MLB Network has mandated their employees receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The deadline to get the shot was today.
Two of the network’s high-profile analysts refused. Rather than turning in their resignation letters or the network firing them, an agreement has been reached. Both John Smoltz and Al Leiter will continue breaking down baseball for MLB Network, but they will not be allowed inside the studio. Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that the two former pitchers will each be appearing remotely.
Smoltz, who has always been an outspoken conservative, is still set to call games on-site. That includes a playoff game for MLB Network in October and all of FOX’s postseason slate, including the World Series.
Marchand asked for comment from the network, Leiter and Smoltz. MLB Network declined. Leiter and Smoltz did not return the reporter’s phone call.
NBC to Capitalize on Taylor Swift for ‘Sunday Night Football’
“If the Vegas line is 22 shots of Taylor during the game, bet the under.”
The group behind Sunday Night Football, prime time television’s No. 1 program for 12 consecutive years, participated in a behind-the-scenes talkback session from The Paley Center for Media in New York, N.Y. on Thursday, during which they divulged details regarding what has become an even more highly-anticipated Sunday night broadcast. Since reports have been published stating that Grammy Award-winning music superstar Taylor Swift will be in attendance at MetLife Stadium, ticket prices have rapidly increased, concurrent with heightened interest in the game. Over the last several weeks, rumors have suggested that Swift is dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, especially since she attended his game last week from GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium unannounced.
FOX Sports announced an average of 24.3 million viewers for “America’s Game of the Week” and first-place finishes in key female demographics, and many people are anticipating NBC Sports to shatter expectations of the game. The matchup was slightly dampened upon the season-ending left Achilles injury to New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but he may reportedly be in attendance anyway, presumably pending doctor approval to fly back to New Jersey.
Nonetheless, NBC Sports is embracing the opportunity that has been placed before them, even cutting a promo with Swift’s hit song, “Welcome to New York” in the background. The network is also in the midst of filming a Swift-themed broadcast open in Los Angeles, Calif. to air ahead of the game.
Savannah Guthrie, NBC Today co-anchor and chief legal correspondent, was on hand to moderate the panel, which featured coordinating producer Rob Hyland, director Drew Esocoff and broadcasters Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark. Guthrie gave each one of the participants bracelets at the start that read “SNF Swiftie,” and implored everyone to wear them on the air this Sunday. While it is unknown if her sports colleagues will follow through on this request, they do plan on incorporating the musical sensation into the presentation.
“If the Vegas line is 22 shots of Taylor during the game, bet the under,” Esocoff said, according to Paley Center curator Jason Lynch. The only exception to this rule would be if the game ends up being a blowout by the Chiefs. Football experts project the team to have a considerable advantage over the New York Jets, who are playing under third-year quarterback and projected backup Zach Wilson.
Swift and Kelce had reportedly hung out together multiple times over the last few months as fans are infatuated about their whereabouts and relationship status. Kelce rented out a popular restaurant in Kansas City following the Chiefs’ blowout win over the Chicago Bears last week, hosting Swift, his teammates and other family and friends for a private party.
Kelce addressed the matter on his podcast, New Heights, that he hosts with his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce and admitted that the superstar showing up to the game was a “ballsy move.” Additionally, he shared that increased scrutiny and attention has caused paparazzi to stage outside of his home and suggested that he wants to keep the matter as concealed as possible.
If Swift indeed shows up at MetLife Stadium, NBC Sports will surely have their cameras in the area where she is situated. Swift is currently taking a break as she prepares for an international run of the “Eras” Tour, showcasing her musical portfolio and vast discography. It is unknown if Swift will continue to regularly attend Kelce’s games, especially as her schedule becomes packed with tour dates in the coming weeks. Yet if she chooses to go to U.S. Bank Stadium to see the Chiefs play the Minnesota Vikings next week, she has an open invitation to call some plays on the Vikings’ radio broadcast.
Deion Sanders Thanks Skip Bayless For Giving Black Talent TV Opportunities
“You have given us, you all know darn well what I’m talking about, so many opportunities, man.”
Fans have their opinions of Skip Bayless. The FS1 host its polarizing, no doubt, but plenty of people currently or formerly in the broadcast industry will speak up when others criticize Bayless.
Add Deion Sanders to that list.
Undisputed originated from Boulder, Colorado on Friday. The Buffaloes’ head football coach stopped by to visit with Bayless, Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Irvin. Before he left and the show went off the air, Sanders wanted to make his feelings about Bayless clear.
“Thank you, because you get heat oftentimes, but you’ve given a lot of us opportunities that people look past and they don’t understand, they don’t recognize,” Coach Prime said to Bayless.
Bayless has been accused of many things. Few in the industry question his ability to recognize talent and give it a platform.
“None of us are perfect, but you have given us, you all know darn well what I’m talking about, so many opportunities, man,” Sanders said to the largely white crowd that had gathered behind the desk to watch the show. “I appreciate you for that.”
Sanders’s sentiments are similar to one expressed by Bayless’s former First Take partner Stephen A. Smith earlier this year. Smith pointed out that there are plenty of Black journalists and former players that owe Bayless a debt of gratitude for helping start or elevate their TV careers.
Bayless told Sanders he loved him and the two embraced as the show went off the air.
College Football Playoff ‘Not Averse’ to Streaming Exclusives in Next TV Deal
“I wouldn’t expect us to stream all of them, but right now nothing’s off the table.”
Football innovation on the field tends to trickle up. What works at lower levels eventually finds its way into the NFL. When it comes to the business side of the game though, things usually go the other way. That could play out in the next television contract for the College Football Playoff.
The consensus is that conferences want multiple television partners involved with the postseason tournament. CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock says he has already received multiple proposals.
Taking a page from the NFL, who announced earlier this year that one of its 2024 playoff games will be exclusive to Peacock, Hancock says that the CFP is open to putting some games behind a paywall on a streaming service.
“Streaming adds another element,” he told ESPN’s Heather Dinich. “We are not averse to streaming some of the games. I wouldn’t expect us to stream all of them, but right now nothing’s off the table.”
Right now, stakeholders have pressed pause on finding a new TV deal. With one of the five power conferences being down to just two teams, the belief is that everyone would be in a better position by waiting to see what becomes of the Pac-12.
Hancock says there is already plenty of interest though. He told Dinich “that five television sent executives to make presentations”. Others have expressed interest, but are yet to make a formal proposal.
This is the final season of the College Football Playoff’s original four-team format. Beginning next season, the field expands to twelve teams. The current TV deal, which makes the CFP an ESPN exclusive, expires after the 2025 season.