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Cari Champion: I Planned My ESPN Exit Long Before It Happened

“We were all both on the same page that it was not working out. I was not happy and it was not a place where I felt like I could commit a few acts of journalism in the way in which I wanted to.”

Ricky Keeler

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It is rarely easy for a notable personality to leave a prominent network in sports media such as ESPN. However, if being at a place doesn’t make you happy, then you may have to make the move, as tough as that might be. 

On the latest episode of the That’s What She Said Podcast with Sarah SpainSpain had a conversation with former ESPN personality Cari Champion. Champion, who is known for hosting SportsCenter Coast-To-Coast and First Take, now co-hosts of Cari & Jemele (Won’t) Stick To Sports alongside Jemele Hill on VICE TV and the Naked with Cari Champion podcast. 

At the beginning of the episode, Champion talked about how she signed a deal with ESPN in October 2019, but she was always ready for another opportunity to happen, which she had when she was a part of The Titan Games on NBC. Spain asked her if she knew a pandemic was coming, would Champion have still made the move to leave ESPN and it was an easy answer.

“I signed the deal knowing that if I get another opportunity, I would just leave and give enough notice,” Champion said. “We were all both on the same page that it was not working out. I was not happy and it was not a place where I felt like I could commit a few acts of journalism in the way in which I wanted to.”  

Champion did mention that she had been planning her departure from ESPN for a period of time and had recorded a pilot episode of a show with Jemele Hill that became Cari & Jemele (Won’t) Stick To Sports, but her agents would try to talk her out of it. It ended up being Kate Fagan who inspired her to make that bold career decision.

”(The agents) were looking at the market and saying ‘Cari, on the outside looking in, you have the destination gig. People are like why would she want to leave there? It has to be some scandal.’

“No one was leaving. I’ve seen people leave because their contracts weren’t renewed. Kate Fagan inspired me because when she said she was out of it, I believed her.”

As the leadership at ESPN and even in our country changed, Champion admits that she got exhausted by all of the politics and did not feel the same joy that she used to have hosting SportsCenter.

After leaving ESPN, Champion had specific goals she wanted to accomplish. She told Spain that she realized that she needed to lay out a plan and not hit the job market blind and desperate.

“I thought here are the 3 things I had locked in: Titan Games, Olympics, and another project. Now, when I start getting all of these opportunities, you don’t want to say yes to everything which is unfamiliar to people who are always told no. What I did was I sat with two people, my business manager and my agent and I said these are the things I want to do, what do I need in terms of finances for the next year at bare minimum?

“We were very clear about the kind of gigs we were going to take that allowed me not to just ask questions, but to have an opinion. Not only have an opinion, but an opinion that allows me to be informed and that’s scary in itself.” 

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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