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Stephen A. Smith Has Shoulder Surgery, Off First Take Until August

“Smith tweeted “Appreciate the love, I’ve been receiving from everyone who’s missed me on @FirstTake. I’m out because I’m rehabbing from shoulder surgery.”

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Fans have noticed that Stephen A. Smith has been absent from First Take this week. The reason has nothing to do with contract talks or a typical summer vacation. The ESPN host is recovering from surgery.

Smith took to Twitter and acknowledged fans wondering about his absence and filled us all in to the reason. Smith tweeted “Appreciate the love, I’ve been receiving from everyone who’s missed me on @FirstTake. I’m out because I’m rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Patrial tear — rotator cuff AND Bicep, along with frayed Labrum, plus a Bone Spur. Aging sucks, but it is what it is. Back next month. #AllLove”.

This isn’t Smith’s first encounter with a shoulder injury. In 2019, Smith appeared on First Take and his radio show simulcast in a sling from an injury he got while trying to get into shape by boxing.

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Pac-12 Sources Express Concern With No TV Deal

“If we know anything about college sports, it’s that you can’t assume the status quo will last.”

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Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff has been unwavering in his timeline for finalizing the conference’s television rights deals. However, many inside the conference are growing impatient.

A report from Jon Wilner of The Mercury News details conference sources growing in worry about the unresolved rights deals.

“The Pac-12 cannot get overconfident,” one source told Wilner. “If we know anything about college sports, it’s that you can’t assume the status quo will last.”

Kliavkoff’s lack of urgency is explained by his belief that Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah won’t receive enough revenue from the Big 12 to explore a move to that conference, while the Big Ten reportedly remains reluctant to poach Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Stanford. The recent departure of Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren only cements that position.

The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 conference with remaining football inventory until 2031, giving it a position of strength. Wilner posits if Turner, Amazon, or Apple want Power 5 television rights, “there’s only one place to turn”.

However, sources inside the conference are worried about overplaying its hand.

“If you slow-play it,” the source told Wilner, “you become vulnerable to the unknowns.”

The conference reportedly sent “robust” proposals to ESPN and Amazon Prime Video to secure the conference’s television rights, but nothing has been finalized.

In the past, Kliavkoff has believed the conference’s women’s basketball schedule is an important factor in the television rights negotiations.

“I think women’s basketball is our fastest-growing television sport,” Kliavkoff said in November. “Ratings are increasing faster than any other sport. And I think it’s one of the sports that has been undervalued traditionally, in media rights. I think that provides a great opportunity.”

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LIV Golf To Debut on The CW Next Month

“Saturday and Sunday competitions will be available both on The CW and The CW app. Friday events will only be available to stream through the app.”

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The deal is done. All 14 events in the 2023 LIV Golf season will air on The CW. The tour and the network have agreed to a multi-year deal which finally puts the upstart LIV Golf on television in the United States.

LIV Golf makes its CW debut next month. The network will carry LIV’s competition at the Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleón course in Mexico from February 24th-26th.

“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights. The CW’s nationwide reach as America’s fifth broadcast network will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners,” CEO & Commissioner of LIV Golf Greg Norman said in a press release. “The CW recognizes the enormous interest in and potential of our league and with their support, more fans will experience the energy and innovative competition that LIV Golf is using to reinvigorate the sport.”

The arrangement is unique. Saturday and Sunday competitions will be available both on The CW and The CW app. Friday events will only be available to stream through the app.

Finding a television partner has yielded some very public struggles for LIV Golf. The tour went without a media partner in the United States for its first season. All events were available for free exclusively online. Norman told ESPN Chicago that all four major networks spoke with LIV Golf, but those talks did not result in a deal. Apple and Amazon also reportedly passed with Apple saying the league and its backing from Saudi Arabia were “too toxic”.

Dennis Miller, president of The CW, sees the tour as a smaller piece in a larger strategy to remake the network.

“For The CW, our partnership with LIV Golf marks a significant milestone in our goal to re-engineer the network with quality, diversified programming for our viewers, advertisers, and CW affiliates. This also marks the first time in The CW’s 17-year history that the network is the exclusive broadcast home for live mainstream sports,” he said.

LIV Golf is not the only sport that The CW has been connected to in recent months. The network has also explored launching a college football bowl game in Cincinnati.

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Pardon The Interruption Sees Highest-Rated Show in Five Years

It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.

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ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption has reason to celebrate. The show’s highest-rated broadcast in five years aired earlier this week.

On Monday, January 16th, 1.1 million viewers tuned into Pardon The Interruption. It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.

The program was helped by being a lead-in to the network’s coverage of the NFC Super Wild Card game that featured the Dallas Cowboys facing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game broadcast saw the most-watched NFL game from a Disney-owned network since Super Bowl XL in 2006. 30.6 million viewers tuned into the Cowboys victory.

The show — hosted by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser — airs at 5:30 PM ET and has been a staple program in ESPN’s afternoon lineup since launching in 2001.

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