ESPN’s long awaited Michael Jordan documentary series The Last Dance makes its debut this weekend. Viewers will be able to chose how they experience the story of His Airness’s final run with the Chicago Bulls.
An uncensored version will air on ESPN. A version with expletives bleeped out will air on ESPN2. Both versions will air simultaneously starting at 9 pm.
Joe Lucia of Awful Announcing writes that the strategy makes sense for ESPN. It creates content for two networks during a time both are struggling to find programming that is relevant to the audience.
In reality, this is a fine way to pump the viewership for The Last Dance. It’s not as if ESPN2 has any other pressing content to air right now, so simulcasting The Last Dance on the network is a common sense move. And in case viewers will inevitably get upset about their (or their children’s) ears being dirtied with salty language, there’s a broadcast that will work out just fine for them.Joe Lucia, Awful Announicng
This isn’t the first time ESPN has used this strategy. The first ever ESPN original film, A Season on the Brink was presented the same way when it premiered in 2002. The movie focused on notoriously foul-mouthed coach Bobby Knight and the 1985-86 Indiana Hoosiers’ basketball season.
The Last Dance will premier two episodes at a time. Starting on Sunday, April 26, the two episodes that debuted the previous week will air at 7pm Eastern with the new episodes premiering at 9 pm each week.
Rick Cordella Named President of NBC Sports
“Rick has been at the epicenter of NBC Sports for years with a proven track record of growth and innovation…”
Three months after Pete Bevacqua stepped down as the chairman of NBC Sports to become the new athletic director at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater, the company has decided on its next leader. Rick Cordella, who has been with NBCUniversal since 2006 serving in a variety of different roles, has been promoted to the role of “President, NBC Sports,” and will report directly to Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBCUniversal Media Group.
Cordella most recently served as the president of programming for NBC Sports and Peacock Sports, a role in which he oversaw strategy for the sustained growth of both platforms. Peacock will be the exclusive home of a game within the NFL Wild Card round on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, marking the first time such an occurrence is taking place. Cordella was an integral member of the founding team for Peacock and served as the chief commercial officer for the over-the-top (OTT) streaming service. Under his leadership, NBC Sports garnered the accolade for the most-streamed Olympics and Super Bowl in history as the platform more than doubled its subscriber count year-over-year (YoY) to 24 million.
The six-time Sports Emmy Award winner began his tenure with the company within its fantasy sports properties, specifically overseeing Rotoworld and a variety of additional websites under its purview. Cordella was also a board member of FanDuel and represented NBC Sports on behalf of its investment in the sportsbook and gambling company. Additionally, he also has experience in digital media and has worked on the launch of several direct-to-consumer and online services, including NBC Sports Gold, ProFootballTalk and NBCSports.com, while also outlining content and editorial strategy.
“Rick has been at the epicenter of NBC Sports for years with a proven track record of growth and innovation across all platforms, particularly our flagship NBC network as well as Peacock, where he helped architect our leadership role in sports and streaming,” Lazarus said in a statement. “Rick will oversee the evolution of our business as we continue to offer the best experiences and content to our viewers, as well as be the best partner to leagues and rights holders.”
NBC is in the second year of a $20 billion media rights contract with the National Football League, primarily centered on its Sunday Night Football property. The lead broadcast booth of Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark is in its second season working together. NBC also started broadcasting Big Ten Conference football games this fall with its new B1G Ten Saturday property featuring Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge and Kathryn Tappen.
The company recently reacquired the rights for WWE SmackDown, which will air weekly starting in Oct. 2024 on USA Network, and will produce four specials in prime time each year as part of the deal. NBC is paying $7.75 billion to broadcast the Olympic Games through the 2028 festivities in Los Angeles, Calif., and has been working with Major League Baseball to present an exclusive Sunday morning contest on Peacock each week. These properties, plus other aspects of its business, will be under the leadership of Lazarus, Cordella and other executives at the company.
“It’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing,” Cordella told John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. “It’s less about this being the start of a new day and more about how we’re going to keep executing the way we have.”
Molly Qerim Welcomes Celebrities, Stephen A. Smith’s Sister to Roast First Pitch Attempt
“Hey Carmen, aren’t you happy you didn’t go now because that would have been embarrassing?”
When video circulated of Stephen A. Smith’s ceremonial first pitch prior to the New York Yankees’ matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night, he was promptly chided and excoriated for bouncing it to home plate. Many celebrities inside and outside the sports media world chimed in on the situation, and First Take fans left comments in eager anticipation for the episode the next morning. The interest was heightened when show host Molly Qerim posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that she would be taking live callers to “discuss that atrocity on the mound” by Smith.
Qerim helped orchestrate what she called a “telethon” and ensured Smith heard from a variety of people associated with the show about the delivery. First Take contributors Shannon Sharpe, Dan Orlovsky and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo submitted video messages that played live over the air throughout the episode – much of which was focused on the moment. Smith even practiced throwing a baseball in the studio during Thursday’s edition of the program and spoke about how he would wind up from the mound rather than the cut of the grass in front of it.
“Stephen A., I know you’re the executive producer, but today I am,” Qerim said. “I’d like the sound from last night of Stephen A. in the [YES Network] booth; could we get that please?”
At Qerim’s request, First Take shared what Smith said with Michael Kay in the television broadcast booth last night. During his appearance, he discussed how he felt when he took the field and recognized the magnitude of the situation.
“I was warming up down there – I was throwing strikes from 60 feet away – and I got on that mound and it looked like it was a mile away,” Smith said. “I said, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’…. There’s no excuse; there’s no excuse. It was a choke job.”
Throughout the episode leading into the weekend, messages from celebrities including Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg were displayed on the air, along with a live call from television host and producer Steve Harvey. Qerim, however, was saving a moment that would rattle Smith towards the end of the show when she revealed that Smith’s beloved sister, Carmen, was on the line.
“Steve, I taught you better than that,” Carmen said. “I had to look at it over again and say, ‘Did he just do that?’ And then hearing that you had a hot dog when I sent you food; you had a hot dog. I think that throw – you had to pass gas or something.”
Carmen explained that when Smith lifted his leg up in his attempt to fire a strike, he likely emitted flatulence because of the hot dog he ate at Yankee Stadium. Qerim and analyst Ryan Smith were consumed by laughter before they collected themselves and presented Carmen with an additional query.
“Hey Carmen, aren’t you happy you didn’t go now because that would have been embarrassing?,” Qerim asked. “You’d have to claim him after that.”
“I would’ve left him right there,” Carmen replied. “I would’ve disappeared [and] I would’ve went home. He wouldn’t even got back to wherever he was eating a hot dog.”
Smith was aghast to see what Qerim and the rest of the show’s production staff had pulled off in getting his sister to come live on the air. As a result, he vowed vengeance for the program that they had successfully executed. Nonetheless, Carmen reflected on what had happened and what she would have done had she known Smith would bounce the pitch in front of the crowd.
“Steve, the day before you were here, I would’ve had the headlights on the car,” Carmen explained. “We would’ve been throwing in the street at nighttime if I knew you were going to throw like that. Come on; you’re better than that.”
Kevin Harlan on No Nick Chubb Replay: ‘I Don’t Think We’re in the Business of Gruesome’
“I’m glad Joe [Buck] said what he said. It was honest.”
Kevin Harlan calls Monday Night Football games on the radio for Westwood One. He and partner Kurt Warner were in Cleveland on Monday night and witnessed the injury that ended Nick Chubb’s season.
His radio crew did not have to decide whether or not to show a replay of the incident. He told Richard Deitsch of The Athletic that he thinks Joe Buck and ESPN made the right call in not showing a replay and handled it the right way on air.
“I’m glad Joe [Buck] said what he said. It was honest. I don’t think we’re in the business of gruesome. I think we’re in the business of reporting. And I think those words and the reaction of the players told it all.”
Harlan did not see the knee injury occur in real time. In fact, the only way he knew its severity was from the crowd’s reaction to an in-stadium replay.
He says he actually did not see it at all until the next day when he was shown a clip of it. He said “it was as bad as I had feared.”
In 2017, Harlan was on the call of the Celtics’ season opener in Cleveland for TNT. That was the game where Gordon Hayward broke his ankle in his first game with Boston. He said it is the only thing he could compare the atmosphere surrounding Chubb’s injury to.
“There was bone and blood,” he said. “I could hear it and see it because we’re courtside. My recollection of it was TNT did not show the replay. I think we just conveyed it was about as gruesome as you might assume.”
Many other broadcasters have disagreed with Harlan’s assessment. This week, Dan Patrick, Mike Stone and Pardon My Take have all advocated for the moment to be replayed with a disclaimer about the severity of what the audience will see.
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