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Rachel Nichols Gets New Gig at SHOWTIME Basketball, Addresses ESPN Exit

Rachel Nichols exited ESPN nearly ten months ago and now, ahead of the NBA season, she has landed a new job as a host and producer at Showtime Basketball.

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Rachel Nichols exited ESPN nearly ten months ago and now, ahead of the NBA season, she has landed a new job as a host and producer at Showtime Basketball.

SHOWTIME Basketball is part of the Showtime vertical. Some of the SHOWTIME Basketball projects included Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible, Passion Play: Russell Westbrook, Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story, Shut Up and Dribble, Kobe Bryant’s Muse, Basketball County: In the Water and NYC Point Gods.

“We are delighted to welcome Rachel Nichols to the SHOWTIME Basketball family,” said Brian Dailey, Senior Vice President, Sports Programming & Content, Showtime Networks Inc. “Rachel brings unmatched journalistic credibility, great familiarity with our roster and a work ethic that will take us to another level.”

“I’ve been so fortunate to live my dream job alongside some of the best journalists in the business for more than 25 years, and this new development deal with SHOWTIME Sports gives me my most broad playing field yet,” said Nichols. “They’ve asked me to produce, create and host new sports programming across platforms, working alongside Hall of Famers, multiple guys with championship rings and an uber-creative team behind the camera. We’re going to have so much fun.”

Nichols left ESPN in earlier this year after a private conversation was taped and leaked that including her complaining that ESPN chose Maria Taylor to host the NBA Finals pregame show over her.

She also addressed her exit from ESPN in an interview with the All the Smoke podcast.

“Things got complicated later that season. You all know, it was 2020. We had a pandemic. There was the tragic murder of your friend, George Floyd. There were a lot of difficult conversations with this country looking itself in the face and seeing what had to change, what had to be different. And The New York Times did an expose in July of 2020 on racism at ESPN and the lack of opportunities for people of color. And the executives at ESPN said, I think, about what people would expect, ‘We’d like to give people more opportunities, we’re continuing to grow,’ all of those things.”

“Around that same time, I got a phone call asking me would I step aside for Maria to host the NBA Finals and have me go back to being a sideline reporter. They stressed it was my choice, they weren’t telling me to do this, because it was in my contract. But they were putting a lot of pressure on me. I was being told ‘Well, you’re not a team player.’ Which any woman in business knows is code, right? Women are supposed to be kumbaya, and team players, and helpful, and men are aggressive sharks, and all that? I just felt like ‘Hey, I worked so long, decades for this job. I have done everything that was asked. We put on some great shows leading up to the playoffs. And I wanted a chance to do it.”

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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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Screenbrad from NBA TV with Charles Barkley
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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Report: WNBA Could Quadruple Media Rights Fees

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion.

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: Women's National Basketball Association

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video expected to be worth a collective $76 billion over the course of the deal. At the same time, the NBA is also negotiating media rights for the WNBA in which it has an ownership stake of approximately 60%. The WNBA could quadruple its annual media rights fee within these negotiations, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion. Throughout the season thus far, the WNBA has seen its ratings increase, drawing more than 1 million viewers across several matchups throughout the regular season. Moreover, discussion surrounding the league is further assimilating into the sports vernacular surrounding stars such as Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson, Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.

Ben Strauss of The Washington Post outlined how the NBA is in the process of considering one total bid from media companies that combines the value of media rights for the NBA and WNBA. With the league itself determining the value of media rights for the WNBA, he argues that it could either be “rocket fuel” for the league or that its augmented popularity “is more of an afterthought.” The possibility exists that it could be a combination of both extremes as well, but by having the league negotiate its media rights deal, quantifying the true value could be a more difficult task.

In a report from earlier in the year, McCarthy stated that the WNBA is likely to negotiate its own separate media rights deal if it is not receiving the remuneration that it wants. The WNBA attained its most-watched opening month in league history, averaging 1.32 million viewers for games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, Ion and NBA TV. Moreover, the league had its most-attended opening month in its 26-year history with 400,000 fans at games through the end of May and a rise in sales of WNBA-branded merchandise by 236% year-over-year.

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