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Ariel Helwani: I Have No Relationship With Dana White

“The bad blood goes back to 2016 when White banned Ariel Helwani from covering UFC events because he reported news about Brock Lesnar’s return that the promotion didn’t want made public.”

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ESPN has made a major financial investment in covering the UFC. It cannot be happy to hear that the promotion’s boss and the network’s top reporter have no relationship, but that is the case according to Ariel Helwani.

Dana White doesn’t seem to have any moral dilemmas about making Helwani’s life difficult. The two have been in multiple public spats with Ariel Helwani at one point telling Sarah Spain that all he wants is the ability to do his job without White “messing with” his career. He went so far as to say that “the fans are smart. They see what’s messed up” about the situation.

Helwani was a guest on the most recent episode of Oral Sessions with Reneé Paquette on Colin Cowherd’s The Volume network. When Paquette asked about how Helwani and White interact, the reporter said that they don’t and added that it wasn’t always that way.

“It was once supremely close and good and healthy and the kind of relationship that any journalist would want to have with arguably the most powerful person in the sport,” he said. “Now, I don’t interact with him, we don’t text, we don’t talk on the phone, and what I have often said to people is that it doesn’t necessarily bother me. Of course I would love to have a great relationship with him, but I will say if he doesn’t want to talk to me, if he doesn’t want to do interviews, text, all that stuff, I can live with that.”

The bad blood goes back to 2016 when White banned Ariel Helwani from covering UFC events because he reported news about Brock Lesnar’s return that the promotion didn’t want made public. Despite White’s absurd reaction, Helwani says he ended up being the one to try and make peace.

“I vividly remember where I was sort of, not asked, but nudged to reach out via text to try to get the lines of communication open, but I never got a reply. So, you know I can make a very strong case that the olive branch should be reached out to me. You know, I’m not worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He is. I have lost money as a result of some decisions that he has made.”

Dana White rarely says Ariel Helwani’s name. Helwani isn’t the only member of the media White has been confrontational with. He said recently on an episode of Colin Cowherd’s podcast that while he has respect for the job, he will not put up with members of the media being unprofessional.

The UFC is a different world from the rest of pro sports and this is the perfect proof. The promotion’s boss considers his most important media partner’s top reporter a problem for trying to report on the sport.

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Casey Wasserman: Sunday Ticket Deal A “Transition to the Future of Media”

“I do think they go to a tech company or a someone who is solely focused on streaming those games,” Wasserman predicted. “That’s the next generation of monetization of those fans.”

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Casey Wasserman

At the annual Sun Valley Conference, an annual media finance conference, Casey Wasserman the founder and CEO of Wasserman, the owners of the largest sports agency, was in attendance.

He joined CNBC’s Power Lunch and was asked about the NFL Sunday Ticket negotiations which are still ongoing. Specifically, he was asked what would it mean if the NFL Sunday Ticket package went to a stream-only buyer like Apple or Amazon.

“I think it’s the begging of a transition to what people think the future of media is going to be like,” Wasserman said. “Sunday Ticket is sort of a precursor to streaming given that it was on DirecTV and subscription. It gives someone like an Apple or Amazon or whoever might buy it, hundreds of games a year to deliver to their fans in a very meaningful way and ways to experiment around those broadcasts”.

Wasserman was also asked if he thinks those rights will go to a streaming service.

“I do think they go to a tech company or a someone who is solely focused on streaming those games,” Wasserman predicted. “That’s the next generation of monetization of those fans. Given the 100+ million fans in the United States of the NFL, a streaming platform that has the ability to direct the focus to those games to those fans is a really powerful platform”.

Wasserman did not think there would be a surge in cord-cutting if more streaming services got into live sports. But he also added that streaming would add revenue to leagues and not detract from. “It’s a really powerful opportunity for the next 10 years. And what sports is, it’s predictable and unique in a world where almost nothing else is”

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Blue Wire, a Sports Podcasting Company, Raises $2.5 Million

Blue Wire has made progress stating it is on track to generate $10.3 million of revenue this year which tops last year’s earnings of $4.8 million and $1 million in 2020.

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Blue Wire

Podcasting is a wonderful platform of expression. The question about podcasting has always been about making it a profitable venture. Blue Wire is seeking to do that as well.

The company, which has 250 podcasts, has just raised $2.5 million of funding. Blue Wire has raised $11.4 million since it’s founding in 2018.

The company is in business with the podcasts of former NFL player Chris Long, former NBA player Richard Jefferson, Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson and Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby.

Blue Wire has made progress stating it is on track to generate $10.3 million of revenue this year which tops last year’s earnings of $4.8 million and $1 million in 2020. Kevin Jones, Blue Wire’s founder, says the company hopes to achieve profitability in 2023 where he estimates $23 million in revenue and 250 million podcast downloads.

“Purse strings are tighter,” Jones remarked. “They were a little looser in previous years, which was great for us. Everyone still has a match out there. If your company is growing fast and you have the metrics, you should be able find a handful of folks, but it’s getting harder. There are a lot more No’s and the process is going to take entrepreneurs longer to raise capital, at least that’s what we’re running into.”

But Jones has heard ‘yes’ before. Wynn Resorts invested $3.5 million in Blue Wire last year in an effort to also promote its WynnBET online sports betting product. Blue Wire has a 1,700-square-foot podcasting studio at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas, where the company tapes at least 35 hours of podcasts per week.

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Chris Berman Reflects on Early ESPN Days

“I came in to observe October 1st. I come in on October 2nd, and I go, ‘where’s Wayne?’ And they were like, ‘oh no, he just did one show so you can see how it’s done, you’re on tonight.’ I was on October 2nd, 1979.”

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Chris Berman

Chris Berman is a name that is synonymous with ESPN. There isn’t a reader of this that hasn’t mimicked his touchdown celebration or home run derby calls. He is a rarity and he joined Kenny Mayne on a recent episode of 2400Sports’ Hey Mayne Podcast.

Mayne is embarking on a new weekly flagship conversation podcast. Mayne talked to Berman about the earliest of days for the fledgling network and how his time came to be with ESPN and how the literal birthing of that network was the reason he got to be a part so early.

“We were Lewis and Clark,” Berman said. “ESPN went on the air September, 7th, 1979. I was 24, in the area, on TV, in Hartford. Right before they went on, I had an interview, then they hired me. My first day was October 1st, 1979. They said we need a junior member — I had been on TV all of three months — which was a pretty good experience at the time. Had they been on the air for a year or two, they never would’ve hired me off that…They said we’ll pay you $16,000 to do sports every night…How about $16,500?”

Berman said the newness of everything meant he was thrown to the fire very early.

“I came in to observe October 1st. I come in on October 2nd, and I go, ‘where’s Wayne?’ And they were like, ‘oh no, he just did one show so you can see how it’s done, you’re on tonight.’ I was on October 2nd, 1979.”

ESPN’s early days are a wonderful topic because for the few people there were at the network since the beginning are essentially historians of the industry. Berman went on.

“…but here we are in 2022, and they haven’t been smart enough to get rid of me yet.” Berman signed a multiyear extension ton continue hosting NFL Primetime with Mark Jackson on ESPN+.

“That’s how it was, I was in there the first month. There were about 40 to 50 of us — in all jobs — not only to get on the air, but whatever it was,” said Berman.

“Anyone that was with us in the 80s, 90s, [and] early 2000s, there will be a bond forever in that we built something pretty good. I just happened to be there on the ground floor, I was lucky, and I guess I didn’t screw it up.” 

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