There is no handbook for sports media brands and companies when navigating a global pandemic. For that, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro and Disney CEO Bob Chapek are proud of the way they handled the unprecedented challenges that popped up in 2020.
“No one could have anticipated the challenges we faced in 2020,” Pitaro said during ESPN’s annual town hall event, which was held virtually Thursday morning for ESPN employees nationwide. “And it’s times like these where people are often judged. And I promise you that history will show that the people of ESPN delivered . . . and did so with grace and integrity.”
According to ESPNFrontRow.com, Disney CEO Bob Chapek echoed Pitaro’s sentiment, believing ESPN’s parent company “demonstrated unbelievable resourcefulness and creativity.” Chapek highlighted the NBA Bubble as an example, which took a tremendous amount of planning by the league, Disney and ESPN to orchestrate as they crowned a season champion.
While Disney and ESPN both exemplified problem-solving skills throughout the year, they weren’t immune to the negative financial impacts of COVID-19, which led to many employee cuts. The day before Thanksgiving, Disney announced 32,000 workers would be laid off during the first half of 2021.
ESPN similarly had their largest round of layoffs ever late last year, cutting 300 jobs and leaving another 200 open positions unfilled. The cuts eliminated 500 jobs in total from a company that has 4,000 employees working out of Bristol and 6,000 worldwide.
Despite those unfortunate realities, both Pitaro and Chapek are optimistic for the futures of ESPN and Disney.
“Likewise, here at ESPN, and for so many reasons, I feel optimistic about the year ahead,” Pitaro said. “At the same time, I’m also realistic about the business challenges we face. The changes we’ve seen over the last few months have, at times, felt sudden and difficult, but I can assure you this strategic business shift is something we’ve been building towards for years, at Disney and at ESPN.”
Cris Collinsworth Wonders If Tom Brady Knows Broadcasting Is a Hard Job
“It’s a seven day a week job. For somebody that has reached where he’s reached in the NFL and made that kind of money, I’m honestly really surprised.”
Many in the sports media industry were surprised by the news that Tom Brady will join FOX Sports as the lead NFL analyst when he eventually decides to end his playing career. That includes the current lead analyst of NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecasts, Cris Collinsworth.
“I’m a little surprised,” he said on the latest episode of The Cris Collinsworth Podcast. “There’s no amount of money they could throw at him that would have influenced him. He’s going to still be working weekends for half the year no matter what it is.”
Collinsworth mentioned that he hears from most people and they ask him what the TV life is like when they are thinking about getting into the industry. Tom Brady was not one of those people. He hopes the GOAT knows what he is in for.
“It’s hard. I’m working on the airplane when I’m flying home from the other game. I’m working on the next game. It’s a seven day a week job. For somebody that has reached where he’s reached in the NFL and made that kind of money, I’m honestly really surprised. I guess the money now has gotten to the point where it’s of interest to everybody.”
While some might be unsure about how Brady will do in the FOX NFL booth with Kevin Burkhardt, count Collinsworth in as one of those people who think Brady will do a great job.
“I think he’ll be fantastic. Every conversation I have ever had with him about the game of football, you always go oh, I didn’t know. He’s always been pretty open and honest with us. He has a real personal side to the game…He’s got it all, but I’ve got to say I am surprised.”
Tom Millikan Upped To APD of 97.1 The Ticket
“Listeners might not agree with my opinions or show content all of the time, but I genuinely try to produce shows that Detroit sports fans want every single day.”
Congratulations are in order for Tom Millikan. The executive producer of The Morning Show with Stoney and Jansen has been promoted to assistant program director of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit.
“Tom has done an outstanding job as an executive producer and has played a vital role in the success of the station,” said Debbie Kenyon, Senior Vice President and Market Manager, Audacy Detroit. “He is very deserving of this promotion and we look forward to even greater success with Tom in his new role.”
Millikan has been a steady presence in Detroit sports talk since 1998. He has been with The Ticket since 2012. In that time, he has served as an affiliate relations manager for coverage of the Detroit Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons. He has also been involved with Michigan Wolverines broadcasts on sister station WWJ AM.
“Throughout my twenty plus years in radio, I’ve been blessed with countless memories of championships and pure joy,” said Millikan. “I’m living out a dream. I wanted to work in sports radio since the format exploded in the early 90s and I’ve been blessed by the tutelage of all of my co-workers and peers. I was born and raised in Detroit and Detroit sports are part of my DNA. Listeners might not agree with my opinions or show content all of the time, but I genuinely try to produce shows that Detroit sports fans want every single day.”
Sunday Night Baseball Viewership Up On ESPN
“Telecasts are averaging 1.73 million viewers.”
The first month of the 2022 MLB regular season has concluded and ESPN is celebrating an uptick in viewership for Sunday Night Baseball.
The network announced on Tuesday that viewership for Sunday Night Baseball is up 4% compared to this time last year. In addition to that, compared to the 2020 full season average, ratings are up 40%.
Telecasts are averaging 1.73 million viewers. The Dodgers/Cubs game on May 8 averaged 1.781 million and peaked at over 2.1 million viewers during the 8-8:15 p.m. window.
Karl Ravech, Eduardo Perez and David Cone comprise the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast booth, with Buster Olney contributing reports.