Sports TV News
Connor Schell Partners With Chernin Group To Launch Studio
“Schell, who joined ESPN in 2004, was named their EVP of content in 2017, holding that role until his departure last year.”
When Connor Schell departed ESPN late last year, he already had his sights set on building an independent production company. Three months later, Schell is closing in on his next venture, announcing a partnership with Chernin Entertainment to launch an unscripted studio.
Schell and Chernin’s CEO, Peter Chernin made the announcement Wednesday. Peter Chernin has been the CEO of his own company since 2009, overseeing several investments including the acquisition of a majority stake in Barstool Sports five years ago. The new studio venture doesn’t have a name yet, but Schell will be the CEO and founder of the project. The studio will produce high-end, non-fiction content, in and outside the sports world.
“I cannot imagine a better partner than Chernin Entertainment,” Schell said in the press announcement. “Peter’s reputation as a creative force and innovator across the entertainment space speaks for itself, and I am thrilled to work with him and his team. We are looking forward to collaborating with incredible storytellers to tell big, impactful stories of all kinds. I can’t wait to get going.”
Schell, who joined ESPN in 2004, was named their EVP of content in 2017, holding that role until his departure last year. Overseeing all content at ESPN, Schell was also one of the leading creators of the 30 for 30 brand and contributed as a producer for event series OJ: Made in America and The Last Dance.
When Schell’s departure from the Worldwide Leader was announced, he maintained an interest in collaborating with ESPN on future documentaries.
Sports TV News
ESPN, Omaha Productions Launching Alternate Formula 1 Broadcast
“The Grandstand with Daniel Ricciardo and Will Arnett will air on ESPN2 while the traditional telecast of the race airs on ABC.”
ESPN and Omaha Productions are following the ManningCast playbook once again. They are launching an alternate broadcast for ESPN’s coverage of Formula 1 racing.
Titled The Grandstand, the coverage will feature F1 racer Daniel Ricciardo and celebrity fan Will Arnett, star of Arrested Development and The Lego Movie. ESPN will rollout the telecast for three races, starting with the Formula 1 Pirelli Canadian Grand Prix on June 18.
“This is going to be a hoot!” Ricciardo said in a press release. “As you’d expect Will and I are going to have some fun with the show, but we’re hoping it just feels like you’re watching F1 with your mates. We will have some amazing guests, plenty of laughs and with some luck, bring fans another step closer to the sport I love so much. Buckle up America!”
Formula 1 has gained plenty of new fans thanks to the Netflix series Drive to Survive. Arnett admits that he is one of them. He has gone all in with the sport, even hosting a podcast with legendary F1 driver Mika Häkkinen.
The Grandstand with Daniel Ricciardo and Will Arnett will air on ESPN2 while the traditional telecast of the race airs on ABC. Following the Canadian Grand Prix, Ricciardo and Arnett are scheduled to return in October for the United States Grand Prix and in November for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
“It’s great to be partnering with ESPN to expand the ‘megacast’ format into F1,” NFL legend and founder of Omaha Productions, Peyton Manning said. “We are excited to do this project with Daniel and Will. They are good friends who will bring expertise and fun to the broadcast.”
Sports TV News
Pete Bevacqua Leaving NBC Sports
“I didn’t have a burning desire, necessarily, to be an athletic director. I had a burning desire to be the athletic director at Notre Dame.”
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua will be departing the company at the end of June to join the University of Notre Dame as its director of athletics. NBCUniversal Television and Streaming Chairman Mark Lazarus sent an internal memo to staff members Thursday morning announcing the move, and stated that Bevacqua’s direct reports will answer to him for the time being.
“We want to thank Pete for his many contributions to NBC Sports and NBCUniversal since he joined us in 2018,” Lazarus said in the memo. “….Please join me in congratulating Pete and wishing him great success.”
Bevacqua is a University of Notre Dame alumnus and receiving his dream job in being named the successor to Jack Swarbrick. He joined NBCUniversal in 2018 as the president of the NBC Sports Group, and was subsequently elevated to chairman in 2020. As the third person to hold the chairman position, he has overseen the network’s presentation of the Olympics, Sunday Night Football and the Golf Channel, along with additional assets. He and his team completed a new media rights agreement with the National Football League to ensure NBC would remain the home of Sunday Night Football – and helped usher in the new television broadcast booth of Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth.
Bevacqua also assisted in reacquiring media rights for the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open golf championships, along with Premier League soccer. Furthermore, the company completed a seven-year media rights agreement with the Big Ten Conference, enhancing its college sports portfolio. Bevacqua also helped secure a partnership with PointsBet, making it the official sports betting partner of the company’s sports division.
“This is a dream come true,” Bevacqua said to Sports Illustrated. “With the exception of my family, nothing means more to me than Notre Dame. I don’t have a memory in my lifetime, quite literally, where Notre Dame wasn’t a part of it. At this stage of my life, I feel like everything I’ve done has prepared me for this.”
Bevacqua will begin working on the university’s campus on July 1 as a special assistant for athletics under Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins. Swarbick’s final day on the job has not yet been determined, but he and Bevacqua will work in tandem to ensure a smooth transition. Some media pundits may question Bevacqua’s decision, and he realizes the irregularity of the move; however, it represents the realization of a lifelong dream.
“I didn’t have a burning desire, necessarily, to be an athletic director,” Bevacqua stated. “I had a burning desire to be the athletic director at Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame Fighting Irish football games are exclusively broadcast on NBC, and could perhaps improve the school’s relationship with the entity. Its independent media rights deal with NBC concludes in 2025, and a previous report by Sports Business Journal suggested it could receive $60 million annually in its next deal, although the negotiating landscape has presumably changed since then. Bevacqua played for the school football team as a walk-on punter, and previously served as the CEO of the PGA of America. While in that role, he negotiated a 15-year media rights extension with NBC for various landmark events, including the PGA Professional Championship, Ryder Cup and Senior PGA Championship. He believes having firsthand knowledge about the dynamic state of the media industry could be advantageous to him as he positions the school for the future.
“Such a large part of college athletics now, and the success of any athletic program, is baked into the media landscape,” Bevacqua said. “Obviously, having a very direct knowledge of where the media landscape is in the U.S., the power of linear television and where that’s heading, the paradigm shift of the direct-to-consumer streaming environment—you kind of add up those elements and I feel like I have the background and the professional experiences to come into this at a good pace.”
Sports TV News
Seahawks Add Kate Scott, KJ Wright to Preseason TV Crew
“Steve Raible and Dave Wyman will return for another season calling Seahawks games on the radio.”
As hard as it is to believe, we’re a little over two months away from the start of the NFL preseason. As kickoff gets closer and closer, teams like the Seattle Seahawks are finalizing their preseason broadcast crews now.
The team announced on Wednesday that Kate Scott and K.J. Wright will join Michael Robinson in the booth for preseason coverage on KING 5.
Scott will handle play-by-play duties on the broadcasts. It’s her first season calling Seahawks games. She has plenty of prior play-by-play experience including doing 49ers preseason games on the radio in 2016. Additionally, Scott has previously called NBA, NHL and NWSL games, as well as broadcasting Olympic events. She currently serves as the television voice of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Wright is a Seahawks legend much like Robinson. The two were members of the team that won Super Bowl XLVIII. They both worked in the booth in Seattle for preseason games last year.
Steve Raible and Dave Wyman will return for another season calling Seahawks games on the radio. Jen Mueller will be reporting from the sidelines. Seahawks games are broadcasted locally on Seattle Sports 710 AM and KIRO Newsradio 97.3.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.