019. As a teenager, Raja launched House of Highlights, an NBA channel on Instagram which is a brand still owned by Bleacher Report. Raja was brought in by ESPN to help reach consumers looking for digital content rather than traditional TV.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here
Dan Le Batard: Chris Russo is a ‘Caricature of a Sports Media Personality’
“He’s had a rejuvenation – a radiant rejuvenation.”
Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo has turned heads lately in his First Take appearance, specifically through his “What Are You Mad About?” segment where he waxes poetic on various topics that agitate him. It was during a usual sit-down conversation though that produced a viral segment when he intricately outlined his Saturday plans with his wife being out of town.
Throughout his monologue, Russo insinuated the use of THC gummies, stating that he will have half at 12 p.m. and the other half at 3:25 p.m. in order to watch the college football games. The fact that Russo was allowed to divulge details of such, along with the fact that he is betting $10,000 on ESPN, a network owned by The Walt Disney Company, surprised Le Batard, one of its former employees.
“He’s had a rejuvenation – a radiant rejuvenation,” Dan Le Batard said on Thursday’s edition of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “He did something yesterday that I’ve never seen, [and] on Disney television – on Disney television!… I have never seen a media member just say, ‘Yep, drinking, drugs and gambling – that’s my Saturday,’ and I’m jealous of him. I want that to be my Saturday.”
Mike Ryan Ruiz, the executive producer of the program, chimed in on the situation and reminded Le Batard that Russo went to many Grateful Dead concerts. In response, Le Batard referred to it as “circumstantial evidence” that did not directly support Mad Dog’s drug use.
“Yes, his performance showed that he had short-circuited and fried all of his brain cells in a way that was obvious, but he wasn’t saying out loud, ‘You know what I’m doing during my sports analysis consumption time? I’m going to come on next week and talk about Colorado, and I’m telling you right now, I was high while I was watching,’” Le Batard said. “Not usually part of the commentary.”
Le Batard referenced former NFL running back Ricky Williams, who smoked marijuana on the night before games and tested positive for the drug three times. The reason he brought him up was to assert that he thinks Russo would have been one of the most likely people to defame Williams’ character.
“[He is] one of the guys most likely to rip him as a character assassination for daring to do marijuana that all of it would get so normalized that my media member who’s on ESPN representing old-timey media [who] can’t shut up about Bob Cousy – that guy is out there saying, ‘Yeah, I’m doing drugs on a Saturday,’” Le Batard expressed.
Le Batard acknowledged his incredulity towards Russo betting $10,000 on a college football game, but understands that he has been successful throughout the years with his time on WFAN, SiriusXM and MLB Network. The style of sports television that has pervaded the airwaves in recent years lends personalities the ability to frolic in palaver and enjoy themselves, a stark contrast from when Le Batard was with the “Worldwide Leader.”
“What I see happening all over television now – sports television – [is that] there are so many people dancing and laughing and having a good time on sports television, genuinely enjoying themselves,” Le Batard said. “It used to be starched and stiff, and now I am watching.”
In a recent conversation with Stephen A. Smith on his podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show, the First Take featured commentator called Le Batard “sanctimonious.” Reflecting back on the conversation, Le Batard agrees with him because he does not seek broad appeal and adheres to the principles and platforms he views as righteous and worthwhile.
Earlier this week, Le Batard revealed that he declined an interview with Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill when he was informed that he could not ask him about off-field issues. Although Russo is one of the most accomplished sports radio personalities of all time, Le Batard is not sure what to think about these types of situations and a new style of sports talk taking the airwaves.
“He has made a lot of money in this industry being a caricature of a sports media personality,” Le Batard said of Russo. “Skip Bayless – before Skip Bayless, man, that dude invented argument television. That started with [Mike] Francesa and Russo on the radio, and it infected everything in the coverage of newspapers, fandom [and] sports television.”
Dave Portnoy Accuses Washington Post of Tortious Interference
Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy went viral on Twitter Wednesday after posting video of him confronting a Washington Post reporter over the phone and accusing her and the newspaper of tortious interference.
Portnoy called Post food writer Emily Heil after he learned that she had been contacting advertisers of his pizza festival in Brooklyn this Saturday. Heil sought comment from those advertisers about doing business with Portnoy, who she wrote in one particular email that Dave “has a history of misogynistic comments and other problematic behavior.”
Heil said she was working with fellow food writer Tim Carman on a piece about the festival, which will feature over 35 pizzerias – all of which Portnoy has featured in his “One Bite” reviews at one point or another. But Portnoy felt like there was more to what she and Carman were up to.
“To me, it’s kind of like tortious interference,” Portnoy said. “Like we’re doing an event. Everyone’s happy about the event. I’ve raised $50 million for small business, I’ve helped pizzerias, none of that. It’s ‘Dave’s misogynic and problematic.’ And I’m happy to talk about it! Because to me nobody would like if someone’s going around sending that email to their sponsors. And again, you’re not questioning it. It’s almost like a statement of fact. This is what I am.”
“You said it in a way that is putting sponsors on the defensive!” he added.
Portnoy felt like Heil and Carman were going to publish something similar to what was posted on nj.com Tuesday calling out sponsors for working with Portnoy. He didn’t believe Heil and Carman would give him a fair shake, that they already had their minds made up about him and that they were only going to contact him after they’ve compiled a mass of negative topics to discuss.
“It seemed like you were going to try to shame sponsors for being associated with me and put them in a box when I know they all love me,” he said. “But nobody wants the Washington Post writing an article, ‘Sponsor associated with misogynic, racist piece of shit.’ Nobody wants that and that’s what you’re trying to do. And even on this call it’s pretty clear that’s what you were trying to do.”
“I’m afraid with what I’m seeing already here all it does is it validates a hit piece,” Portnoy added.
Dave challenged Heil further, who said the one particular email Portnoy was referring to was the most pointed of the emails sent to festival sponsors. She said it was worded that way to try and get a response.
“Sometimes you have to say something like this,” Heil said. “It’s like it’s sort of a reporting tactic. When you want someone to respond, you kind of have to indicate that there might be something negative and then you get them to engage. That’s all I was trying to do.”
“That is a sad state of journalism if that’s a tactic you have to, what I would say is make up something about somebody,” Portnoy responded.
Eventually they settled on a time of 10 a.m. today to conduct an interview. Portnoy said he would be recording the conversation like he was the one on Wednesday, and Heil didn’t have issues with that.
But later Wednesday, Portnoy tweeted that the interview had been cancelled. He said Heil attempted to reschedule for 5 p.m., but since Portnoy had previously agreed to 10 a.m., he stuck with that or nothing at all.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
Dan Le Batard: ‘ESPN Got Mad at Me’ For Giving HOF Vote to Deadspin
“I didn’t like the sanctimony and so I just made a cartoonish exit.”
A recent ESPN investigative report by Mike Fish looked back at the Biogenesis scandal that rocked the sports world a decade ago and involved the likes of major stars in baseball such as Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun. 10 years later, it is still talked about, but is the outrage about PEDs and steroids still the same?
Pablo Torre, Dan Le Batard, and Katie Nolan talked about that story on an episode of Torre’s podcast, Pablo Torre Finds Out. Torre remembered his days at Sports Illustrated where two highly acclaimed investigative reporters dedicated that time in their career to the scandal’s most high profile target.
“I remember being at Sports Illustrated and there was a beat. Selena Roberts and David Epstein, two great investigative reporters, were on the A-Rod beat. This was a thing we would crusade about morally. It felt important. All I can think about now is how we just had a conversation about all of the weird shit we are doing to improve ourselves. I don’t know if our tolerance for this stuff has changed consciously, but it just feels like we care less in general about the weird things we all try to do to get an edge to improve our performance on the field, as human beings.”
This story allowed Le Batard to relive the time in 2014 when he gave his Hall of Fame vote to Deadspin.
“I just wanted to make the moral stand of you can’t keep these guys out of the Hall of Fame because you sportswriters are suggesting to me that if I gave you the ability to write better and make more money by smearing some cream on your muscles that you wouldn’t do it. I didn’t like the sanctimony and so I just made a cartoonish exit.
“ESPN got mad at me and were like why didn’t you do it on ESPN. Because then it wouldn’t have worked. I had to do it with an entity that was trying to make fun of the whole cathedral of sports.”
During the segment, Le Batard called the Biogenesis story “one of the most Miami sports scandals you will ever see” and reflected on how things have changed for A-Rod.
“All of us were pissed off because he lied to us and the betrayal and all he had to do to erase all the outrage and get every sports broadcasting team to want to employ him is date J-Lo and he fixed all of it.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at [email protected].
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