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ESPN Asked Ariel Helwani To Take A Paycut

Andrew Marchand reported Ariel Helwani was asked to take a 5 percent paycut as he transitioned off his rookie contract with ESPN.

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`When MMA journalist/savant Ariel Helwani announced on Instagram he was leaving ESPN, he said it was “100% (his) decision.” It appears that was not the percentage that mattered most as Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reported Helwani was offered a 10 percent — then 5 percent — reduction in salary for a new contract after his three-year rookie deal was set to expire.

The lowered offer will not come as a surprise to many as numerous ESPN personalities have left in recent months, many due to offers that were below the perceived markets for the talent at hand. One notable example was longtime SportsCenter staple Kenny Mayne, who was asked to take a discount of over 50 percent to remain at the Worldwide Leader.

That does not make the move less curious, however, given Helwani’s reputation in the MMA community. The proud Canadian carved out a strong lane for himself with the sport long before it emerged as the behemoth it is today. Comparable to Adrian Wojnarowski with the NBA or Adam Schefter with the NFL, in Helwani ESPN had a stable of reporters regarded as the industry standard in their sport. Given Disney’s substantial push of its ESPN-plus streaming platform that has seen huge numbers for MMA, it stood to reason to think keeping a guy like Helwani at the network would be beautiful synchrony.

It remains to be seen if Helwani will add more paychecks to his income. He already has a non-exclusive deal with Action Network and is expected to produce content for Meadowlark Media. What is known is there will be a sizable market for his services. His last day at ESPN will be June 15.

Sports TV News

PFTCommenter Makes It On Manningcast Again

“This week, PFT tweeted what seemed like a compliment to Eli Manning.”

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Either PFTCommenter’s tweets really do get under Peyton Manning’s skin and someone in the ESPN control room knows it, or someone in the ESPN control room is a big fan of Pardon My Take.

For the second week in a row, ESPN2 put a tweet from Barstool’s PFTCommenter on the screen during the Manningcast of Monday Night Football. And, for the second week in a row, the older Manning brother complained about his spelling.

It started last week when the podcaster tweeted Peyton Manning needed a prescription helmet, because the one he was using on set clearly did not fit.

Peyton countered by pointing out that PFT does not know how to spell the word prescription.

This week, PFT tweeted what seemed like a compliment to Eli Manning.

“Oh this guy’s back,” Peyton said when the Tweet appeared on screen.

Eli joked that it was his burner account, but his older brother, likely still sore from the way PFTCommenter fired back at him on last week’s Pardon My Take, pointed out another spelling error.

“He spelled wonderful wrong again. He couldn’t spell prescription last week.”

Will PFTCommenter respond on this week’s Pardon My Take? If so, how? We will find that out on Monday.

In the moment, PFTCommenter seemed happy to have the recognition. He noted that he has now made more appearances on the Manningcast than he and Big Cat ever did on Barstool Van Talk, which ESPN2 cancelled after one week.

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Sports TV News

Mike Greenberg A Candidate To Host NBA Finals

“If the network chooses Greenberg, it may solidify him as the face of ESPN.”

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ESPN is in need of a new host for its coverage of the NBA Finals. Last week, Outkick reported that Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan have emerged as candidates to be the new host of NBA Countdown. It sounds like that may not mean they would automatically host the league’s biggest games.

Andrew Marchand reports in his SportsClicker Newsletter that Mike Greenberg has emerged as a candidate to lead studio coverage of the NBA Finals. Duncan is a potential host as well. So is Cassidy Hubbarth.

If the network chooses Greenberg, it may solidify him as the face of ESPN. Sure, Stephen A. Smith makes more money and is at the center of a bigger show, but making Mike Greenberg the host of the NBA Finals in addition to the NFL Draft would make it clear that he is the one the network wants at the center of its most-watched events.

Jay Rigdon of Awful Announcing doesn’t believe that Greenberg will end up with the job. The optics aren’t great after the way Maria Taylor and Rachel Nichols left their roles at ESPN.

“After the PR disaster this past summer, with one Taylor leaving the network after it was revealed Nichols had accused ESPN of giving Taylor hosting duties because Taylor is Black and Nichols is not, handing that gig to a white dude would set ESPN up for a massive (and, to be honest, fairly justified) backlash,” he writes.

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Sports TV News

Al Michaels Move To Amazon Seems More Likely

“All of this means 2021 could be the final season for the Michaels-Chris Collinsworth booth.”

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Courtesy: Zade Rosenthal

The rumors swirling around Al Michaels and Amazon are more and more likely to be true.

Reports surfaced earlier this year that Amazon may tab Michaels as the lead play-by-play voice on Thursday Night Football when it takes over the property next season. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand posted a piece today that makes it all but certain.

“Amazon will hire Al Michaels as its lead play-by-player,” Marchand wrote. “On the official Clicker Probability Scale, we have this at 90 percent, so we expect it to happen. One of our sources put it at 95 percent. No one we spoke to was pessimistic about Amazon Al becoming a reality. It’s not a done deal, but I’d put money on it.”

Those same rumors still tied Michaels and NBC together for their playoff game, and Marchand is convinced that’s the route each side is taking. He previously reported in June that Amazon would pursue Michaels.

The plan is for Michaels to call Amazon’s 15 regular-season games and then jump over to NBC for their Wild Card Game broadcast. With the move, Mike Tirico slots into Michaels’s role as NBC’s lead NFL play-by-play voice. Tirico joined NBC under the notion he’d eventually succeed Michaels.

All of this means 2021 could be the final season for the Michaels-Cris Collinsworth booth. Michaels started at NBC in 2006 after he was traded from ESPN to NBC for the “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” character. A trade NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol was glad to make.

“We earn nothing from those rights,” Ebersol said at the time. “They’ve had no value in the United States.”

Michaels worked with the legendary John Madden for his first few seasons before his pairing with Collinsworth in 2009. Michaels goes down as just the third broadcaster ever to do Super Bowl play-by-play for NBC, joining Dick Enberg and Curt Gowdy.

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