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Ben Verlander: Twitch Helped Me Land FOX Sports Gig

I started doing it and immediately loved it and started building this community of people that clearly cares about me, about what I have to say, and it just becomes this community of people.”

Ricky Keeler

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In the media industry, sometimes you just never know where your big break is going to come from. For current FOX Sports MLB analyst Ben Verlander, it was Twitch that helped him gain his big break in the business. 

Verlander, who is the younger brother of Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, played in the Detroit Tigers organization for four years (2014-2017). While in the minor leagues, his love of playing video games would eventually lead to helping him in a future career. 

This week, Verlander was on the Straight Fire with Jason McIntyre podcast and told the story of how playing MLB The Show led to the career he has right now.

“When I played baseball, we played 140 games in 150 days. The only way you get through it is a schedule. I’m at the field from noon-11 PM, midnight. You can’t just go home after playing a 9-inning game and go to sleep. What I would find myself doing is going home, sitting on my couch, playing video games for a couple of hours before I went to bed, so I got really good at The Show.”

Ben Verlander says that he was better at baseball video games than he was at actual baseball. As the Covid-19 pandemic began in the US, and it became clear there would be no minor league season, a roommate suggested Verlander put his gaming on Twitch.

“I started doing it and immediately loved it and started building this community of people that clearly cares about me, about what I have to say, and it just becomes this community of people. Still to this day, I try to stream every weekday. I truly believe being on Twitch helped me,” replied Verlander. 

Being on Twitch led to Verlander eventually getting a chance to meet the Vice President of Digital Content for FOX, Michael Bucklin. That meeting led to a World Series party that Verlander hosted.

“I’m on a camera, I have 20,50,100,500 people watching me, asking questions. I’m talking back to them. I’m entertaining them and I truly believed that helped me,” said Verlander about Twitch helping him get to where he is today. 

This past week, Verlander was in Colorado for the MLB All-Star Game and he even got to interview Shohei Ohtani.

Verlander’s path to go from minor league baseball to now working as an analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the Flippin’ Bats podcast shows you never know where your big break is going to come from. Even streaming yourself playing video games can lead to something great.

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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Sports TV News

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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