Last year was a big one for women’s sports and it seems that 2021 is going to be even bigger. ESPN just saw the WNBA Finals bring in the most viewers the event has had since 2017. Now women’s college basketball is feeling some love too.
The season opened on ESPN with a top 5 matchup between #1 South Carolina and #5 North Carolina State. It was the most-watched season opener for women’s basketball since 2013.
Viewership peaked at nearly 700,000. The game averaged 506,000. That represents a whopping 179% increase over last year’s season opener.
No one is saying that the WNBA and women’s basketball are set to dethrone the NBA and men’s college hoops respectively. You cannot ignore growth though. Right now, women’s basketball is growing.
ESPN drew more than 4 million viewers to last year’s national championship game between Stanford and Arizona. That was the most viewers for the event since 2013. If Tuesday’s results are the beginning of a trend, ESPN has plenty of reason to be optimistic about the sport this season too.
John Buccigross: Return Of NHL ‘Reenergized’ Me In ESPN Role
“I’m just grateful that I was able to get reenergized without leaving the company that I’ve worked for so long.”
John Buccigross is probably the most thankful out of anyone that the NHL returned to the ESPN airwaves this season.
Bucci has been at the network for 25 years and was a part of the coverage team the last time ESPN had NHL broadcast rights. He told Awful Announcing that the change after the 2003-04 season really helped change his focus at the network.
“It’s probably a good thing that it went away back in 2004, because I was able to focus on SportsCenter and kind of move up the ladder there, and maybe I never would have if hockey had stayed all these years,” he said. “Maybe that was good. And then I got involved with college hockey, I asked to do play-by-play a couple of years after we lost the NHL, so I’ve been doing college hockey for over 15 years with play-by-play, hoping we would get the NHL back and then I could do NHL play-by-play.”
Now the NHL is back, the Stanley Cup Final will air on ESPN and ABC, and John Buccigross will be a part of it in some fashion. He said having the chance to pick back up where he left off all those years ago gave him a second wind in his career.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me in my career, being at ESPN over 25 years,” he said. “To kind of get reenergized, reinvigorated with your job after being in the same place for 25 years, that’s probably pretty rare. I’m just grateful that I was able to get reenergized without leaving the company that I’ve worked for so long. At this stage of my career, it was just perfect timing.”
ESPN and Turner Sports replaced NBC Sports as the U.S. broadcast rightsholders for the NHL this season.
Mark Sanchez Emerges As Potential #2 NFL Analyst At FOX
“It is believed that Joe Davis will be the play-by-play man to sit opposite either Brees or Sanchez in the booth.”
Football season is 104 days away and FOX is still sorting out its broadcast crews for the upcoming season.
Enter former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez as one of the top candidates being considered for the number two booth at FOX this season.
Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reported that if Drew Brees doesn’t end up in the role, Sanchez is next in line. Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt will comprise the top broadcast team for FOX this season.
It is believed that Joe Davis will be the play-by-play man to sit opposite either Brees or Sanchez in the booth. Marchand reported that Sanchez made a great impression on producers in auditions and tests.
Mark Sanchez began his broadcasting career three years ago. After two seasons of covering college football for ESPN, he made the move to FOX last year.
Joe Buck: ESPN Is Letting Us Set Tone For Monday Night Football
“It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”
While Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be calling football games on Monday nights for ESPN instead of Sunday afternoons for FOX this year, fans shouldn’t expect the broadcasts to be that much different, if at all, than what they’ve been used to over the last 20 years.
Buck was recently a guest on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast and said that ESPN knows that he and Aikman have to be comfortable in order for Monday Night Football to be a success.
“I know we are in the honeymoon phase. I’m not dumb. That stuff wears off after a while. They are like ‘however you guys have always done a game, that’s the way we want you to do a game whether it’s with regard to meetings vs. conference calls or when you guys show up, how you like the booth set up. However you want it, we are going to do it your way’ and that’s to their credit. It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”
Buck and Aikman are obviously already very familiar with each other. Buck said that it will be important not to take that for granted or second guess what they already know.
“I think the one thing Troy and I have to avoid is trying to be different than we’ve been. They hired us based on what we’ve done and who we are and how we relate to each other and the way we see a game,” said Buck.