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Troy Aikman: NFL Popularity & Revenue Growing While Quality Declines

“It seems like all these decisions are made to increase revenue, which is great, but then it’s less time on the field for players, and then it’s less time here, and the product begins to erode a little bit.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Troy Aikman

ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Troy Aikman is happy the NFL is the ratings and revenue juggernaut it is, but he doesn’t hide the fact that down the line the quality of the game has diminished some.

In an interview with Jimmy Traina on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast, Aikman spoke about some of the changes the league has implemented through the years, like the reduction of one preseason game to make room for a 17-game regular season and seven playoff teams in each conference, as well as an idea being floated around of having the AFC and NFC championship games played at neutral sites.

Aikman said the league needs to be careful about making decisions that might come across as prioritizing money making over making sure the play itself on the field is the best quality it can be.

“I will say, the NFL, they’re really good at making a lot of money. They’re really good at that,” Aikman said. “And I don’t begrudge them for that. I say good for them and the marketing of the NFL. And we watch the popularity of the sport and out of the top 100 shows, 80 something of them were NFL games this year. I love all that.”

“I just would like to see more emphasis on improving the product on the field,” he added. “I’d like to see that there’s some interest in that as well.”

Aikman did say he feels like the more constrictive the league is when it comes to allowing teams to practice and properly prepare for the season, the more the games themselves tend to suffer.

“It seems like all these decisions are made to increase revenue, which is great, but then it’s less time on the field for players, and then it’s less time here, and the product begins to erode a little bit, and I think we’ve got to be really, really careful about that and I’ve been saying that for a while,” he said.

“Football is the only sport that you can’t practice the way that you play it,” Aikman added. “All the other sports get to go practice and then go and play. In football you don’t and so we see the fundamentals of tackling aren’t what they once were.”

Without naming names, Aikman alluded to the fact that Amazon Prime’s maiden season airing Thursday Night Football featured some of the worst teams in the league in primetime and ended up having some of the worst games of the season played out on their air.

“There were games that we watched, and I won’t say what network most of them were on, and I had to ask myself, ‘Is this professional football?’” Aikman said. “There was some bad, bad football being played, and that’s not good.”

Amazon is paying the NFL around $1 billion a year for the rights to TNF.

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Struggles Continue for ‘Undisputed’ On FS1

According to Sports Media Watch, the Feb. 27 edition of the program had 50,000 viewers, the lowest in the show’s history.

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Skip Bayless
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It’s been raining and pouring for Undisputed over the last few months — and February saw an all-time low for the long-running Skip Bayless vehicle. According to Sports Media Watch, the Feb. 27 edition of the program had 50,000 viewers, the lowest in the show’s history.

Among the shows that defeated Undisputed head-to-head were a re-air of Get Up on ESPN2 and first-round Dubai Open tennis on The Tennis Channel, according to Sports Media Watch.

Undisputed has been in dire straits for months. According to figures provided by USTVDB, the show passed 200,000 viewers just twice since August — the Monday, Sep. 4 edition that featured new co-hosts Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson, and Richard Sherman and took place after the University of Colorado’s win over TCU, and the Monday, Jan. 15 edition following another Dallas Cowboys playoff loss, this time a blowout at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Its viewers were likely there to revel in Bayless’ misery as a vocal Cowboys fan. For perspective, First Take enjoyed its most-watched episode ever on Jan. 15 with an average of 1.5 million viewers.

The show routinely averaged near or over 200,000 viewers but saw a sudden decline once co-host Shannon Sharpe left the show following last year’s NBA Finals. Sharpe then joined First Take, which saw its most-watched year ever in 2023, averaging almost 500,000 viewers per episode, and hasn’t slowed down at all.

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Minnesota Twins Add Former Outfielder Denard Span to Rotating Group of Analysts

Span played 11 years in the major leagues, started his career with the Twins, and will now join the Bally Sports North rotation of analysts for Twins games.

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Former Twins outfield Denard Span making a catch
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Minnesota Twins broadcaster Bally Sports North is adding another baseball alumnus to its airwaves. According to The Athletic’s Twins beat reporter Aaron Gleeman, Denard Span will join the Bally Sports North rotation of analysts for the 2024 MLB season.

Span played 11 years in the major leagues and started his career with the Twins. After five years in Minnesota, he left for the Nationals, where he had perhaps his best statistical season in 2014. He went on to play for the Giants, Rays, and Mariners before retiring after the 2018 season.

Bally Sports North’s analysis desk includes Hall of Famer Justin Morneau, former World Series champ Roy Smalley, along with former Twins LaTroy Hawkins, Glen Perkins, and Trevor Plouffe. The analysts will call games alongside play-by-play man Cory Provus, who will move from radio to television full-time this season. The guys will be joined by Audra Martin and Katie Storm, who will provide on-field reporting.

According to KTTC, Provus is a three-time winner of Minnesota Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association and before joining the Twins, spent three seasons in Milwaukee where he did play-by-play with Hall of Famer Bob Uecker.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Leaving NBC NASCAR Coverage for Prime Video & TNT Sports in 2025

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is beloved in the NASCAR world and has made numerous contributions to NBC Sports. We thank Dale and we wish him the best going forward.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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One of the biggest names in NASCAR history is leaving his longtime media home for greener pastures. According to The Athletic’s Andrew Marchand, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is leaving NBC to provide analysis for Amazon Prime Video and TNT Sports’ NASCAR coverage that begins next season.

Marchand says Earnhardt Jr. will take 2024 off and return to the airwaves in 2025. Both TNT Sports and Prime Video will instantly have a recognizable, legitimate voice for their NASCAR coverage, similar to how both companies legitimized their NHL and NFL coverage, respectively, with splashy hires. TNT hired former NBC voices Kenny Albert and Eddie Olczyk to man their hockey booth, while Prime Video brought in Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit to call Thursday Night Football games.

Earnhardt Jr. was unsure of his future with NBC as recently as three weeks ago. The former driver of the 88 car said on his podcast, “My contract with NBC…was up at the end of last year. I’m currently working through what that looks like for me. I definitely love being in the broadcast booth and want to continue doing that.” During the conversation, Earnhardt Jr. revealed that he’d spoken to various NASCAR TV partners about joining their broadcast teams. We speculated that Earnhardt could join Prime Video to be the Al Michaels-level hire — and that prediction manifested into reality.

Marchand notes that, as a free agent, Earnhardt Jr. could still work for FOX or even NBC in 2024. However, he says there’s “nothing substantial” between Jr. and the networks at this time.

As for NBC, there’s no word yet on who will replace Jr. on its coverage, but there’s no bad blood — at least publicly.

“Dale Earnhardt Jr. is beloved in the NASCAR world and has made numerous contributions to NBC Sports, from his work as an analyst on our NASCAR coverage to his experiences as a correspondent at major events like the Indianapolis 500, the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl, and the Olympics,” an NBC Sports spokesperson told The Athletic. “We thank Dale and we wish him the best going forward.”

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