There are a lot of people that are re-evaluating their relationship with Major League Baseball right now. The fighting and feet-dragging that caused the 2020 season to consist of a mere 60 games has turned off a lot of lifelong fans. Maybe some of the new innovations and the urgency will draw new eyeballs to the league, but Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina has an idea to ensure that happens: give away as much free baseball as possible.
In his “Extra Mustard” column on Thursday, Traina writes that the best thing Major League Baseball could do for fans in 2020 is to make its Extra Innings package free. “Lift all TV/radio/app restrictions and make everything free for this fake season,” he writes.
Major League Baseball is facing another sticking point in its return. While that league is just starting its season, the NBA and NHL will be entering their stretch runs to the playoffs. Add to that the looming football season, and even with an added sense of urgency, it is possible baseball falls through the cracks with a lot of viewers.
Flooding TV with baseball may also be a smart play in the current economic climate according to Traina.
“You have a massive number of people who are unemployed right now. Take all the positive PR you can get and do this.”
Echoing a sentiment that many baseball fans have expressed as soon as it became clear we weren’t going to see teams playing 162 game schedules, Traina says that 2020 “is not a real season.” Clearly a seam-head, Traina complains about the short schedule and new rules meant to speed up the games. Baseball diehard or not, Traina says it is obvious what the fair thing to do for the fans this season is.
“Don’t charge full price–or any price–for access to these games.”
NBC Won’t Broadcast XFL/USFL After Merger
“We wish them success with the new league and their new partners.”
NBC Sports broadcasted USFL games in its first two seasons since its resurrection, but that won’t continue in 2024.
As the two leagues prepare to merge, the new season won’t begin until March 30th. Due to pre-existing contracts for PGA Tour and other golf events, the network wasn’t able to commit to broadcasting the spring football league.
“We enjoyed our relationship with the USFL and Fox, but the new earlier schedule made it impossible for us to continue,” NBC Sports Executive Vice President of Communications Greg Hughes told Sports Business Journal. “We wish them success with the new league and their new partners.”
With the departure of NBC Sports, ESPN and FOX Sports will be the two television partners for the league.
Stephen A. Smith: I Deserve to Be Highest-Paid ESPN Employee
“I’m doing all of these things. I’m not doing all of that to be in second place. I’m not doing all of that to look up at somebody else to see that they’re making more than me…”
Stephen A. Smith has been ESPN’s top dog for over a decade, and during his next contract negotiations, he plans to be paid like it — whether it’s ESPN or someone else signing the checks.
OutKick’s Clay Travis recently sat down with Stephen A. Smith and discussed a variety of media topics, including the latter’s next paycheck. Travis said that he hopes the price of top media personalities continues to rise, and asked Smith if it was important to him that he was the highest-paid talent at ESPN. Stephen A. did not mince words in his response.
“Yes. I’m not stuttering,” Stephen A. said. “Hell, yes, that’s absolutely true. I’ve mastered my own business in the world of sports television. Clay Travis, I’ve been number one for 12 years. April 1st will mark 12 consecutive years I’ve been number one. Not only have I been number one every year, I’ve been number one every week in every month of every year for the last 12 years. You don’t get to say that about too many people.
“I look at whether it’s Pat McAfee as Mike Greenberg, Scott Van Pelt, it’s Troy Aikman, it’s Joe Buck, it’s Kirk Herbstreit. The list goes on and on. I’m so honored to have the colleagues that I have that I work with at ESPN every day. And at the end of the day, it would be nice for one day for this man to stand before everyone and be like, this is not I’m number one and this says I’m number one.”
Notably, Stephen A. mentions Joe Buck and Troy Aikman by name there because the Monday Night Football hosts are currently the only two ESPN talents that make more than Smith.
According to figures provided by TheSpun, Stephen A. makes $12 million per year, while Buck and Aikman make $15 million and $18 million per year, respectively.
However, Stephen A.’s value is much better for ESPN, as while the MNF duo only does one show with sporadic appearances across the network, Smith is everywhere. He does First Take, he has his own show, he covers the NBA on NBA Countdown, he hosts an alternate NBA telecast, he does appearances for other ESPN programs, and even finds time to guest star on ABC’s General Hospital. Smith knows he’s valuable to ESPN and Disney, but knows he’s set himself up for a life outside of them both should it come to that point.
“I’ve got my own YouTube channel,” Smith said. “I’ve got my own show. It’s not even just a podcast. It’s a show with a fully loaded television studio. That’s what I built for myself, that could go linear or digital. The list goes on and on. I’m doing all of these things. I’m not doing all of that to be in second place. I’m not doing all of that to look up at somebody else to see that they’re making more than me when I’m producing superior ratings and revenue. No, I’m not doing that. And I’m not apologizing to anybody for it.”
Stephen A. Smith finished his answer with poignant words for Disney and ESPN.
“Again, I’ve got great relationships and what have you, but this is a business and Disney has a right to run its business the way it sees fit. ESPN does as well. But if they do, so do I. I hope that we’re able to work it out. I’m confident that we will, because I’m incredibly happy there. We’ll see.”
Jeff Kotuby is a nationally-published journalist with bylines on many popular broadcasting and pop culture sites, including The Streamable, eBaum’s World, Twin Galaxies, and more. Jeff grew up in the shadows of New York City and cultivated his love for sports media with the classic broadcasting voices of the area, like Mike & The Mad Dog, Mike “Doc” Emerick, and Michael Kay. You can reach Jeff on Twitter @JeffKotu3y.
Kevin Hart Partnering with ESPN, Omaha Productions for New Alternate NBA Broadcast
More dates for “NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart” will be announced as the NBA season continues, all of which will be available to watch on the ESPN app.
ESPN has unveiled a new alternate presentation for its coverage of the NBA in tandem with Hartbeat and Omaha Productions. Award-winning actor and comedian Kevin Hart will host the broadcast, titled NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart, which will also feature the Plastic Cup Boyz, Joey Wells, Will Horton and Na’im Lynn. These programs will be focused on how Hart and his friends watch the NBA and feature discussion and debate. Moreover, there will be special guest appearances from top athletes and celebrities.
The program will make its debut in tandem with the NBA In-Season Tournament Championship Game at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN2 and the ESPN app. Concurrently, the traditional broadcast of the contest begins at the same time and features the network’s new lead broadcast team of Mike Breen, Doris Burke and Doc Rivers, and is set to air on ABC.
Throughout the NBA season, seven episodes of NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart will air in accordance with marquee games on ESPN platforms. At the moment, the other broadcasts of this alternate presentation that have been announced will take place on Friday, Jan. 5 and Wednesday, April 10, both on ESPN2 at 7:30 PM ET.
Hart founded Hartbeat, the global multi-platform media company that seeks to create entertaining content intersecting between comedy and culture. The entity is involved in creating the award-winning digital talk show Cold As Balls, along with the Olympic Highlights show featuring Hart and award-winning rap artist Snoop Dogg.
Omaha Productions, which was founded by Peyton Manning, has contributed to various ESPN alternate broadcasts in the past, including the NBA in Stephen A’s World and Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli, colloquially known as the “ManningCast.”
More dates for NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart will be announced as the NBA season continues. Additionally, all of these broadcasts will be available to watch on the ESPN app.