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ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro Agrees to 3-Year Contract Extension

Pitaro is appearing at the 2022 BSM Summit, held at The Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City March 2-3.

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Jimmy Pitaro has signed a contract extension to remain as ESPN president. The New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand reported the news in his Monday “Sports Clicker” newsletter. (You can subscribe here.)

Pitaro’s new contract adds another three-and-a-half years to his current agreement. During his tenure, which began in March 2018, Pitaro’s biggest accomplishments may be smoothing out ESPN’s relationship with the NFL and negotiate a new TV rights deal that includes two playoff games and two Super Bowl broadcasts, in addition to continuing the Monday Night Football package and rights to highlights for the network’s studio programming including SportsCenter, NFL Live, Sunday NFL Countdown, and Monday Night Countdown.

Additionally, Pitaro has strengthened ESPN+ as networks like NBC and CBS have emphasized an increased focus on their streaming platforms. (Fox, curiously, hasn’t appeared to make streaming much of a priority, pointing to its Tubi service.) ESPN’s streaming service currently has 17.1 million subscribers, undoubtedly aided by ESPN+ being included in the Disney bundle with Disney+ and Hulu.

As Marchand points out, some of the challenges ahead for Pitaro include finding younger talent to feature, which ESPN has done successfully with NFL Live, overhauling the show with Laura Rutledge, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, and Dan Orlovsky. The network has also appeared to emphasize individual personalities like Stephen A. Smith (or even Scott Van Pelt) less. Will that continue or does ESPN have to find new faces and voices to highlight?

ESPN has also shown some creativity in adding special alternate broadcasts to its schedule, such as the baseball “Nerdcast” incorporating analytics and advanced metrics with Jason Benetti, Mike Petriello, and Eduardo Perez. Of course, the jewel of alternate broadcasts during the past year was the “ManningCast” featuring Peyton and Eli Manning with a rotating cast of guests during Monday Night Football.

During the upcoming Major League Baseball season, ESPN will add a “Kay-Rod” alternate telecast for eight Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts featuring Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay in a set-up similar to the “ManningCast.” Will more of these alternate broadcasts be developed or will the network find that viewers’ appetites for such programming is limited?

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Perhaps one of those questions will be answered when Pitaro appears at the 2022 BSM Summit, held at The Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City March 2-3.

As Jason Barrett describes, he and Pitaro will have a 35-minute conversation on stage “discussing the state of the sports media industry, the opportunities and challenges facing operators in 2022 and beyond, the growth of sports betting, network radio, podcasts, subscriptions, social, and many other issues.” Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

Sports TV News

Kathryn Tappen Joining NBC’s Big Ten Coverage

“Tappen was in line to replace Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football but was passed over by the network in favor of Melissa Stark.”

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NBC has tabbed Kathryn Tappen as its sideline reporter for the network’s upcoming coverage of Big Ten football, according to a report from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post.

According to Marchand, Tappen was in line to replace Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football but was passed over by the network in favor of Melissa Stark.

Tappen has hosted Notre Dame football’s studio coverage and Peacock Sunday Night Football Final. She also worked as NBC’s lead interviewer for its coverage of the PGA Tour, but left that broadcast team at the end of 2022 as part of the network’s larger shakeup of its golf coverage.

The appointment of Kathryn Tappen conceivably concludes the Big Ten on NBC broadcast crew. Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge are expected to pair as the network’s play-by-play announcer and color analyst, respectively. NBC has yet to officially unveil its coverage plans for the 2023 college football season.

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Sports TV News

Peter King: Sean McVay Wants to be a Star, ‘Not Just Some Guy on TV’

“I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

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L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay will remain at his post for the 2023-24 season. The team tweeted that news Friday afternoon, seeming to, at least for now, put the rumors of McVay leaving coaching for a TV job to rest.

ProFootballTalk’s Peter King wrote in Football Morning in America on Monday that McVay understands the kind of position on television he’s looking for may not necessarily be there for him.

“I don’t think that was the only thing about TV that appealed to him, but I don’t think McVay was interested in being Just a Guy on TV,” King wrote. “I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

King noted that McVay has been told to “Do what makes you happy” by folks with the Rams. He also said he believes coaching is what Makes McVay happy. Especially with a chance to shake up his coaching staff and being involved in trying to bring the team back from a 5-12 season in their follow-up campaign to winning the Super Bowl.

“He wants to be challenged, and this staff wasn’t doing it,” King said. “Offensive coordinator Liam Coen may not have been what McVay wanted in an OC—a coach who would challenge him and bring new ideas to him—and that could be why he’s going back to the University of Kentucky as a coordinator.”

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Sports TV News

Lisa Salters Makes Monday Night Football History Completing 11th Season on Sideline

“Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.”

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Monday night’s Cowboys/Bucs wild card playoff game set a new milestone for ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters.

The network tweeted that Salters completed her 11th season in that role. That makes her the longest tenured reporter in Monday Night Football history.

Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.

“When I first got the call to do Monday Night Football, I would have never thought that 10 years later I would still be doing it,” Salters said last year in a video reminiscing on ten years on Monday Night Football. “I was at home and I got a phone call from my boss Vince Doria and he said, ‘Hey, I was wondering if you would be interested in being a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football‘, and I couldn’t believe what he just asked me.”

Salters is also featured on network coverage of the NBA, something she’s been doing since 2005.

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