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Turner Sports SVP Tara August Clarifies Kobe Bryant ‘Inside the NBA’ Situation

“It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do PR or other things or a litany of things to promote the show. It was actually the press release wording where the deal fell apart.”

Ricky Keeler

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In any press release from a media company or public relations firm, the wording is always important because you never know what effects it can have. In fact, according to Turner Sports senior vice president Tara August, it ended up costing them hiring Kobe Bryant. 

Last week, Charles Barkley was on The Draymond Green Show on The Volume and revealed to Green that Turner Sports had a deal with Kobe Bryant, but it ended up falling through.

Soon thereafter, August went on The Steam Room with EJ and Chuck podcast with Barkley and Ernie Johnson just to clarify Barkley’s comments a little bit. He wasn’t wrong, but it was actually the wording in the press release that cost the big deal from happening 12 hours before it was going to be official. 

“It was an amazing opportunity that we had when Kobe had announced that he was retiring,” said August. “We knew he was the best and we wanted him with TNT with you guys. This was the season right before we added in the additional Tuesdays. We started talking to Kobe at the All-Star Break and then meeting with him along the way up until the end of the season.”

“We got the deal done, a short version of the deal done. He was really excited. We made up plans that we were going to announce it during the playoffs,” she continued. “The great Craig Barry and Drew Watkins came up with this amazing piece of tape that we would use as the announcement video. Kobe had his creative hands in it. We did the deal and then we got to the press release.

“The press release talked about what he would be doing on Tuesdays and Thursdays with TNT and Inside The NBA and contributing the rest of the season. He didn’t like that kind of phrasing in the press release. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do PR or other things or a litany of things to promote the show. It was actually the press release wording where the deal fell apart.”

In fact, Bryant actually had a lot of ideas for Turner Sports that the company was willing to try.

“End of the season came and he had some really unique ideas about the Tuesday package,” August said. “We were going to sort of say hey, do you want to executive produce this with us in a different way? He had some really unique ideas. I don’t think that we were totally bought into all of them, but we were willing to try.”

While the deal never got done, August mentioned that the two sides were able to work on different ideas together. However, she like everyone else, wonders what would have happened if Bryant had decided to join TNT:

“The best thing that came out of it was we still worked with him,” said August. “Both sides really still had so much respect for each other… He still came on our air and did some other really fun projects. It was one of those deals that never really got out that it could have happened and how that would have changed things.” 

Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Paying Nearly $45 Billion For Rights Fees Through 2027

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually

Jordan Bondurant

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The last year or two has been evident that the price of rights to airing major college and professional sporting events on television are only going up. But the various networks either with longstanding relationships with leagues and conferences or looking to break into the media rights landscape are willing to pay up. That’s no more evident with Disney, which will be shelling out tens of billions of dollars to have regular season and postseason events air on ESPN.

According to Sportico, which reviewed Disney’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESPN is set to spend $44.9 billion on sports media rights through 2027.

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually. Additionally, ESPN will pay $1.4 billion through the 2024-25 season for NBA rights.

The Sportico report noted ESPN will generate more than $8.1 billion in affiliate revenue to help offset those costs. The network will soon be entering talks to renew its media rights deal to be the exclusive home for nearly all NCAA Division I championships, as well as engaging in new NBA rights negotiations.

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