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Wrestlemania 36 To Go On Without Fans

“Instead of featuring nearly 70,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium, the show will take place from the WWE training facility in Orlando, FL.”

Brandon Contes

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Vince McMahon won’t be canceling WrestleMania 36, but consider it another sporting event that will be significantly impacted by Covid-19. 

Monday evening, WWE announced their Super Bowl-like event will no longer take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, and will no longer take place in front of fans. WrestleMania 36 will, however, happen Sunday, Apr. 5, at 7pm ET on WWE Network and via pay-per-view. 

Instead of featuring nearly 70,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium, the show will take place from the WWE training facility in Orlando, FL. The change was a necessary decision made by WWE, caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. 

“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” WWE announced in a statement. “However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5 at 7 p.m. ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view. Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida to produce WrestleMania.”

Last year’s WrestleMania 35 was held at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium in front of more than 82,000 fans, earning WWE almost $17 million in ticket sales. All WWE shows are currently being taped at their training facility without fans, including Raw and SmackDown.

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Report: Warner Bros. Discovery Considering Matching Amazon NBA Package, Not NBC

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has told others he believes NBCUniversal is overpaying for the NBA based on their research.

Barrett Sports Media

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Another day, another new possibility in the ongoing saga of the future NBA media rights packages. Yesterday, Sports Business Journal reported the NBA would soon formalize their agreements with The Walt Disney Company/ESPN, Comcast/NBCUniversal/NBC/Peacock and Amazon for rights which would begin after next season. There has been much speculation about the matching rights Warner Bros. Discovery has in their deal and most of the chatter has been related to them possibly trying to match NBC’s bid. A new report from CNBC’s Alex Sherman says it might be the Amazon package for Prime Video that NBC tries to match.

It is clear WBD prefers to keep a rights agreement with the NBA for TNT, a partnership which goes back nearly 40 years. However, as Sherman points out there is the matter of their $42 billion gross debt. This may be a big reason they might try and match the Amazon offer, believed to be worth $1.8 billion per year, whereas the NBC package is believed to be priced at $2.5 billion. WBD is reportedly paying $1.2 billion per year currently.

If and when those packages are signed, that is when the matching clause for WBD will come in to play, so they have not yet been forced to make a decision. Sherman reports they would have five days to match an offer according to someone familiar with the language of the deal.

Sherman says it is still possible WBD does not try and match either offer and brings up the possibility of the league carving out a fourth packages, however, it is unknown if the league would be able to consider such an idea based on having already created a third package.

WBD has the Max platform to use as a streaming service, but Sherman notes that service plans to tier its sports programming, something the NBA would not like compared to Prime Video’s plan of continuing their current price structure.

One other note from Sherman’s report says Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has told others he believes NBCUniversal is overpaying for the NBA based on their research.

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Ed Werder Moves on from ESPN

“While this marks the end of my partnership with ESPN, I expect to continue working because, as so many studio hosts have proclaimed—and I still devoutly believe—’Ed Werder has more.’”

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Photo of Ed Werder and a logo for ESPN
Photo Courtesy: ESPN

After more than a couple of decades of work at ESPN, Ed Werder took to social media to announce he is no longer with the company.

“For 26 years, I’ve had the privilege of reporting on the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys while holding an ESPN microphone,” he wrote. “But that time is coming to an end. I will immediately begin considering other opportunities to continue my work covering the NFL.

“My ESPN career was highlighted by being assigned to cover 20 consecutive Super Bowls and included having my contributions honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I would be remiss if I didn’t express appreciation to my incredible colleagues and to the players, coaches and other NFL team members who trusted me with their unique insight when covering their games or breaking news. I’ve created some incredible lifelong memories. My gratitude to all who have been in the audience, and I remain thankful to have been provided the most coveted platform in broadcast journalism.”

Werder made it clear he is not retiring or looking to stop covering the NFL, saying, “While this marks the end of my partnership with ESPN, I expect to continue working because, as so many studio hosts have proclaimed—and I still devoutly believe—’Ed Werder has more.’”

Werder was laid off by the company back in 2017 but returned in 2019 to be the bureau reporter for the Dallas market. Werder also hosts The Doomsday Podcast with Matt Mosley with weekly Dallas Cowboys coverage.

ESPN released a statement about Werder’s departure. “Ed Werder has been a mainstay on ESPN’s NFL coverage for more than 25 seasons. He has elevated our programs, including Sunday NFL Countdown, and the multiple platforms he’s contributed to while reporting at signature games, Super Bowls, and nearly all league events. His journalistic instincts and relationships have benefitted fans throughout the years. We thank Ed for everything he contributed and wish him success in the future.”

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Celtics-Pacers Game 1 of NBA Eastern Conference Finals Averages 6.43 Million Across ESPN, ESPN2

This marks the most-watched NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 on any network since 2018.

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NBA on ESPN – NYC Sign

The first game of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night averaged 6.43 million viewers across the traditional broadcast on ESPN and alternate presentation on ESPN2, according to Nielsen Media Research. This marks the most-watched NBA Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 on any network since 2018 when the Celtics faced LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The traditional broadcast on ESPN featuring the lead announcing team of Mike Breen, Doris Burke, JJ Redick and Lisa Salters averaged 6.28 million viewers, while NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart averaged 151,000 viewers on ESPN2. Guests included in the alternate presentation, which is a collaboration between ESPN, Hartbeat and Omaha Productions, included Joel McHale, DeMarcus Cousins, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Lou Williams.

The Game 1 broadcast was the most-watched program of the day on all of television and also finished first in key adult and male demographics. The broadcast was up 8% from the comparable game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics last year on TNT, which averaged 5.95 million according to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch. Moreover, the contest is up 6% from the 6.07 million average audience for the Game 1 matchup between the Pacers and Celtics in the 2022 season on ESPN.

The 6.43 million viewership average is the third-largest audience within the NBA Playoffs, both being surpassed by Game 7 broadcasts on Sunday. ESPN broadcast the New York Knicks matchup against the Indiana Pacers that averaged 6.45 million viewers, while TNT presented the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets game that averaged 8.41 million viewers.

With young, dynamic stars including Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner, the Pacers have been a draw on national television this year. The team played in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament Final against the Los Angeles Lakers and averaged 4.58 million viewers on ABC and ESPN2, the second-most watched game of the regular season.

For the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs, games averaged 4.03 million viewers on ESPN, ABC, TNT and truTV, a metric that is down 12% from last year. The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) has reportedly reached a framework for a new deal with the NBA that is in the process of being formalized, along with NBCUniversal and Amazon. Warner Bros. Discovery, the incumbent holding the “B” package and broadcasting NBA games within its associated divisions since the 1984-85 season, reportedly has the ability to match rights; however, there is ambiguity surrounding what would constitute meeting such criteria.

The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery, along with the FOX Corporation, are preparing to launch a joint streaming venture in the fall, Venu Sports, pending regulatory approval. Moreover, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery will introduce a bundle for Disney+, Hulu and Max over the summer and recently reached a deal to allow TNT Sports to sublicense select College Football Playoff games from ESPN.

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