Sports TV News
More Layoffs Announced at NBC Regional Sports Networks
Two weeks ago, Variety reported NBCUniversal was bracing for layoffs and after the company’s digital department was hit Monday, more downsizing was announced for their TV brands Tuesday. Three of NBC regional sports networks were significantly affected, NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Boston and NBC Sports Chicago.
“Due to the ongoing economic challenges caused by the pandemic and with the need to better position NBCUniversal for the future, we have made a number of difficult decisions to achieve cost savings, including eliminating some roles across the portfolio,” a spokesperson for NBCUniversal said in a statement.
According to The Athletic, at least 17 employees have been let go from NBC Sports Bay Area. After nearly two decades with NBC, Kelli Johnson announced she was informed her contract would not be renewed by the company, but will, however, stay on through the baseball season to cover the Giants in this unique year. Johnson joined NBCSBA in 2014 after past tenures with NBC Sports networks in Houston and DC.
Other NBCSBA employees impacted by the restructuring included senior director of communications Jay dela Cruz, who was laid off after a quarter century with the company. The Athletic also noted Brian Chen changed his Twitter bio to “free agent,” after working as NBCSBA’s creative and editorial manager. The RSN’s director of social engagement Dann Pedroza was let go after two and a half years with the network.
According to Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, NBC Sports Boston was also hit hard by the round of layoffs, releasing nearly 20 employees this week. The Globe reported the following on-air personalities have been let go from NBC Sports Boston, anchor Gary Tanguay, Bruins reporter Joe Haggerty, host Danielle Trotta, Celtics reporters Abby Chin and A. Sherrod Blakely. NBC Sports Boston may keep some of their laid off employees for up to 60 days as they continue to cover the Celtics and Bruins throughout the playoffs.
NBC Sports Chicago was also impacted by the company’s downsizing efforts, which unfortunately ended the tenures of Laurence Holmes and Leila Rahimi with the network, along with multiple behind-the-scenes employees. Rahimi relocated to the Midwest to join NBC Sports Chicago in 2015, where she hosted White Sox pre and post, as well as Baseball Night in Chicago. Holmes was a part-time employee and hosted the Football Aftershow following Bears games. The popular Chicago sports personality can still be heard daily with his noon – 2pm radio show on The Score.
UPDATE: Crossing Broad reports that 17 employees were let go from NBC Sports Philadelphia. Among them were Phillies broadcaster Gregg Murphy, NBC Sports Philly Director of Communications Maureen Quilter, and former The 700 Level founder Enrico Campitelli. There were also multiple cuts on the digital side.
The site also reports that as a company, the NBC RSNs are moving away from sideline reporters. Sideline reporters will stay in place through the end of the NHL and NBA seasons. After that, some talent will be reassigned. Others will be released.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Sports TV News
Inside the NFL Headed To The CW For 2023
“We are excited to partner with NFL Films and welcome “Inside the NFL” to The CW Sports family.
After being cut loose by Paramount+ earlier in the year, Inside the NFL has found a new home on The CW, premiering on September 5 at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST. The transition will mean the show is set to air on a broadcast network for the first time. It previously was carried by HBO and then Showtime. It will also be available to stream on The CW app and on cwtv.com.
The Emmy Award-winning series, which has been on the air since 1977, is centered around highlights and interviews from the previous week, with distinctive footage and audio supplied by NFL Films. It gives football fans an outlet to catch up on the action they might have missed, even though the scope of highlight shows is diminishing because of the advent of social media in an immersive content landscape.
“We are excited to partner with NFL Films and welcome Inside the NFL to The CW Sports family,” Dennis Miller, president of The CW, said in a statement. “For almost five decades, Inside the NFL has been an industry leader in showcasing can’t-miss weekly highlights, unprecedented behind-the-scenes content, exclusive access to players and lively discussion. By combining this premiere NFL content with our robust broadcast audience, we look forward to bringing this legendary sports series to more fans than ever before and to advertisers for the first time.”
Producers and hosts for the latest iteration of the show will be announced at a later date, and it will also have an impact on the fall programming schedule for the network itself. Recent editions of the show were hosted by James Brown and featured various former players, such as Brandon Marshall, Phil Simms and Julian Edelman.
“Generations of football fans have grown up watching Inside the NFL,” Ross Ketover, senior executive of NFL Films, added in a statement. “It is a show we cherish at NFL Films and we are thrilled to bring it to a great new partner in The CW. This is a special opportunity to reimagine and reboot Inside the NFL for a wider audience and a new generation of fans. We can’t wait to get started.”
Sports TV News
Frank Thomas Joins Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+
“He will make his debut on June 9.”
It didn’t take long for Frank Thomas to find a new gig. He is joining Apple TV+. He will make his Friday Night Baseball debut this week according to Front Office Sports.
Thomas’s role will involve multiple duties. He will conduct interviews with some of the game’s biggest stars. Those will take place on the field and in clubhouses before the games. He will also be in the booth for select games.
After FOX hired Derek Jeter to join its studio coverage of Major League Baseball, the network let Thomas go. He had been part of MLB on FOX since 2014. Royce Dickerson, who worked with “The Big Hurt” at FOX is now Apple’s executive producer for live sports.
Frank Thomas will not be available for Apple every week. He will be used on marquee matchups.
He will make his debut on June 9. Thomas will interview Mike Trout ahead of the Angels’ visit to Seattle to take on their division rivals, the Mariners.
Sports TV News
Darren Pang to Replace Colby Cohen On Blackhawks TV Crew
“At this time, we have decided it’s important for my family to be back close to our family and our home in Philadelphia.”
Changes in media coverage for hockey are continuing amid the Stanley Cup Final with the announcement of Colby Cohen walking away from Chicago Blackhawks broadcasts. The team is reportedly hiring Darren Pang, who has been featured as a reporter on NHL on TNT national broadcasts throughout the postseason, as their lead television color commentator. He will work alongside the sophomore play-by-play voice of the team, Chris Vasters, on NBC Sports Chicago. News of the decision was first reported by Jeff Agrest of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Blackhawks television crew utilized a hybrid approach last season, rotating between Cohen, Patrick Sharp and Troy Murray. The change comes one offseason after the team revamped its television booth following the retirement of Pat Foley, which resulted in Eddie Olczyk joining the Seattle Kraken television booth. Cohen confirmed news of his exit Wednesday morning on Twitter in a statement where he expressed his gratitude for his two seasons on Blackhawks broadcasts.
“My family and I want to thank the Wirtz family and the entire Chicago Blackhawks organization for… two great years working for one of the greatest organizations in sports,” Cohen said in a tweet. “We will miss the thunderous noise of the United Center and the great city of Chicago where our daughter was born. At this time, we have decided it’s important for my family to be back close to our family and our home in Philadelphia.”
Cohen spent just over three years with NBC Sports Philadelphia as a broadcaster for the Philadelphia Flyers, and has also worked on ESPN’s NHL coverage since 2016. It is unknown if Cohen will pursue another regional broadcasting role before the start of next season. He was originally hired by the team in 2021 to serve as a content analyst, creating digital features for the Blackhawks and working on studio coverage.
Pang has worked on Bally Sports Midwest with the St. Louis Blues for the last 14 years, but is now presumably set to move on and work with the team he played for as a goaltender over parts of three seasons. Additionally, he is expected to remain with Warner Bros. Discovery, recently telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he is on the verge of inking a three-year contract extension with the company. Pang is expected to be the primary color analyst, with the team either finding new roles for Sharp and Murray or using them in a backup capacity. Most hockey insiders expect the Blackhawks to open next season with rookie sensation and consensus first-overall draft selection Connor Bedard on the roster.