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Networks Facing Major Programming Holes

“Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports notes ESPN and ABC have up to 16 regular-season NBA game windows and 44 playoff telecasts to fill. Turner Sports will have 14 regular-season NBA games and 40 playoff telecasts to replace on TNT.”

Brandon Contes

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Absent from television will be many hours of daily, live sports programming, with networks left needing to fill the void created by the coronavirus impact. 

According to SBJ’s John Ourand, ESPN plans to air live editions of SportsCenter all day and night on their flagship, with ESPNEWS continuing to offer its usual simulcast of First Take, Your Take With Jason Fritz, and The Will Cain Show. ESPN2 will simulcast a combination of both ESPN and ESPNEWS programming.

Consumers can usually look to sports as a distraction during times of unrest, but with the NBA, NHL, NCAA, MLB, MLS, PGA, XFL, Tennis and motorsports all suspending, postponing and canceling play, networks need to provide other content.

Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports notes ESPN and ABC have up to 16 regular-season NBA game windows and 44 playoff telecasts to fill. Turner Sports will have 14 regular-season NBA games and 40 playoff telecasts to replace on TNT. Turner, in conjunction with CBS and trueTV were also set to air all 67 games from the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament throughout March, concluding with the National Championship game, Apr. 6 on TBS.

Being an entertainment network first, Turner has an extensive library of content to pluck from and air in place of their sports offerings. ESPN is more of a news source, with viewers expecting to tune in for information especially in the immediacy of sports’ cancelations. The Worldwide Leader does also have a library of 30 for 30 documentaries and ESPN Classic content to utilize. 

As we rapidly move into a time without sports, we’ve also rapidly moved into a time where the coronavirus continues to cause life-altering decisions. We saw CBS News need to evacuate their New York headquarters after two employees reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. In addition to providing information and content to the public, ESPN and Disney will similarly prioritize keeping their employees safe.

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Chris Fallica Leaving ESPN for FOX

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Jordan Bondurant

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A prominent sports betting voice featured on ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to rival FOX and their Big Noon Kickoff show starting in 2023. According to Awful Announcing, Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will make his last appearance on GameDay will be this weekend.

Fallica has been with ESPN since 1995. Since 2013, Fallica had been featured on GameDay making betting picks with his patented “Bear’s Board”.

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Fallica joins Tom Rinaldi as the second former GameDay voice to jump over to FOX and be featured on Big Noon Kickoff.

Both shows have experienced incredible viewership growth this season. For GameDay, there have been several weeks this season that have seen some of the largest audiences in the show’s history.

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Sports TV News

Tim Brando Believes Executives Look For Familiarity, Not Great Voices For Announcers

“Executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio. As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tim Brando has seen the broadcasting industry has evolved in a lot of ways through the years, but one thing that’s remained constant is how infrequently some of the announcing gigs with major networks open up to younger voices.

That’s mainly because you have veteran talent already occupying those positions with no plans for the immediate future to step aside.

On a recent edition of The Sports Talkers Podcast, FOX Sports broadcaster and host Tim Brando spoke to Stephen Strom about the reality that many broadcasters face.

“Yeah there are a lot more jobs, but there are fewer great jobs,” Brando said. “A lot of guys are getting jobs, but it’s like a dead end.”

But in terms of hiring younger talent for network jobs, he thinks it’s become more about adding faces to broadcast booths rather than voices.

“There’s a tendency I think now in our business to hire more visible and perhaps more popular talent because they’ve been in the studio,” he said. “But they’re not ready to be in the booth. Not everybody can do both well.”

Tim added that there’s a nuance to calling play-by-play versus working studio coverage. Brando said that perhaps it has a lot more to do with young broadcasters bypassing getting their start in radio and going right into TV.

“It seems to me that in some circles anyway in our business, executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio,” he said. “As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Brando did mention some of the younger voices at FOX who have risen to the bigger opportunities in the booth, and how they ultimately worked their way up. He said he’s had the chance to offer advice to a few of them and act as a mentor in a way, because that’s how it was for him breaking into the industry.

“I believe in pouring into the young broadcasters out there, I really do,” he said. “Because Curt Gowdy poured into me. I think there’s a responsibility and a level of accountability for the generation before to help those that are coming up that you really respect.”

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Sports TV News

MLB Network Airing 38 Hours of Winter Meetings Coverage

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jordan Bondurant

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The annual winter meetings for MLB are set to take place in-person for the first time since 2019 next week, and MLB Network is ready to bring viewers all the coverage possible from San Diego.

The network is devoting 38 hours of live programming on-site, with shows like MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, High Heat, MLB Now and Intentional Talk emanating from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans tuning in to MLB Network can expect to see Greg Amsinger, Fran Charles, Brian Kenny, Stephen Nelson, Alanna Rizzo, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian hosting their respective shows throughout the week. Sean Casey, Mark DeRosa, Al Leiter, Cameron Maybin, Kevin Millar, Dan O’Dowd, Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds will contribute coverage as analysts.

MLB Network will also carry coverage of the inaugural draft lottery from the winter meetings on Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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