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ESPN Began Airing The Last Dance Before It Was Finished

“According to Markazi’s story, The Last Dance director Jason Hehir was concerned about meeting the doc’s June deadline, let alone figuring out a way to complete an early release while needing to shelter in place.”

Brandon Contes

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The Last Dance took years to make, decades if you consider when the behind-the-scenes footage was filmed, but the highly anticipated docuseries still started airing before it was finished. 

Shortly after sports were shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic in the middle of March, sports fans quickly began to clamor for an early release of ESPN’s The Last Dance. The 10-episode docuseries featuring Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls was originally set for a June release, coinciding with the NBA Finals. Moving the release date up a couple months didn’t seem like an unreasonable request from fans, but ESPN said it wasn’t ready yet.

“I know some have asked about The Last Dance, and the reality is that the production of that film has not yet been completed, so we are limited there at the moment,” network EVP Burke Magnus told Variety in March. “Obviously, you can’t air it until it’s done.” 

When Magnus said it wasn’t completed yet, most fans likely expected some last-minute editing was needed, but nothing significant enough to prevent it from an early release. ESPN recognized the need and value of bumping up the doc’s premiere date, but as it turns out, it wasn’t even close to being finished.

“The first three episodes were complete and seven of the 10 episodes were in various levels of post-production when all non-essential business in New York was shut down on March 16,” wrote L.A. Times sports columnist Arash Markazi.

According to Markazi’s story, The Last Dance director Jason Hehir was concerned about meeting the doc’s June deadline, let alone figuring out a way to complete an early release while needing to shelter in place. 

On March 31, ESPN announced the new schedule for the Bulls docuseries, featuring a premiere date of April 19, airing two episodes every Sunday through May 17. Amazingly, only three episodes were ready to go, the ninth was completed May 1, with the finale scheduled to be finished May 10, just one week before its air date. 

Thanks to Zoom meetings and uploading videos on Vimeo, Hehir and his team of five editors were able to finish the documentary from their separate New York apartments, giving sports fans something to look forward to and consume for five straight weeks.

Sports TV News

FOX Sued for Patent Infringement Over NFL Scheduling

“Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.”

Jordan Bondurant

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An analytics company is suing FOX over claims that the network developed a mapping tool using their patented technology to create a season slate of NFL games.

Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.

The lawsuit claims FOX used access to Recentive’s predictive analytics tools to develop a resource of their own that would create optimal schedules for its 1 and 4 p.m. NFLwindows.

The company is seeking a declaration that FOX infringed on two of its patents. Recentive is also suing for damages and wants an injunction keeping FOX from using Recentive tech and preventing the network from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by the patents.”

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Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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