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ESPN Aims To Build NHL Coverage Around Access

“The NHL just wrapped up a 16-year stint on NBC, and they are ready to spice up the broadcasts in their new homes with ESPN and Turner.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: ESPN, NHL

ESPN is ready to give hockey fans a whole new look and feel surrounding their hockey broadcasts. Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy spoke with network executives about all the details as the puck gets ready to drop on the 2021-22 NHL season Tuesday, Oct. 12.

The Disney-owned network is utilizing on-ice cameras in the replay room, locker rooms, and a way to track the puck and players on the ice.

“It gives you a perspective of the size of the players, and it gets viewers on the ice.” Mark Gross, ESPN’s senior vice president, production and remote events, said about the cameras being sent onto the ice for shootouts and commercial breaks.

ESPN is following in the footsteps of their NBA and NFL broadcasts with their rules analyst Dave Jackson. The former referee is on deck to assess the tape under review and walk viewers through what they are seeing from the replay room in Toronto.

“It will provide such great context on what is being reviewed — and why it’s being reviewed,” Gross said to McCarthy about the replay room camera.

The NHL just wrapped up a 16-year stint on NBC, and they are ready to spice up the broadcasts in their new homes on ESPN and TNT. The locker room cam should help in that goal when fans get to see a coach’s pregame speech or hear players mic’d up as they prepare for the game.

“If a fan’s fortunate enough to go to an NHL game in person, it’s an incredible experience. We want the experience to be just as good at home,” said Gross. “Hearing a pregame speech from a coach? They’re not getting that in the arena. But you’re getting that if you’re watching the game on one of our networks.”

On top of all the camera work, the league partnered with SportsMEDIA Technology to continue integrating state-of-the-art player/puck tracking systems into their broadcasts this season.

All of the details from Gross and ESPN’s plan for hockey are in McCarthy’s article here.

Sports TV News

Notre Dame Expects Next Media Rights Deal to be Worth $60 Million Annually

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Jordan Bondurant

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Chris Coduto

There are still a few more seasons until Notre Dame starts the process of hammering out a new media rights deal, but it’s believed the FBS independent could have its next partner shelling out more than double what NBC is currently paying.

NBC, which appears to be a front-runner alongside CBS to be one of the key rights partners in the Big Ten’s new contract, currently pays $25 million each year for rights to Fighting Irish football according to Front Office Sports.

Notre Dame is reportedly seeking $75 million per year, while Sports Business Journal figures the school would get closer to $60 million.

Viewership for Fighting Irish games was reportedly down 48% year-over-year for the 2021 season, averaging 2.5 million viewers. The year before that, the pandemic season in 2020, viewership for Notre Dame was its best since 2005.

Notre Dame remains an independent in football, but is in the ACC for its other programs. The Fighting Irish do play some ACC schools in football. With NBC and the Big Ten apparently becoming new partners, it’s believed that Notre Dame would then have more Big Ten opponents in football.

The current contract between the school and NBC ends in 2025.

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Sports TV News

Robert Griffin III Replaces Randy Moss on Monday Night Countdown

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program.

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Robert Griffin III
David Becker, Getty Images

With Monday Night Countdown set to lead into Thursday’s preseason matchup with the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks, ESPN announced their lineup for the show.

The network announced the addition of Robert Griffin III to the pre-game program. Robert Griffin III will join Booger McFarland and Steve Young as the show’s main analysts.

They will be partnered with Suzy Kolber who returns for her sixth year as the show’s host and news breaker Adam Schefter.

It was reported in July that analyst Randy Moss would not be returning to the show, opting instead to focus solely on Sunday Night Countdown.

The first regular season action featuring Monday Night Countdown will be on Monday, September 12 when the Seahawks play the Denver Broncos.

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Sports TV News

Leafs Nation Network, the Toronto Maple Leafs Channel, Is Going Off the Air

“Thank you for your viewership. As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

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The Toronto Maple Leafs launched Leafs TV, a team-specific specialty channel in 2001 and rebranded it as Leafs Nation Network in 2017. However, after nearly twenty-one years on the air, it will fade to black at the end of August.

“Thank you for your viewership,” the channel told viewers who have tuned in recently. “As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

The news was confirmed to the Sun. Staff said they had been informed of the news a few weeks ago however few jobs are expected to be lost, of any, as many of the LNN duties will be moved to the digital format.

Leafs TV was part of the sale of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise sale in 2011 to Bell-Rogers communications (worth $1.32 billion). With that sale, Leafs TV began to become a “redundant” channel focusing mainly on classic games and interviews once Rogers made a 2014 deal to become the dominant NHL network, grabbing the majority of live programming.

“Leafs TV was a big bargaining chip at the time of the (Rogers-Bell sale), but they’ve come to see that (lack of game broadcast presence) doesn’t work,” a source told the Sun.

A statement from MLSE on Tuesday read in part: “With new and increasing opportunities to share content on its digital platforms, subscribers to the Leafs Nation Network were informed earlier this month that the channel would cease being broadcast on Sept. 1. Maple Leafs game day and practice coverage will continue to be shared across the team’s digital platforms, combined with exciting new content on the team’s social and digital channels. The team will continue to produce live Marlies home games with details being shared in the weeks ahead about where those broadcasts will be made available.”

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