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Jimmy Traina: CBS, ESPN Have To Let Dick Vitale Call Tournament Games

“Vitale has never called an NCAA Tournament game—for an American audience—and Traina would love to see it happen.”

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Courtesy: ESPN Images

ESPN’s Dick Vitale returned to calling college basketball games on Tuesday night in No. 1 Gonzaga’s blowout victory over No. 2 UCLA. Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina floated a great idea that ESPN and CBS/Turner could work together on.

Vitale has never called an NCAA Tournament game—for an American audience—and Traina would love to see it happen.

“Dick Vitale has been calling college basketball game for ESPN for 41 years. Forty. One,” Traina explained in his Traina Thoughts column. “Yet, he has never called an NCAA Tournament game* simply because ESPN has never had the rights to the NCAA Tournament.

“I added the asterisk because Vitale has called NCAA Tournament games for ESPN’s international feed. However, that is not the same thing as calling the games for CBS and the U.S. audience.”

Traina highlighted prior instances where all of the sides worked together to make a special moment happen.

“Like his style or not,” Traina wrote. “There has not been a bigger ambassador for college basketball than Vitale. No one has had more passion and enthusiasm for the sport. He should’ve been thrown a bone a long time ago, and ESPN should’ve worked out some kind of deal with CBS/Turner to allow Vitale to call a tournament game. There is precedence for an arrangement. ESPN’s Jay Bilas was able to call tournament games for CBS/Turner for several years. And ESPN had TNT’s Craig Sager work the sidelines for an NBA Finals game for the first and only time in his career in 2016.”

The idea doesn’t seem like it would take moving mountains to pull off. If anything, it could be a selling point for CBS/Turner to promote the tournament even more. ESPN would likely want something in return for Vitale’s services. Time will tell whether Vitale ever gets to call the NCAA Tournament for an American audience.

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ACC Network Set To Debut On Comcast Xfinity

“No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.”

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There is always a mad scramble to work out carriage deals before a company launches a new cable network. Before the ACC Network debuted in 2019, Disney and ESPN secured deals with AT&T, Charter, DirecTV, DISH, Google Fiber and Verizon Fios. It was missing Comcast. That company’s Xfinity cable system is the largest in the country.

Xfinity subscribers will get to see the ACC Network for the first time in the coming weeks thanks to a deal between Disney and Comcast. As part of an agreement to renew the carriage of ESPN networks, the Disney branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks, and the National Geographic channels, Comcast has agreed to pick up the conference network and pair it with the SEC Network, which was already a part of Xfinity packages.

“We are very pleased to have reached this comprehensive agreement with Disney to continue providing Xfinity customers access to their content across our industry-leading platforms,” Rebecca Heap, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products & Propositions for Comcast Cable, said in a press release.

ACC Network will now be available in nearly 20 million more homes as a result of the deal. No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.

“We’re very happy to extend our longstanding relationship with Comcast and continue to provide their Xfinity customers with Disney’s best-in-class programming,” Sean Breen, Executive Vice President of Platform Distribution at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, added. “In addition to our news, sports and general entertainment offerings, the launch of the ACC Network in the coming weeks, paired with the renewal of the SEC Network, will give Xfinity’s college sports fans long-awaited access to their favorite games.”

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SEC Network Devotes 72 Hours To Georgia vs Bama

“On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon.”

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Just like that, the college football regular season has come to a close, and the focus for FBS fans now shifts to the penultimate point of the overall season: conference championship weekend.

While all of the Power 5 conferences will be crowning champions, the eyes of the college football world will be on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as Georgia meets Alabama in the SEC title game. SEC Network recognizes that and has dedicated the 72 hours prior to kickoff, and immediately after the game also, to programming focused on the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide colliding for a berth in the 2021 College Football Playoff.

On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon. As expected, all the SEC Network staples will be live and on-location in Atlanta.

It all begins on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. with the SEC championship press conference hosted by Dari Nowkhah. Viewers will hear from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Paul Finebaum will go on the air with The Paul Finebaum Show starting at 3 p.m.

Check out the full weekend schedule below:

Thursday, Dec. 2

  • SEC Now: SEC Championship Coaches Press Conferences, 1:30 p.m.
  • The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 3

  • SEC This Morning, 8 a.m., on location at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)
  • The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m., on location at the GWCC
  • SEC Now: The Championship Coaches, 7 p.m., on location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
  • SEC Now, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS

Saturday, Dec. 4

  • Thinking Out of Pocket, noon, on location at the GWCC
  • Marty & McGee, 1 p.m., on location at the GWCC
  • SEC Nation, 2 p.m., on location at the GWCC and MBS
  • SEC Football Final, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS

In addition to the usual lineup of hosts for these shows, fans tuning in can expect special guest appearances as well from country music star Chris Young, to comedian Jeff Foxworthy and Tony Barnhart.

The 2021 SEC championship game will kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. You can watch the game on CBS.

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ESPN In 8 Million Fewer Homes Than In 2020

“Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted.”

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ESPN

Some people in the media watch ESPN’s subscriber numbers like a hawk and report them without real context. In 2021, the people that cheer whenever there is news about ESPN having fewer subscribers than it used to will tell you that the network is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of the last fiscal year than it was in at the end of fiscal 2020. There is some context that is missing though.

Linear cable isn’t an a la cart service. So, if ESPN is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of 2021, then that means FOX News, Bravo, Nickelodeon and every other cable network is in 8 million fewer homes too. Also missing is the fact that while linear ESPN is losing subscribers, plenty of people are signing up for ESPN+ subscriptions.

At the end of fiscal 2021, ESPN Plus had more than 17 million subscribers. That is significant growth over fiscal 2020. ESPN Plus had 10.3 million subscribers at the end of the prior year.

ESPN’s traditional cable network and its sister channels net around $10 per subscriber for Disney each month through packages on cable, satellite and digital TV. At $6.99 per month, ESPN Plus is not a perfect replacement, but that is a direct payment to the company.

Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted. A drop in linear cable distribution will do nothing to end that speculation. We may be in for an extended session of number watching though. If cable subscriptions keep dropping off at such a high rate, it could motivate Disney to make a move.

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