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Steve Smith Joins Panthers Preseason TV Crew

The Carolina Panthers announced their 2021 preseason broadcast team will be ex-Panther Steve Smith Sr., Taylor Zarzour, and Kristen Balboni.

MIchael Quirk

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The Carolina Panthers have announced their TV broadcast team for the 2021 preseason, which will now consist of three games in lieu of four. Second-year Panthers sideline reporter Kristen Balboni will be joined by longtime North Carolinian broadcaster Taylor Zarzour and former Panthers legend Steve Smith Sr.

“Steve’s one of the greatest Panthers ever, he’s in our Hall of Honor, and this year, he’s up for the Hall of Fame. So we’re obviously thrilled to have him back in the building,” Panthers Owner David Tepper said. “He’s an important part of this team’s history, and of course, a big presence in the community. So connecting him closer to both areas is very exciting.”

Now an analyst on NFL Network, Smith played 13 seasons in Carolina earning four Pro Bowl nods before being released in March 2014 and playing his final three years for the Baltimore Ravens. A fan favorite in the Queen City, Smith made it known his displeasure with the unceremonious exit, though there has since been a change in both ownership and general managers.

“I’m looking forward to talking about these games from a former player’s perspective and why these games are significant,” Smith Sr. said. “For these young men, this is their chance to make the roster. Breaking that down and giving some substance and texture to why that is important, I think sometimes that lacks in game broadcasts. I feel like this is my opportunity to break that down and explain why this is important, and I’ll try to bring that to the table with my unique spin as an analyst.”

Zarzour has lived in North Carolina since 2004, and Charlotte since 2011. He currently serves as a commentator for ESPN’s college football and college baseball games, as well as a radio voice for golf’s majors. Before that, he spent time with various sports radio stations, including 610 WFNZ in Charlotte.

Balboni has worked for both ESPN and FOX Sports, and is entering her second year as the team reporter, covering the team for the Panthers’ website and other digital properties and hosting a variety of Panthers’ programming, according to a release. The broadcasts can be seen on the team’s flagship station WSOC-TV in Charlotte and across the Carolinas on the team’s network of syndicated affiliates.

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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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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FOX Sports VP: ‘USFL Proves Spring Football As Valuable As Rising Properties’

“We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”

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Michael Mulvihill says the USFL accomplished exactly what FOX needed it to. It proved there is a large enough audience for spring football that it has a value on par with some of the hottest properties in sports media right now.

 “All we wanted to do is demonstrate that spring football can do viewership at the levels of Premier League, NHL regular season, Formula One or MLS,” the FOX Sports Executive VP said according to Sports Business Journal. “We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”

While none of those properties are pulling in the kind of media rights money the NFL or major college football is, Mulvihill pointed out that all of them have been in the news for the right reasons.

“You’re talking about properties that have all recently negotiated deals at substantial increases, or with F1, people know it’s about to.”

The USFL had a solid broadcasting footprint with games airing on FOX, NBC, FS1 and USA. Regular season games for the first year of the revived league averaged just under 700,000 viewers.

Mulvihill said fans behaved exactly how he expected them to in the first season of the USFL. Without any team loyalties, he isn’t surprised that people watched less of an average USFL game than they did the NFL or college football.

The USFL Playoffs begin this weekend. Canton, OH will host the league’s first championship game on July 3.

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