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WWE Headed To Peacock In $1 Billion Deal

“This continues the trend of NBC using sports as a point of differentiation for Peacock amongst its streaming competition.”

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The WWE Network will soon be a thing of the past in the US. The professional wrestling juggernaut has struck a billion dollar deal with Comcast to make Peacock the exclusive streaming home of WWE content.

WWE Network will become a channel within Peacock on March 17. The company will shut down its proprietary platform that day. Fans will have access to 24/7 programming. That will include the WWE Network archives, original series, and access to all of the WWE’s pay-per-view events. It will be free for Peacock Premium and Peacock Premium Plus subscribers.

This continues the trend of NBC using sports as a point of differentiation for Peacock amongst its streaming competition. The OTT platform already has rights to English Premier League Soccer and a whole day’s worth of streaming shows. The addition of WWE and the previously announced shut down of NBCSN will take the streaming platform’s live sports content to a whole new level.

No one should be surprised that such a deal was made between the two sides. WWE and NBC Universal have a had a relationship for 30 years, dating back to Monday Night Raw’s premier on the USA Network.

“We are thrilled to further the long-standing and trusted partnership WWE has with NBCUniversal,” WWE president and chief revenue officer Nick Khan said in a press release. “Peacock is an innovative platform that will enable us to showcase our most significant events, including WrestleMania, and provide the extraordinary entertainment our fans have come to expect with the combination of premium WWE content, live sports, news, films, and television programs.”

The WWE Network launched in 2014. It is available in over 180 countries. It will remain a standalone service outside of the United States.

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Dan Le Batard: TNT Sports Will Try and Talk Charles Barkley Out of Retirement

“He’s tired of being emotional about this, and he just went emotion from the hip.”

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Dan Le Batard
Courtesy: Derek Futterman, Barrett Sports Media

Charles Barkley, studio analyst for TNT Sports and former NBA Hall of Fame forward, announced that he would be retiring from television after 25 years on the air upon the conclusion of the 2024-25 NBA season. The topic was a subject of discussion on Monday’s edition of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, an announcement that Le Batard conveyed that Barkley made in his own way with different people than the group with whom he normally broadcasts.

Barkley has made several media appearances outside of his Warner Bros. Discovery obligations pertaining to the future of NBA media rights with TNT, during which he has spoken candidly about his sentiments on the negotiations. Within those interviews, Barkley revealed that he has an opt-out in his 10-year contract should the company lose NBA rights and also criticized executives with the company after not closing a deal within its exclusive 90-day negotiating window as an incumbent rightsholder.

“It was really an unusual place for him in the middle of the night after a game to just tell everybody, ‘And I’ve decided to retire,’ and then TNT’s statement is, ‘We’re going to discuss all of this with Charles. He just caught us off guard,’ and Charles can say whatever that he wants, but they’re going to try to talk him out of this,” Dan Le Batard explained, “and at the very least, that’s not the way they wanted him to do it, and of course, Charles Barkley doesn’t care how you want him to do it.”

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC), NBCUniversal, and Amazon’s Prime Video. If Warner Bros. Discovery is unable to reach a deal with the NBA, it would mark the end of NBA live game broadcasts on Turner-owned properties, which have been telecasting the games since the 1984-85 campaign. Stugotz is not sure if Barkley will follow through on his retirement announcement and concurred that it was an atypical setting to deliver the career decision.

“I think Barkley is emotional right now – I think they’re all emotional – they should be,” Weiner said. “I’m not certain that Charles Barkley, because he’s going to have so many offers and so many opportunities be it at Turner or ESPN or elsewhere, I’m not certain if he’s just caught up in the emotion or he’s actually going to go through with it.”

There had been rumors several years ago of Barkley joining LIV Golf and potentially leaving Warner Bros. Discovery; however, that did not materialize into any kind of deal. Barkley ended the conversations with the golf tour and affirmed that he would be staying with the Turner Sports division for the remainder of his broadcast career. While he was making his retirement announcement, he revealed that he had spoken to other networks and did not want to be contacted for interviews on the matter.

“The amount of pressure that Barkley must feel to keep the whole thing together as it falls apart because he’s the centerpiece of the whole thing and if they lose the rights and Ernie doesn’t want to leave and the show gets ruined, he doesn’t want to do it in some distorted form,” Le Batard said. “I do believe Stugotz’s analysis is right. He’s tired of being emotional about this, and he just went emotion from the hip.”

Show producer Mike Ryan offered the possibility that Barkley could be creating significant leverage by announcing his retirement at this time. With a year to go until the expiration of the existing NBA media rights contract, he will effectively have a year-long farewell, but he has spoken about retirement in the past and ended up re-signing with the network. The possibility of Warner Bros. Discovery landing an NBA package of some kind is also said to still exist, leading Ryan to ask Le Batard if he thinks Barkley would reconsider his decision if it came to fruition.

“I don’t know because I think predicting his behavior can be very difficult because it hasn’t been hinting at retirement,” Dan Le Batard said. “He has been talking publicly and privately about actually retiring at the age of 60, and he did surprise me when he signed another contract at the age of 60 because of how he’s been talking about that for a while. He does want to slow down the amount of obligations that he has, but he hasn’t been able to do it for whatever the reasons.”

Dan Le Batard said the rationale of Barkley deciding not to slow down in television spanned beyond fiscal compensation. At the moment, Barkley seems to be trying to create public leverage, according to Le Batard, when, with his new contract, he could be doing it privately and still have such leverage.

Producer Billy Gil also mentioned that ego could be involved and finds it difficult to believe Barkley would just disappear from television and no longer express his opinions.

“Billy, you think he’s not going to have other options to do whatever the hell he wants the moment he walks?,” Dan Le Batard asked. “….He could create whatever job that he wishes to create on his own time. He’s got maximum freedom.”

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iHeartMedia Announces Lineup of Original Podcasts for Women’s Sports Audio Network

“We’re committed to championing incredible athletes and building further awareness until women’s sports reaches the kind of nationwide and international prominence it has always deserved.”

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iHeartMedia; Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment
Courtesy: iHeartMedia, Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment

iHeartMedia and Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment have announced the lineup of original podcast shows that will be part of the launch of the Women’s Sports Audio Network.

The audio platform is dedicated exclusively to women’s sports and will feature top athletes and personalities as part of the venture. Capital One, e.l.f. Cosmetics and e.l.f. SKIN have also joined as the founding partners of the free, ad-supported network, which will be available across iHeartMedia broadcast, digital, and podcasting platforms.

In addition to the new shows, the Women’s Sports Audio Network will introduce “Women’s Sports Reports” on iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide. The seminal moment will provide more equitable media coverage to women’s sports with demand and interest at an all-time high level. Women’s sports is projected to become a $1 billion industry in 2024, indicative of a 300% increase over three years; however, women’s sports is estimated to receive only 15% of media coverage, according to a report from The Collective.

iHeartMedia will begin this endeavor live at the Cannes Lions Festival in France where Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment will host the Women’s Sports House in partnership with Axios.

“We’re committed to championing incredible athletes and building further awareness until women’s sports reaches the kind of nationwide and international prominence it has always deserved,” Gayle Troberman, chief marketing officer of iHeartMedia, said in a statement. “It’s humbling and inspiring that the first-ever, dedicated women’s sports reports will start airing with the massive reach of iHeart’s broadcast radio platform and the full-on power of collaboration between world class athletes, incredible journalists, podcasters and the fans. This is a pivotal moment for women’s sports to get heard.”

“Women’s sports aren’t just having a moment, it is the moment. And yet women’s sports content continues to be difficult to find and difficult to buy,” Laura Correnti, founder and chief executive officer of Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment, said in a statement. “The Women’s Sports Audio Network aims to change that — providing an accessible platform for every fan, from the most casual to biggest of super fans, to be educated and entertained while expanding the aperture of investment opportunities for brands to reach and engage with a dialed-in women’s sports community.”

The Women’s Sports Audio Network will include a new program titled Good Game with Sarah Spain, a weekday show covering stories around women’s sports. Spain will cover breaking news and conduct interviews, and she will also be regularly joined by a roster of guests to discuss the forthcoming games and engage in debate.

“Women’s sports have no shortage of show-stopping moments to unpack, and that’s especially true this summer – from the ongoing NWSL and WNBA seasons to the excitement at the upcoming Paris Olympic games,” Spain said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to breaking it all down on ‘Good Game’ with elite athletes and expert voices across a range of sports. Whether we’re spilling tea or talking ‘Ts’, we’re gonna give fans both loyal and new everything they need to keep up with the wild world of women’s sports.”

Four-time WNBA champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes will host a show focused on difficult conversations pertaining to a variety of topics, including basketball, motherhood, retirement, and mental health. Additionally, professional golfer and media personality Tisha Alyn will host a podcast where she talks about women’s golf and other areas such as fitness, entrepreneurship, lifestyle and LGBTQ culture.

WNBA insider Khristina Williams will talk about the biggest stories in women’s basketball on a weekly podcast and interview those involved in the sport as well. Other programs announced by the Women’s Sports Audio Network include shows hosted by Madison Packer and Anya Packer, Rennae Stubbs and Caitlin Thompson, and a program dedicated to League One Volleyball. The launch dates for these shows on the Women’s Sports Audio Network and more talent will be announced in the future.

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John Skipper: Charles Barkley is Probably the ‘Most Valuable Pundit’ There Is

“If he worked for a network I was in charge of, I would be very discomfited by his going around and telling me how to do my job.”

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Charles Barkley
Courtesy: Jamie Schwaberow, NBAE via Getty Images

As the NBA reportedly formalizes deals with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC), NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video to be its next media rights partners, questions still remain about the future of Warner Bros. Discovery and the league. Turner properties have been broadcasting the NBA since the 1984-85 season on TBS, and the NBA on TNT has significant brand equity with the league with its lineup of broadcasters and the heralded studio program, Inside the NBA. Charles Barkley, who has been a member of the studio program since 2000, has been open about his own sentiment surrounding the company and how it has handled the negotiations with the NBA.

On numerous occasions over the last month, he has appeared on various sports talk programs to give his perspective. During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Barkley excoriated the work of David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive officer and president, questioning how the company exited its 90-day exclusive negotiating window with the league without a deal. Although there is reportedly still a possibility that Warner Bros. Discovery could land a smaller package of games pooled from regional sports networks or potentially execute its matching rights provision, although the provisions under such are ambiguous, the future remains unclear.

David Samson, the former president of the Miami Marlins, expressed on The Sporting Class podcast from Meadowlark Media that he could not stop thinking about Barkley’s conduct and remarked that he has an extraordinary amount of power. He envisioned his co-host John Skipper, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Meadowlark Media, watching Barkley indignant and having smoke come out of his ears.

“If he worked for a network I was in charge of, I would be very discomfited by his going around and telling me how to do my job,” Skipper said, “so I suspect he’s not making the David Zaslav summer barbecue.”

Samson finds the situation fascinating and conveyed that he had not heard another broadcaster do it in the same way as Barkley. Earlier in the NBA Playoffs, Barkley expressed that he could consider taking Inside the NBA independent with his production company. After host Ernie Johnson signed off Inside the NBA at the end of the Western Conference Finals and stated that next season would be a blast, Barkley remarked that he heard the word “last” at the end instead.

“He’s got another year, and he knows he can’t get fired and he knows Turner’s not getting the deal and he knows he’s a free agent, but he’s going scorched earth, and he needs a better agent,” Samson said. “…I do [think that] because I believe he doesn’t realize there’s only a certain number of bidders, and someone who’s going to sign Barkley is going to say, ‘He just did it to David [Zaslav], he’s going to do it to me next.’”

Skipper did not agree with this point, stating that anyone who had the opportunity to sign Barkley would do so. There has been intrigue surrounding a potential free agency for Barkley should Warner Bros. Discovery officially lose its rights to the NBA. Barkley revealed during an appearance on ESPN Cleveland that he had an opt-out in his contract with the company if it lost broadcasting rights to the NBA.

“Barkley probably is the most valuable pundit that there is,” Skipper said. “There’s a couple of people close, but if you were starting from scratch, you would hire Charles Barkley.”

Barkley was at Amerant Bank Arena for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers, and he appeared for a segment amid the ESPN on ABC intermission report. As host Steve Levy was introducing everyone, he preceded Barkley by questioning if he was the newest member of ESPN’s coverage of the National Basketball Association. Barkley also mentioned that he tried uploading his résumé to LinkedIn but that the platform said that he had never had a real job.

“He went on ESPN, he was on the Stanley Cup,” Samson said. “I couldn’t even believe it. He went on ESPN to complain about Turner. This is a real company – he doesn’t work for TNT; he works for Warner Bros. Discovery.”

Warner Bros. Discovery has fortified its sports portfolio in the last several weeks by acquiring broadcasting rights to the French Open after it had been on NBC Sports for several decades. The company also reached a five-year deal to sublicense College Football Playoff games from ESPN, which begins with two first-round games this upcoming season. Although TNT Sports chairman and chief executive officer Luis Silberwasser expressed that the French Open did not have anything to do with the NBA, Samson believed that the company is trying to justify its sports tier and “building some critical mass.” Skipper considers Silberwasser’s statement to be genuine and underscored how long it can take to get certain deals done.

“The negotiating window Turner had just passed, what, 60 days ago at most, and these negotiations have been going on longer, and they have another year, which you just pointed out which people forget, so the distribution fees can’t go down for a year,” Skipper said to Samson. “I do think they’ll execute that strategy David, I’m not disagreeing with that. I’m just suggesting they have credibility with me when they say, ‘We were negotiating for the French Open anyway.’”

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