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How Will Production Layoffs Effect ESPN’s On Air Talent?

“Deitsch says he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they are worried the days of ESPN hiring opinionists are mostly over. Miller isn’t buying it.”

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There aren’t a whole lot of people outside of the Walt Disney Company that know as much about ESPN as James Andrew Miller does. He is the author of Those Guys Have All the Fun, the book that documents the history of the network. On Monday, he was featured in Richard Deitch’s column for The Athletic talking about the recent layoffs at ESPN.

The duo discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it brought to broadcasting as the ultimate motivation for so many layoffs in Bristol behind the scenes. About midway through the conversation, Deitsch posed an interesting question: how will the layoffs of so many behind the scenes manifest itself with the on air staff?

Miller said he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they see the writing on the wall and their messages to agents are clear. Forget the raise, give me a longer deal.

“Apart from the Stephen A. (Smith) and probably less than two dozen individuals at ESPN who really have bargaining power and were able to extract significant increases during times like these, it’s not a great time,” he told Deitsch. “(Former CAA Sports head) Nick Khan picked a great era when (former ESPN president) John Skipper decided to be the George Steinbrenner for on-air personnel. There were big contracts and long contracts — and the economics of the time and the threat by FS1 justified it. But now that’s all gone.”

Deitsch says he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they are worried the days of ESPN hiring opinionists are mostly over. Miller isn’t buying it. In fact, he believes the opposite may be true.

“I think sports talk is going to maybe have a whole new renaissance because at the end of the day it’s far less expensive,” he said. “How many sports is ESPN or other competitors really going to be able to afford now, or spend the money on in the future? If you decide that you’re not going to bid on X Sport, you’re still going to have to program that time on your network. So I think that you’re going to start to look at programming and content that is cheaper to produce.”

If that is indeed the case, it obviously would be good news for many in the industry. Miller’s thinking isn’t hard to understand. Yes, the broadcast business has changed because of networks being willing to use tools like Zoom. That means there are fewer production jobs, but he uses other television shows to prove that no one is seeing hosts go away.

“Look, one of the things that started to happen when the pandemic became part of the fabric of our lives is all of a sudden you started to see Jimmy Fallon was in his basement. There was Savannah Guthrie in her home upstairs. This is happening all across all different networks. There was a bunch of us who said this could be the toothpaste out of the tube.”

Sports TV News

LIV Golf Nearing TV Deal With The CW Network

“LIV Golf television analyst David Feherty had hinted that the upstart league could potentially have a deal in place with The CW Network for American television rights.”

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LIV Golf

According to a report from Front Office Sports, LIV Golf has laid out a deal with The CW Network for television carriage in the United States.

The deal is a multi-year agreement that will see the tour own real estate in lesser-viewed time slots on the network. A revenue-sharing relationship between the tour and the television network is expected to be struck.

LIV Golf television analyst David Feherty had hinted that the upstart league could potentially have a deal in place with The CW Network for American television rights.

After a standup comedy show in West Palm Beach last week, Feherty reportedly told the crowd “Have you heard of CW? I might get fired for this, but…,” according to report from Tom D’Angelo of The Palm Beach Post.

Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand had previously reported a deal between the Saudi-backed breakaway golf tour and the network was likely.

Nexstar Media Group — the nation’s largest television owner — is the majority owner of The CW Network. There are around 220 affiliates of the network on over-the-air television stations. Rumors of an acquisition of LIV Golf’s rights come on the heels of The CW Network being linked to the potential launch of a college football bowl game that would air exclusively on the network.

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Sports TV News

Stephen A. Smith: ‘I Don’t Feel Obligated To Agree With Black Community’

“I want the Black community to always know that they have somebody in me that’s going to at least tell the world what we’re feeling and why, whether I agree with it or not.”

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Stephen A. Smith is out promoting his new memoir Straight Shooter. He recently sat down for a conversation with Men’s Health magazine.

Interviewer Rachel Epstein covers a wide variety of topics with Smith. Some are about what can be found in the book. Some are about the First Take star’s public perception.

She asked how Smith balances the responsibility of representing the Black community with his brand. On ESPN, Smith is known for being unique and unapologetic for his sometimes over-the-top persona.

“Number one by being fair,” he said. “By trying to gather as much information and educate myself on issues as much as I possibly can.”

He added that he has never felt pressure to think a certain way or say a certain thing. Even if pressure existed, he prides himself on not giving in to it.

“I never feel an obligation to agree with my community. I believe we all have a right to think the way we want to think. But I do feel a responsibility to make sure that the perspective emanating from my community is heard, even if I disagree.”

Stephen A. Smith is one of the highest-paid and most visible employees at ESPN. He said that a certain responsibility comes along with that status. He wants the Black community to know that even if he doesn’t agree, he will make sure people know what he is hearing when he is on TV talking about an important subject.

“I want the Black community to always know that they have somebody in me that’s going to at least tell the world what we’re feeling and why, whether I agree with it or not.”

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Sports TV News

Kathryn Tappen Joining NBC’s Big Ten Coverage

“Tappen was in line to replace Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football but was passed over by the network in favor of Melissa Stark.”

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NBC has tabbed Kathryn Tappen as its sideline reporter for the network’s upcoming coverage of Big Ten football, according to a report from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post.

According to Marchand, Tappen was in line to replace Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football but was passed over by the network in favor of Melissa Stark.

Tappen has hosted Notre Dame football’s studio coverage and Peacock Sunday Night Football Final. She also worked as NBC’s lead interviewer for its coverage of the PGA Tour, but left that broadcast team at the end of 2022 as part of the network’s larger shakeup of its golf coverage.

The appointment of Kathryn Tappen conceivably concludes the Big Ten on NBC broadcast crew. Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge are expected to pair as the network’s play-by-play announcer and color analyst, respectively. NBC has yet to officially unveil its coverage plans for the 2023 college football season.

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