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.
Adam Schefter Expected To Join Mannings On Monday Night Football
The NFL insider has been with ESPN since 2009.
ESPN executives have nailed down two members of the Manning Monday Night Football Megacast already; now they have to round out the trio. One familiar face has a leg up on one of the hottest jobs in the industry right now.
Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy reports that Adam Schefter is a leading candidate to join Peyton and Eli Manning for their Monday Night Football Megacast, airing ten times this season on ESPN2. Schefter has never been a TV host or play-by-play voice at the company, but sources told McCarthy this isn’t set up as a “down and distance” broadcast.
“It will be like watching ‘Monday Night Football’ with the Mannings and their friends. The win will be how funny and interesting the whole conversation is,” A source said to FOS. “If you want down and distance, that’s on the main broadcast. This should look and feel totally different.”
A source went on to say that the job is pictured “more like Ernie Johnson Jr. — and less like Al Michaels,” with Schefter (or whoever gets the gig) facilitating conversations around the game with the Mannings.
McCarthy confirmed that the brothers have the final say on who will join them in the booth as the hottest job in sports media opens up. Name a big name and they’ve likely already had their agent on the phone to pump them up in Bristol, Conn.
“Everyone wants in. Every agent in town is calling ESPN,” a source said to FOS.
The brothers won’t be on-site for these games. Instead, they’ll pull off all ten broadcasts this season in a looser, remote atmosphere. Schefter could be a strong fit for that type of hybrid role, and the professional timing couldn’t be much better for the NFL insider.
Schefter has been with ESPN since 2009 and signed his current five-year deal back in 2016. He’s a routine news breaker and a valuable asset for ESPN. Dangling the carrot of ten games with the Mannings could spell a fresh deal between Schefter and ESPN. Who is reeling in the Manning Conversations this fall? We’ll find out soon enough.
Liberty Extends ESPN Deal
Liberty and ESPN reached a deal that gives the flames exclusive rights to the Flames’ football games through 2025.
In a state dominated by FBS programs Virginia and Virginia Tech, and FCS power James Madison, Liberty University has needed to be aggressive in order to stay relevant. They hired Scott Jackson, the longtime assistant to the legendary Mike Fox at UNC, to coach their baseball program. The Flames also hired Ritchie McKay, Tony Bennett’s top assistant at UVA, to lead their basketball program. Of course, they famously hired ex-Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze to be their head football coach. Now, they have extended their exclusive media rights deal with ESPN through 2025.
The deal will see all of Liberty’s football games available on an ESPN platform, with a guarantee of at least one game available on a linear station and ESPN has the right to choose a non-traditional gameday to air a second linear broadcast. Liberty’s 12-game schedule is highlighted by a pair of road games at Power Five schools: a September 24 date with Syracuse and a pseudo-homecoming of sorts for Freeze against Ole Miss November 6.
“We are pleased to continue to showcase Liberty home football games exclusively on ESPN platforms in the years ahead through this multi-year extension of our rights agreement which began in 2018. The recent success of the Flames has made them one of the more intriguing programs in college football the past few seasons.” said Dan Margulis, senior director of programming and acquisitions, ESPN.
The move comes during a tumultuous time in college football as Oklahoma and Texas are reportedly nearing a deal to join the SEC. Liberty is currently one of just six FBS independents, along with BYU, UMass, Army, Notre Dame, and New Mexico State. That list is a mixed bag of those who are independent by choice and those who are not.
The Flames will embark on just their fourth season in the FBS this fall, and the smoke surrounding the school’s desire to join the AAC is palpable. Gaining favor with the Worldwide Leader is a good first step for a program that’s always focused on putting one in front of the other as of late.
FOX Sports Puts Up Brewers Billboard Near Wrigley Field
After winning the Ultimate Fan Bracket, Brewers fans will be rewarded with a billboard honoring their victory in Chicago.
Trolling is no longer reserved for the dark, seedy corners of the internet. It is now a tried and true amendment to the fabric of America’s digital culture. Such is the case for Fox Sports as it will have a billboard praising fans of the Milwaukee Brewers put up in Chicago as reward for winning Ultimate Fan Bracket.
The billboard will go up at the corner of LaSalle and Grand, roughly six miles from Wrigley Field. This is not the first time Fox Sports has trolled a home base’s fans as they previously had Bills billboards in Foxborough, Massachusetts and UNC signage in Durham, North Carolina.
While the Cubs’ primary rival resides some four hours south and a little west, the jab from their neighbors 90 minutes north will still sting. That is especially true given the phrase is borrowed from a self-appointed title for Cardinals fans in a city that is wildly proud of their loyalty to the Cubs, who, for over a century, embodied losing.
It’s going to take one heckuva cup snake to get that billboard down.
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