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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?

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.

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Sports Media Reacts to Charles Barkley Retirement Announcement

“We’re looking forward to another fantastic NBA on TNT season and further discussion of our future plans with him.”

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Screengrab from Charles Barkley on Club Shay Shay
Screengrab: Club Shay Shay on YouTube

Charles Barkley said on NBA TV after Game 4 of the NBA Finals that he will retire from television after next season, no matter what happens with TNT and the league. Near the conclusion of the NBA TV postgame show, Barkley said:

“There’s been a lot of noise the last few months and I just want to say, I’ve talked to all of the other networks, but I ain’t going nowhere other than TNT, but I have made the decision myself, no matter what happens, next year is going to be my last year on television. And I just want to say thank you to my NBA family, you guys have been great to me, my heart is full with joy and gratitude.”

Barkley went on to say that he wants to turn the baton over to someone like Jamal Crawford or Vince Carter should Inside the NBA continue with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

TNT put out a statement that said, “Charles is a Hall of Famer and broadcasting icon who is and will always be a beloved member of the TNT Sports family. We’re looking forward to another fantastic NBA on TNT season and further discussion of our future plans with him.”

Several in sports media took to social media to post about their thoughts on Barkley’s career with TNT or wondering if Barkley’s ‘retirement’ is real:

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Charles Barkley Announces He Will Retire From TV After Next Season

“Next year, I am just going to retire after 25 years, and I just wanted to say thank you and I wanted y’all to hear it from me first.”

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Screengrab: NBA TV

Charles Barkley is not waiting. After voicing his frustration several times with the way the media rights negotiations have been handled by his current employer, Warner Bros. Discovery/TNT, Barkley is no longer waiting for them to make a decision, he has announced his own decision.

After Game 4 of the NBA Finals concluded between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics, Barkley took time on the postgame show on NBA TV to announce no matter what happens, he will retire as an NBA commentator after next season, which will be his 25th with TNT.

“I’ve been thinking guys,” Barkley said “I want to say this, because you guys are my family. I really love TNT, all the people who work here, NBA Television. You guys have been great to me for 24 years and I just want to say thank you to my entire NBA family. I love you guys.

“There’s been a lot of noise the last few months and I just want to say, I’ve talked to all of the other networks, but I ain’t going nowhere other than TNT, but I have made the decision myself, no matter what happens, next year is going to be my last year on television. And I just want to say thank you to my NBA family, you guys have been great to me, my heart is full with joy and gratitude.

“But I am going to pass the baton at the end of next year. I hope the NBA stays with TNT, but for me personally, I wanted you guys to hear it from me, because I am not doing any more interviews, don’t y’all be calling me, nobody calling me, I am not talking about this again. But I wanted to tell my NBA TV and TNT family that I am not going to another network, but I am going to pass the baton to either Jamal Crawford, Vince Carter or you Steve [Smith]. Next year, I am just going to retire after 25 years, and I just wanted to say thank you and I wanted y’all to hear it from me first.”

The NBA’s current media rights agreements with Disney/ESPN and WBD/TNT expire after next season. Many reports have said the NBA will soon sign agreements with Disney, NBCUniversal and Amazon to be the league’s new broadcasting partners beginning with the 2025-26 season. The Wall Street Journal has reported the total value of the new media rights packages is expected to be $76 billion over 11 years.

Rumors of a possible fourth media package being made in order for the NBA to keep its 40-year relationship with Turner Sports going have surfaced, but it looks like either way there will be changes coming to Inside the NBA, the award-winning show Barkley is a part of along with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

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FOX Sports Moving UFL Games to Friday Nights in 2025

“The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year.”

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FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently confirmed a report from Deadline last month that said United Football League games would move to Friday nights in 2025. The Deadline report had said FOX planned to replace WWE Smackdown with sports coverage from college football and basketball as well as games from the UFL.

Shanks’ comments were made during a Zoom with reporters about the news of their new agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series. SI’s Mike Mitchell reported that the UFL worked with FOX to move the games so they could complete their auto racing deal.

Shanks said many of FOX’s UFL games would be moved to Friday night when asked about the change but did not provide more detail.

The UFL was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this season. The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year and the recent conference championship games were up 57% over the averages from the USFL and XFL last season. According to Mitchell, the league saw a large increase in the 18-49 demographic on FOX compared to USFL programming in 2023.

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