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Stephen A. Smith Tells JJ Redick About His History with Skip Bayless

“Skip Bayless comes to me in a parking lot on the campus of ESPN… and he says, ‘I know you got your plans. You love the NBA. You love being out on the road, you love being in the locker room, but I need you.'”

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Stephen A Smith and Skip Bayless

The undisputed “Face of ESPN” sat down for a discussion with First Take newcomer JJ Redick and talked for over an hour. The conversation was partifuclarly interesting when Redick asked Stephen A. Smith about his television past. Specifically, the television past that included his former First Take co-host Skip Bayless.

Smith was asked pretty early into The Old Man and The Three, Redick’s podcast, about the origins of First Take. That’s when Smith painted an intriguing beginning of the show and how he become involved.

Skip Bayless was on First Take‘s precursor, Cold Pizza and to hear Smith tell it, it was regular sports show stuff until the arrival of a key executive.

“A guy by the name of Jamie Horowitz, who was an executive here, he took over First Take for a short period of time, said Smith. “He did a focus group and the focus groups say, ‘we don’t want all that other stuff, we want debate’. And so he made he took First Take from a conventional show and changed it into an all debate format featuring Skip Bayless. And that’s when it really took off.”

The early days of First Take were littered with a mixture of talent sitting across from Bayless attempting to work out this new format. The show, according to Smith, wasn’t as successful as the network would have liked. That’s when Bayless approached Smith.

“Skip Bayless comes to me in a parking lot on the campus of ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, and he says, ‘I know you got your plans. You love the NBA. You love being out on the road, you love being in the locker room, but I need you.'” He said, ‘I’ve done all that I could to take this as far as I could go. I just need three years.”

Smith agreed partly because he felt like he lacked options.

“One month later, we were number one. And we’ve been number one ever since.”

That chemistry that launched a debating empire had been around for a long time. Yeah, we always had a chemistry. Smith and Bayless worked at Fox and in fact, did a pilot with essentially the same format as what First Take would become.

“It was called Sports in Black and White. And they were they were basically trying to create it to go up against PTI. They loved it. We were in contract talks, the whole bit. And at the 11th hour, 59th minute, the head of Fox, David Hill, pulled the plug and said, this is not what we want to do.

Redick probed Smith on the end of the show’s pairing and the potential of a relationship “fracture”. Smith was quick with his response.

“Never. The only time anything came close to that was when I knew he was leaving before he told me. And I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ You know? And so I confronted him. And then when he confessed to me what had transpired between his negotiations with the company, I understood why he couldn’t tell me in the immediate moment. But that’s literally the only thing that we’ve ever had any kind of issue about. And that lasted for like six hours.”

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Ian Rapoport: I Have Never Thought It is Me vs Adam Schefter

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows.”

Jordan Bondurant

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In terms of NFL insiders, Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter are the two biggest names out there. And sometimes it can be a race between the two to get the biggest scoops first. Especially now with the NFL coaching carousel in full swing.

This week two teams hired new head coaches – the Broncos traded two first round picks to the Saints to acquire the rights to Sean Payton and the Texans signed DeMeco Ryans.

Rapoport tweeted that Denver had pursued Ryans up until the day they announced the trade for Payton.

Not even 15 minutes later, Schefter appeared to clarify the information out there with the two teams.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Thursday, Pat McAfee referred to the conflicting information as a “source off.”

Ian said he stood behind what he put out there.

“I know it’s fun to call it a source off or whatever, but for me I reported what I had based on the best information I can get – based on talking to many, many people throughout the course of the last month,” Rapoport said from the Senior Bowl. “And then whatever happens as a result of this I don’t really mind.”

In terms of any sort of rivalry between him and Schefter, Rapoport doesn’t view it as a head-to-head matchup.

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows,” he said. “And everyone can sort of judge for themselves whichever way to go.”

McAfee gave kudos to Rapoport for his reporting on the Ryans situation. He also said it’s a good thing Rapoport doesn’t worry himself too much about what other insiders are doing.

“I think you should feel good about it, but I do like a good source off,” McAfee said. “And I appreciate the fact that you don’t view it as you versus Schefter. But you two are at the top of the game. So that’s a compliment more so than anything.”

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Sports TV News

AEW Considers Launching Streaming Service

“It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.”

Jordan Bondurant

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All Elite Wrestling is looking into launching its own streaming service.

According to reporting from Bloomberg, a source “familiar with management’s thinking” said AEW is looking to strike a deal with broadcast partner Warner Bros. Discovery.

Since launching in 2019, AEW now puts on two weekly shows on Warner channels TBS and TNT and airs two shows on YouTube.

Last year AEW acquired Ring of Honor from Sinclair Broadcast Group. As part of that deal, AEW took ownership of RoH’s extensive content library Honor Club. So much like WWE did with WWE Network when it launched in 2014, AEW could launch its streaming service and have all of Ring of Honor’s content in a one-stop shop.

It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.

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NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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