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ESPN Loses Spelling Bee After 27 Year Relationship

“The competition takes place every summer and first started in 1925.”

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Courtesy: E.W. Scripps

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has a new TV home starting in 2022. According to The Hollywood Reporter, E.W. Scripps is moving the annual competition to its ION and Bounce networks.

The event has aired on ESPN or ESPN2 since 1994, but E.W. Scripps wants to get the product off of ESPN channels to allow more access to people who aren’t subscribing to traditional cable television.

The Spelling Bee will be available on their regular ION and Bounce channels; while also streaming online.

“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a beloved American treasure enjoyed by generations of participants and viewers annually. The time is right to bring the iconic competition back to broadcast television, the media platform accessible for free to nearly every American viewer across the country,” Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson said in a statement. “As the Bee’s viewership expands through the diverse and fast-growing audiences of ION and Bounce, it is better positioned to connect with the next generation of spellers watching along.”

The competition takes place every summer and first started in 1925. The pandemic caused last year’s event to be cancelled for the first time since WWII. The event is a sentimental favorite for ESPN host Kevin Neghandi, who called this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“I’m thrilled to be returning as host of the Scripps National Spelling Bee,” Negandhi said upon his announcement as this year’s host. “Due to my schedule in 2018 and 2019, I missed out on the fun, but it’s great to be back to share the stories about the competitors and what drives them at a young age to be the best in the world. I’m looking forward to teaming up again with the best in the business in Paul Loeffler, Jen Lada, and producers Bryan Jaroch and Steve Ackels, and the rest of our dedicated crew who love the Bee and what it stands for.”

ESPN2 now has some open programming windows to fill in the dog days of summer, with Scripps taking their educational property in-house.

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Sports TV News

Henrik Lundqvist Joins MSG Networks’ Rangers Coverage

“The goaltender played 15 seasons with the Rangers and ended his career with a franchise-record 459 wins, the sixth most in NHL history.”

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Courtesy: MSG Networks

MSG Networks is adding a familiar face to New York Rangers broadcasts. Long-time goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is joining MSG Networks as a studio analyst on various Rangers broadcasts throughout the season.

The goaltender played 15 seasons with the Rangers and ended his career with a franchise-record 459 wins, the sixth most in NHL history.

“It’s exciting to be a rookie again, and to join my new teammates Steve [Valiquette] and John [Giannone] on MSG Networks this season,” Lundqvist said in a press release. “The Rangers run through my blood, and I can’t wait to break down games for the best fans in hockey.”

The franchise legend joins former teammate and Rangers analyst Steve Valiquette and host John Giannone in the studio for pregame, intermission, and postgame coverage, starting on Thursday, Oct. 14, when the Rangers battle the Dallas Stars on the network’s first regular-season telecast.

“We are thrilled to welcome Henrik Lundqvist, one of the most iconic and beloved figures in Rangers history, to the MSG Networks family and add his engaging presence to our Rangers studio team,” said Andrea Greenberg, President, and CEO, MSG Networks. “After an exceptional and dominant playing career on the ice, Henrik will undoubtedly continue to bring that same level of excellence to our Rangers broadcasts as an analyst this season.”

Lundqvist made it onto the NHL All-Star team five times and ended his career with the most wins by a European-born goaltender. At one point, the goalie was the rock that helped New York punch 11 playoff tickets in a 12-year span.

Outside of the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist brought home a gold medal with the Swedish men’s team at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Lundqvist joins a full Rangers’ broadcast team that carries the telecast on MSG Networks, with the radio call from Kenny Albert, and former Rangers captain Dave Maloney airing on ESPN 98.7.

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Sports TV News

Jeff Van Gundy: I Am Trying To Be Gentler On Referees

“As an analyst, the most important thing Van Gundy tries to do is call the action how he sees it.”

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ESPN

On October 20, Jeff Van Gundy will be back in the booth with Mike Breen and Mark Jackson for another NBA season at ESPN. Van Gundy has been one of the lead analysts at ESPN since 2007 after being a head coach in the NBA from 1996-2007 with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. 

Van Gundy was a guest on the most recent episode of the Sports Media With Richard Deitsch Podcast and he was asked by Deitsch why he feels he has lasted as long as he has in the broadcasting business. Van Gundy pointed to Tim Corrigan (senior coordinating producer for ESPN). 

“It comes back to the people you work for. Upper management has changed a lot over time in my time at ESPN. The direct bosses have changed a lot. Tim Corrigan has been my boss ever since I’ve been there. His trust in what Mike, Mark, and I are doing has been appreciated. That doesn’t mean he never comes back at me and goes that was stupid or you can’t stay that. I like it. He’s both a friend and a boss and that’s a hard line to walk.” 

As Jeff Van Gundy has done more games over the last 10+ years, he has tried to be more considerate of criticizing officials when he is on the air because he isn’t trying to be controversial on purpose.

“I think for a while when I first started maybe from my coaching background, whatever I saw from them, I would never let it go. Some in the NBA would say I need to do it a lot more. I was always astounded how personal people take it when you talk about officiating, but playing, they expect you to critique what’s going on and coaching moves.”

As an analyst, the most important thing Jeff Van Gundy tries to do is call the action how he sees it. When he does prep for upcoming broadcasts, he told Deitsch that he doesn’t try to focus on specific stats. Instead, he keeps his prep simple and looks for trends that stand out. 

“I don’t really do a whole lot other than watch. I just like to watch. Like to watch games. I have a few friends I talk to in the NBA, but it’s not like I’m sitting there calling a lot of people….I would say it’s as simple as I think this is where a color guy has it really good. I’m not a stats guy. I don’t throw out a lot of stats. You have to find what you feel is best broadcasting-wise. I know the stats on the teams, but it’s not like I’m ever going to say this guy’s shooting 44% from three unless it’s something that stands out.”

Van Gundy’s first regular season game with fellow color-commentator Mark Jackson, play-by-play man Mike Breen, and sideline reporter Lisa Salters for the 2021-22 season will be on October 20 when the Knicks host the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden (7:30 pm ET, ESPN). 

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Sports TV News

ESPN Adds Weeknight Wild Card Round Game

The inaugural Monday night NFL Wild Card game will be played on January 17th, 2022 as the finale of wild card weekend.

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Via ESPN Press Room

There were reports in September that the NFL was considering having a Wild Card Weekend game played on Monday Night. That is now in full effect, as The Walt Disney Company and the NFL have reached a five year rights agreement for ESPN to present the Monday night Wild Card game beginning with the 2021 season and continuing through the 2025 season.

The inaugural Monday night NFL Wild Card game will be played on January 17th, 2022 as the finale of wild card weekend. This will be the first weekday primetime NFL playoff game.

ESPN will have Megacast coverage of the game, offering both the traditional coverage from the Monday Night Football crew, as well as the Manningcast featuring Peyton and Eli Manning on ESPN2.

This is a smart move for both sides. ESPN gets playoff football. The NFL is replacing the Saturday afternoon Wild Card game which has notably had severely low ratings in the past. Last year’s Wild Card game between the Bills and Colts was the least watched Wild Card game since 2003.

The 2021 season’s Wild Card game will be ESPN’s eighth NFL playoff game, having begun airing an annual Wild Card game following the 2014 regular season. ESPN will also add an NFL Divisional round game to its postseason slate, while continuing to air its existing Wild Card game, beginning in 2023.

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