The inaugural game for the new USFL will air on not one, but two networks when the spring football league kicks off on Saturday, April 16.
NBC Sports announced on Tuesday that the USFL’s season opener between the New Jersey Generals and Birmingham Stallions will broadcast in primetime at 7:30 p.m. ET. The telecast will air on NBC and Fox, marking the first time one event has aired on two competing broadcast networks since Super Bowl I was shown on NBC and CBS in 1967.
“Having two broadcast networks combine and start something like the USFL is not only unique but represents our commitment to making spring football succeed,” said NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua in the network’s official announcement. “We’re excited about the opportunity, and we appreciate the partnership and cooperation that we’ve had with Eric and his team at FOX Sports.”
NBC’s involvement in the USFL was already unusual with Fox investing in the upstart league (taking a minority share) and becoming its flagship TV network. Fox will air 12 games for the 2022 season, 10 of them on FS1. But the more TV partners, the better, especially from a risk standpoint. NBC will split the season slate with Fox, televising on the broadcast network, USA Network, and streaming service Peacock.
The new USFL isn’t a “revival,” per se, with no connection to the 1980s version of the spring football league. But all of the original team names will be part of the new venture. Though each of the eight clubs is connected to a particular market, all of the USFL’s games will be played in Birmingham, Alabama.
“The first game played in any new league is itself historical and having the USFL’s inaugural game simulcast by NBC and FOX makes it even more so,” said Eric Shanks, Fox Sports CEO and executive producer. “It’s rare when two competitors can come together and see how cooperation can lead to long-term benefit, and it wouldn’t be possible without having terrific relationships with Pete, Jon Miller, and so many others at NBC Sports.”
In total, 42 regular-season and postseason USFL games will air between Fox and NBC networks. NBC Sports will air 22 contests, dividing among the main broadcast network (nine), USA Network (nine), and Peacock (four). Fox will broadcast another 22, with 14 games on its main network and eight being televised on FS1.
The USFL’s inaugural season will launch with eight teams split into North and South divisions. The Generals will be joined in the North by the Michigan Panthers, Pittsburgh Maulers, and Philadelphia Stars. The South will be made up of the Stallions, the Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers, and Tampa Bay Bandits.
Ian Casselberry is a sports media columnist for BSM. He has previously written and edited for Awful Announcing, The Comeback, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter @iancass or reach him by email at [email protected].
PFT Commenter: Hearing Crowd Reaction to Nick Chubb Replay ‘Almost Worse’ Than Showing It
“The entire crowd in Pittsburgh is just like, ‘oh, dear God, what did I just see?’.”
Members of the sports media continue to question ABC’s decision not to show a replay of Nick Chubb’s injury during Monday night’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“That’s insane,” he said. “They showed us Damar Hamlin dying on the field.”
PFT Commenter added that showing a replay may actually have been the smarter move.
“So when it happened, Joe Buck was like, ‘And I’m being told that we’re not going to show the replay it’s that bad.’ As Joe Buck saying that, you hear the crowd reaction in Pittsburgh to them seeing the replay live,” he said. “And to me, that was almost worse than watching the replay because you hear that, and it’s a bunch of Pittsburgh fans who want Nick Chubb out of the game. They don’t want him injured, but they obviously don’t want to see him scoring touchdowns against them. And the entire crowd in Pittsburgh is just like, ‘oh, dear God, what did I just see?’. So what would we have to do? We’re basically entrapped into going online and looking for the replay.”
Big Cat echoed Dan Patrick’s belief that the appropriate thing to do would have been to show one replay and make a disclaimer so that the audience is clear that what they are about to see is brutal. He said that not showing the replay probably sent a lot of people to social media and to YouTube looking for video of the play to make the call for themselves.
“When Joe Buck says it’s so bad, we’re not going to show it to you, that’s like your parents being like, ‘No, you’re not allowed to watch this movie. It’s got tits in it.’ And then I’m like, ‘Wow, Braveheart’s awesome!’”
TNT Signs Entire NHL Studio Crew to Contract Extensions
“Wayne Gretzky, Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter and Henrik Lundqvist all have new deals.”
With a new season on the horizon, TNT is not taking any chances with its NHL coverage. The network has inked its entire team of studio analysts to multi-year contract extensions.
Wayne Gretzky, Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter and Henrik Lundqvist all have new deals. They will once again join Liam McHugh on the NHL on TNT set.
Gretzky, Bissonnette and Carter have all been with TNT since the network took over part of the NHL’s television rights ahead of the 2021-22 season. Lundqvist joined the crew last year after retiring following 15 seasons with the New York Rangers.
TNT will carry 62 regular season NHL games this year. The first one will be the Chicago Blackhawks’ visit to Boston on October 11.
As previously announced, TNT’s NHL games will all be available on the new B/R Sports tier available as an add-on for Max subscribers.
Stephen A. Smith: ‘People Don’t Care’ About Baseball Talk
“Tell the baseball community to shut the hell up.”
On Thursday night ahead of the New York Yankees’ matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays, ESPN featured commentator Stephen A. Smith will be on hand at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y. to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Smith, a fixture on ESPN programs First Take and NBA Countdown, along with hosting his own podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show, grew up in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. and frequently watched Yankees games with his father. Despite living closer to Shea Stadium, he was not allowed to watch any New York Mets games until the age of 18, solidifying his love for the “Bronx Bombers.”
Throughout Thursday’s edition of First Take, Smith mentioned how excited he was for the moment and practiced throwing a baseball with ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky. One day earlier, however, he was criticized for a rare baseball take he made on the show pertaining to Los Angeles Angels superstar two-way player Shohei Ohtani.
Smith articulated that Ohtani is not worth $500 million because of the empty seats he frequently sees when the Angels take the field. After a promising first half, the Halos have struggled mightily down the stretch run and currently sport a 69-83 record, good for fourth place in the American League West division.
Within his podcast, he received a call from Preston Miklich who operates a YouTube channel focused on baseball called “Fuzzy.” The outlet has 469,000 subscribers and is a popular spot for baseball fans to catch up on news and rumors while also hearing informed opinions about the game.
During his conversation with Smith, Milkich took the time to inform him that the Angels are fourth in road attendance in the 2023 Major League Baseball regular season. In his response, the host appreciated being informed of the statistic and divulged that while it is an adequate figure compared to the competition, it may be comparatively underwhelming because of the diminished popularity of the game in recent years.
Attendance for Major League Baseball games has been on the rise throughout the 2023 season, with the league reporting a 9% increase year-over-year (YoY). Smith previously made insensitive comments about the Japanese superstar, saying that it was bad that one of the game’s preeminent superstars could not speak English, and apologized after an onslaught of criticism.
“We’re just wondering when it comes to your takes with baseball – we want you to talk baseball; we want ESPN to bring Baseball Tonight back, we miss it dearly,” Miklich explained, “but the baseball community almost thinks that you kind of peak on feelings and we think, ‘Okay, is baseball going to be done on ESPN?’”
The amount of baseball programming on the network has diminished in recent years compared to other properties, yet there is still an edition of Baseball Tonight that airs before the weekly broadcast of Sunday Night Baseball. In response to Miklich’s question, Smith bluntly expressed, “Tell the baseball community to shut the hell up.”
After pushback from Miklich, Smith chided him for interrupting his response and asked him to let him finish his statement. He then divulged that he does not have much time to watch baseball because of the responsibilities he has in other sports, revealing that he only watches New York Yankees games. Smith defended his position because of the fact that First Take rarely discusses baseball and, when it does, often has experts on the panel, such as Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.
The Walt Disney Company pays a reported $550 million annually for MLB rights, which includes Sunday Night Baseball, the MLB Little League Classic, Home Run Derby and Wild Card series.
“I’m not on High Heat on the MLB Network trying to talk about baseball as if I’m watching every game and I’m an aficionado,” Smith said. “I don’t get to do that.”
Smith reminded Miklich that Russo, who hosts his own show on MLB Network, agreed with him that Ohtani is not worth $500 million. Moreover, he acknowledged that the morning debate program does not address many baseball topics because of the landscape of sports media consumers engaging with the content.
“People don’t care ratings-wise when we’re watching baseball,” Smith said. “We’re trying to change that.”