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Variety Asks TNT, ESPN Executives To Detail Their NHL Plans

“Look for the Turner broadcast and studio shows to adopt the tried and true methods from Inside the NBA.”

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Courtesy: NHL, ESPN, Turner

TNT and ESPN are taking over NHL rights starting this season, and the two sides are ready to put their stamp on NHL coverage — while hopefully attracting new fans along the way.

Variety interviewed multiple executives from Turner and ESPN to see how each affiliate plans to attack its new properties. The Worldwide Leader is using the strength of its Monday Night Football property to expose its football audience to the new slate of games that starts airing the very next night.

“We haven’t had hockey in close to 20 years,” said Mark Gross, ESPN senior vice president of production and remote events, in an interview with Variety. “When you lose a property, and then you get it back? That doesn’t happen every day.”

Spending 16 years with one main broadcast partner is a rarity in today’s spliced media environment. Now, the NHL is banking on ESPN and TNT after ending its time with NBC. Those two sides are trying to return the favor with innovative plans for the property.

“It’s been quite a few years since we’ve had a rights package with this much significance for us to sink our teeth into,” said Tara August, senior vice president of talent relations and special projects for Turner Sports.

Loyalty alone isn’t driving this commitment; the Benjamins are the biggest factor in this newfound push for hockey. Turner is paying around $200 million per year for its smaller package, while ESPN is paying roughly $400 million. For context, NBC paid the league $200 million for lone control of the rights.

One of the biggest wrinkles coming to Turner and ESPN broadcasts are jersey chips. “You can track the players along with the puck and experiment with data,” says Craig Barry, Turner Sports’ chief content officer.

Look for the Turner broadcast and studio shows to adopt the tried and true methods from Inside the NBA

“We really just want to be genuine. That’s what resonates with fans. Whenever they see any of our coverage, our games, and our studio announcers, they are really taking just like you talk at home,” August said. “It’s conversational. It’s cool. They don’t mind if they make fun of themselves or one another.”

While Gross discussed some details on a format for The Point which will “not necessarily be hard-core X-O hockey,” he told Variety. “It’s less about scores and more about showcasing the players, showcasing the league, showcasing the different storylines that are there.”

John Buccigross is hosting the new ESPN studio show dedicated to all things NHL.

ESPN and TNT have plenty of innovations ready to try out when a new era of the NHL on TV begins next week.

Sports TV News

Michelle Beadle: I’ve Been Giving Opinions To Walls For 800 Days

“After my last gig I had one rule and that was do what I want with people that I like, no more jerks.”

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Former ESPN personality Michelle Beadle is back and she wants everyone to know it on her new podcast, What Did I Miss? with Michelle Beadle. The first episode dropped this week, and Beadle talked about what she was up to while she was away.

“I have missed a lot, I have kinda been sitting back for 800 days giving my opinions to walls because my friends don’t care about sports and neither does my family. Nobody really cared what I had to say so in between knitting and buying toilet paper I was just mumbling a lot of opinions to the ether,” said Beadle on her time away from sports media.

Michelle Beadle talked about her move to The Athletic, saying “I ended up at The Athletic because when I think of serious journalism I think of The Athletic and myself. To me it was just a match made in heaven. After my last gig I had one rule and that was do what I want with people that I like, no more jerks.”

One of the many things that Beadle discussed had started since she has been away is the alternate Manningcast Monday Night Football telecast, which she had some high praise for.

She also went on to talk about her unread text messages that she has on her phone, and one of them was from her former colleague at ESPN Bob Ley.

“People from the outside think that Bob Ley is someone who is super serious because he is one of the pillars of SportsCenter. While we worked together on SportsNation I would just tell stories and crack jokes to everyone in the newsroom and all of the sudden Bob Ley who I also thought was super serious joined in on the jokes. I just loved Bob so much.”

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Sports TV News

NBC Will Air Winter Olympics After Super Bowl 56

“We want to be able to maximize the the coverage of the Olympics while it’s going on and especially when we’re in full live events.”

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For the past 46 years, the Super Bowl has been followed by a series lead-out. NBC has some different plans for this year’s event, however. Super Bowl 56 will be followed by the Winter Olympics.

The Super Bowl takes place on February 13th, right in the middle of the Winter Olympics which run from the 4th to the 20th. This year will be the first time that a network has aired both at the same time, and it gives NBC a prime opportunity to cash in on the Super Bowl audience for their coverage of the Olympic games.

“We have the benefit and the luxury of being right in the middle of the Olympics and we have a commitment to air live Olympics,” said Frances Berwick, chairman, entertainment networks, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming.

“I think the fortunate position that we’re in is to have the benefit of those 18 days of the Olympics plus the Super Bowl as these immense promotional platforms to promote our new shows, too,” said Berwick “So we’re in a really unique situation in that regard.” he added.

Networks usually use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to market a new show, and it has worked to varying degrees of success over the years. The last time NBC has had a Super Bowl was in 2018, where the show This Is Us averaged a whopping 27 million viewers.

The last time a network followed the Super Bowl with another sporting event was in 1976, when CBS aired the Phoenix Open golf tournament after Super Bowl X.

“We want to be able to maximize the coverage of the Olympics while it’s going on and especially when we’re in full live events,” Berwick added.

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Sports TV News

John Canzano: ESPN Did Not Like My Criticism

“Canzano closes his Monday column by encouraging George Kliavkoff, the new commissioner of the PAC-12, to hire TV producers to advise the league’s next television contracts.”

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John Canzano wrote a second piece in the Oregonian on Monday about ESPN. This one was addressing the network’s reaction to his Sunday column about the poor visual quality of the network’s coverage of PAC-12 football.

In Sunday’s piece, Canzano cited sources that told him the network is cutting costs in its PAC-12 coverage. It is using fewer cameras and an outdated broadcast truck. He referred to the network’s coverage of Oregon’s win over Washington State as “a fuzzy, low-budget disappointment.”

“An ESPN spokesperson read my column and wrote in bold to tell me, ‘The notion that we are doing Pac-12 games on the cheap is patently false,'” he wrote on Monday.

According to John Canzano, ESPN says it had seven cameras at the game, not six as he had previously reported. The network also acknowledges that there have been technical issues on some PAC-12 games this season, but characterized them as “some isolated technical issues…that we are actively working to fix.”

Bill Rice also spoke with Canzano. He was a camera operator at the game. He is clear in his diagnosis of the problem. ESPN is using outdated equipment.

“All of that gear that we were using is old and wore out. It’s their ‘E’ show. That truck is a long way from home. That’s ESPN’s ‘E-level’ show.

“You know… A.. B… C… D… E.”

Rice also said that the broadcast truck ESPN uses for games on the West Coast is a relic. He says it is from the 20th century, which would mean that the network is relying on technology that is more than two decades old to broadcast games in HD.

John Canzano did some digging and did find some answers regarding the truck and the equipment inside the stadium.

The Oregonian/OregonLive obtained the information sheet that was distributed to crew working for ESPN in front of the Oregon-WSU game. The truck itself was built in 2012, but the key equipment inside was manufactured 10-25 years years ago. The document verifies there were, in fact, six “hard” cameras at the game and a seventh handheld camera present. It also lists the names of crew working the game. I researched them and they’re all highly qualified and experienced television production experts.”

Canzano closes his Monday column by encouraging George Kliavkoff, the new commissioner of the PAC-12, to hire TV producers to advise the league’s next television contracts.

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