The Spring League kicked off live games on Fox Sports’ family of networks last week with a loaded broadcast crew. Analysts for the league include Joel Klatt, Brock Huard, Mark Helfrich, Petros Papadakis, and Jordan Palmer. Kevin Kugler, Brandon Gaudin, Alex Faust, and Noah Eagle round out the play-by-play voices.
The Spring League features eight teams competing in a six-week regular season from two hub markets. The league is meant for development and doesn’t bill itself as a direct competitor to the NFL.
Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis hosts the North Division, consisting of the Conquerors, Aviators, Alphas, and Linemen. The South Division in Houston houses the returning league champion Generals, Jousters, Blues, and Sea Lions. Each division plays all its games at these respective venues.
Outside of their season in the spring, the league also hosts summer showcases to help players get evaluated throughout the year. According to their website, The Spring League has had 104 of its players sign with NFL teams since 2017.
FOX is putting some of their heavy-hitting voices behind this venture. Kugler is a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on FOX in addition to college football and basketball duties with FOX Sports, Big Ten Network, and Westwood One radio. While Gaudin has roles across NFL, college football, and basketball properties for FOX Sports, Big Ten Network, and Westwood One. He also serves as the voice of EA Sports’ “Madden NFL” franchise.
Klatt and Huard are both former quarterbacks and prominent voices on FOX’s football coverage. While Palmer is returning for his second season analyzing The Spring League after the partnerships first season last fall.
The 2021 TSL season began with Faust and Palmer on the call for a doubleheader last Thursday, May 6, on FS1. The other 18 regular-season games air in prime time Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays on FS1 and FS2.
Russ Heltman is a daily news writer for BSM. He is the morning host and producer for 89.3 WMKV in Cincinnati, OH. He also works in gameday communications for FC Cincinnati and additionally contributes to the AllBengals blog for Sports Illustrated. Russ can be found on Twitter @RussHeltman11 or you can reach him by email at [email protected].
Pat McAfee: My Show ‘Being in the Middle’ of College Football Feud ‘is so Dumb’
“I f***ing love Ryan Day. I love the fact that he was like, ‘I will hit an old man. I do not care.’”
When ESPN brought The Pat McAfee Show onto the network, it was done to appeal to a younger audience, but it was also done, at least in part, because McAfee makes news. The show proved again on Saturday night that it has a way of finding itself in the middle of football conversations.
On Friday’s show, producer Ty Schmit interviewed former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz. Schmit, who has been asked by McAfee many times to do his Holtz impersonation on the show, talked to the former coach in full character. Not only was he doing a Holtz impersonation, he was also wearing a full costume, which included a prosthetic face.
During the segment, the real Holtz, a former ESPN analyst, said that Ohio State has a history of being too soft under head coach Ryan Day and that is how they have lost the games they have. He predicted that would be the reason Notre Dame would win on Saturday night.’
Following Ohio State’s last second victory, Day addressed the former Notre Dame coach saying “I’d like to know where Lou Holtz is right now. What he said about our team, what he said about our team, I cannot believe.”
McAfee admitted that he immediately started texting friends associated with Ohio State.
“I texted everybody I know from Ohio State,” he said on his show Monday. “I was like, I f***ing love Ryan Day. I love the fact that he was like, ‘I will hit an old man. I do not care. What this guy said is out of pocket.’”
McAfee added that the real Lou Holtz, who is 86, joked about having dementia and not really knowing what he was saying. He added that he wonders if Day knows that Holtz made his comments to another man who was in a Lou Holtz costume.
“Us being in the middle of that whole thing is so dumb,” he said.
Schmit admitted that it was hard to believe the moment is real.
“I was laughing until I thought I was going to pass out on Saturday night,” he said.
ESPN Reportedly Leaving Seaport Studios in New York, Possible Move in LA too
“The South Street Seaport studios have been open since 2018. It is currently home to Get Up, First Take, Around the Horn, and NBA Countdown.”
ESPN is making some changes in New York. Puck News reports that the famous Seaport Studio will be empty soon as the network relocates its New York City operations to Hudson Square.
The South Street Seaport studios have been open since 2018. It is currently home to Get Up, First Take, Around the Horn, and NBA Countdown. In the past, it hosted High Noon and Sunday NFL Countdown as well.
The Walt Disney Company owns the property where the new studios will be housed. Puck reports the relocation is likely to happen “no later than fiscal 2025.”
The Puck report also states that ESPN could be on the move in Los Angeles too. On the West Coast, the network currently is housed in LA Live, outside of Crypto.com Arena. No details were offered on those plans.
John Skipper: ‘Hollywood Strikes Will Not Impact NBA Media Rights Negotiations’
“He is going to get a very big increase.”
Media rights for national television packages for the National Basketball Association are set to expire following the 2024-25 season, with negotiations expected to begin in the new year, which could occur amid Hollywood strikes. The NBA’s exclusive negotiating 45-day window with its current rights holders – The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN) and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT/TBS/NBA TV) – opens on March 9, 2024 before the rights can be taken to the open market.
Numerous sports media entities have reported interest in the league, including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and NBC Sports as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver could look to triple the aggregate fee for games. The league is in the midst of a nine-year deal worth a collective $23.4 billion with the two broadcast entities and has positioned itself for an increase through a new In-Season Tournament, rules regulating load management and additional media incentives.
Linear platforms, combined with sports talk radio and digital outlets have burgeoned coverage of the league to new heights. Superstars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo regularly dominate sports conversation in various locales, and the Association has embedded itself in the culture both domestically and abroad. The NBA is expanding globally, holding several international contests each year and marketing its teams, players and personnel in new ways, leveraging its position as the predominant basketball product for augmented fees.
While there seems to be an end in sight for the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) after almost 150 days out of work, companies making bids for the Association project the holdout to stymie certain revenue streams. Warner Bros. Discovery could take a hit between $300 million and $500 million, while The Walt Disney Company shares dropped a collective 14% amid losses of more than $4 million per day.
“This will have zero impact – the strike – on what the NBA gets paid for their rights,” Meadowlark Media co-founder and CEO John Skipper opined on Skipper & Samson. Skipper was part of negotiating the current deal and sees the value the league has in that there are more people interested in broadcasting the games than there are game packages themselves. Because of this, the NBA should have leverage in its negotiations with both traditional and digital outlets.
Conversely, former baseball executive David Samson affirmed that the Hollywood strikes will likely have an impact on negotiations because of the power it grants legacy media in negotiations. Zaslav, as surmised by Samson, will use these strikes as an excuse to justify a diminished fee increase, something he feels will be countered by the NBA with the question of why the company inked its Inside the NBA commentators to 10-year extensions.
“He’ll say back, ‘Well actually, we’ll repurpose them the way we’ve already started to repurpose Barkley,’” Samson articulated. “So I think that the strike actually gives leverage to Warner Bros. Discovery in its negotiation with the NBA.”
David Zaslav, the chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Discovery publicly stated that the entity will not overpay for the NBA and said it does not need the property. Negotiating through the media is a bad idea, according to Skipper, who was previously involved in these negotiations while serving as the president of ESPN. He came to that conclusion after ESPN lost the rights to the National Hockey League after the 2004-05 lockout, a property it did not reacquire until the 2021-22 season.
“In this industry, I never found it anything but deleterious to my discussions with the leagues if I said anything publicly other than, ‘We love this league; we want to renew our rights,’ which we said all the time,” expressed Skipper. “I even said it when I didn’t love the league and didn’t want the rights because, as you know, the second-best outcome of any negotiation is that somebody else pays way more money than they think they have to [in order] to get rights.”
Since the demand outweighs the supply, Skipper does not think that anything going on in the world of entertainment and late night television will affect how much networks will end up paying for the NBA. The league will continue to have every intention of proliferating its earnings derived from media rights, and he thinks it will be successful in its quest to do so.
“He is going to get a very big increase,” Skipper said, referring to Commissioner Silver, “and the writers’ strike is not going to have any effect on that increase, in my opinion.”