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Chris Russo: Never Thought I’d Have Much Impact on First Take

“I really haven’t had any adjustment getting used to the medium and the camera. Got to be a little more careful of what you say.”

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With Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo being on First Take with Stephen A Smith every Wednesday morning, it allows a new audience to get to watch him that may not have had the chance to listen to him when he co-hosted Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN with Mike Francesa and he has enjoyed the chance to have other people get to know him.

Russo was a guest on the latest episode of the New York, New York with John Jastremski podcast and he said that even he has been surprised about the attention he has received from being on First Take.

“They are getting to know me. I am appealing to a different audience, which I hadn’t had in the past….I knew I could do well with it, but I never thought that I would have the impact with the one day a week with Stephen A. so that’s been a big plus for me.”

While Russo doesn’t get the chance to go on many 15-minute monologues anymore, he mentioned to Jastremski that he does not feel rushed on the show and that Smith allows him the opportunity to do whatever he wants to do.

”No, you are talking soundbites moreso than expound. You’ve got 2-3 other guys on set with you so you want to make sure they get a chance to talk, too. It’s not an adjustment. I can talk in that 15 seconds and give you an answer there or I can do 5-6 minutes, god given the way my mind clicks.

“One thing about Stephen A, he does give you the chance to do what you want to do. When I do that segment called ‘What Are You Mad About?’, it’s just me, so I’ve got 7-8 minutes to do anything I want, 3-4 different topics.

“I really haven’t had any adjustment getting used to the medium and the camera. Got to be a little more careful of what you say. If you make an error there, your career is over. Not as much on the radio, you can get around it…If you make a mistake on the radio, people might not pick up on it, it doesn’t go viral. If you do it on TV, you are dead. So for the most part, I’ve been able to stay out of trouble. That’s the one thing I concern myself with. I kind of edit myself as we go along.”

Right before Francesa was supposed to be on First Take with Russo and Smith back on February 1, Tom Brady announced that he was retiring. Russo said that the show did have to change a little bit from its original format, but it did give the show a main topic to talk about.

“We obviously already had a show formatted properly for a little more Mike and the Mad Dog. Once Brady happens at 8, we are on at 10, you’ve got to spend a lot of time on Brady. Partly it was good because it gave us something to talk about, break down the quarterbacks Montana/Brady, but it took away a little from the Mike and the Mad Dog thing. You also had to do it twice. You had to do it at 10 and then you had to do it again at 11.”

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Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque: WWE-Netflix Deal is a ‘Game-Changing Moment’

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal.”

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Paul "Triple H" Levesque
Courtesy: World Wrestling Entertainment

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) is bringing Raw to Netflix beginning in January 2025 in a deal that is reportedly worth $5 billion over 10 years. Netflix reportedly has the option to opt out of the agreement after the first five years and extend the deal for an additional 10 years. As a result, Raw will be moving away from NBCUniversal platforms and cable television as a whole for the first time in 31 years, presenting an opportunity for WWE to continue innovating its presentation in a new way. NBCUniversal-owned USA Network, however, will begin broadcasting SmackDown beginning this October. Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the chief content officer of WWE, was asked by Ty Schmit of The Pat McAfee Show if the company is thinking about what will change with the new presentation of Raw on Netflix.

Levesque appeared on the program following the announcement that WWE had agreed to a deal with Indiana Sports Corp. that will bring WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble to Indianapolis. Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, will host all three premium live events that will begin with Royal Rumble on Feb. 1, 2025. Other WWE properties, including Raw, SmackDown, NXT and WWE Live Events will take place from arenas across the state of Indiana, including Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville, during the partnership. As Raw prepares to move to Netflix next year, Levesque revealed that the company is projecting the capabilities that the new partnership will allow.

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal,” Levesque said. “It’s a streaming service. How are commercials going to work? How are breaks going to work? What’s the length of time? What are the restrictions [and] what are not restrictions?”

Levesque mentioned how there are times when FOX has had to cut the audio and/or video when instances occur that could violate FCC broadcasting rules and regulations. McAfee believed that he was referencing when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had the crowd engage in a call-and-response chant calling Austin Theory an “a**hole.”

“The Rock comes in and you sort of kind of can’t tell The Rock what to do – what are we going to tell him – so he does what he does, but we won’t have those issues [on] Netflix,” Levesque said. “The ability to be live globally; the ability to have everything seen all at once everywhere, it’s a game-changing moment, and I think in many ways – not to disparage other partners because we want to be everywhere, but that’s sort of where the world is heading, right, is streaming services.”

Prognosticating towards the future of the Raw presentation, Levesque believes sports entities are going to be watching how the WWE and Netflix agreement materializes. As it pertains to the business logistics of the deal, he expects to have leagues watching what they will be doing, acknowledging that the NFL also reached an agreement with Netflix to broadcast Christmas Day games.

“Everybody from live content is very thankful you guys did a deal with Netflix for a weekly live show,” McAfee said. “Just want to let you know that.”

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John Anderson to Join University of Missouri Faculty After Leaving SportsCenter

“Why wouldn’t you want to go play for the Yankees? That’s what Mizzou is.”

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Photo of John Anderson of ESPN from the Missouri School of Journalism
Photo Courtesy: Missouri School of Journalism

John Anderson, who announced in March that he would leave ESPN’s SportsCenter when his contract runs out at the end of the month, has found his landing spot. He will be joining the faculty at his alma mater, the University of Missouri. The Missouri School of Journalism said Anderson will be the school’s Endowed Chair in Radio and Television Journalism and will begin with the spring semester in January 2025.

Anderson, who joined ESPN in 1999 does plan to continue covering certain events, but after 25 years he thought it was time to stop doing ESPN’s flagship show. His final SportsCenter is scheduled for Friday, June 28.

    “My contract runs out at ESPN at the end of June,” Anderson said on his podcast back in March. “I have decided that that will be the end. I’m going to leave the company. I’m going to sort of retire from ‘SportsCenter.’ I’m going to get to do a few track-and-field things, I’m going to get to continue to do the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon – which I love – and some NCAA track meets and some SEC stuff.

    “I am incredibly excited about that. It’s been a good run…I feel like it’s been a good run. The operation has changed. I don’t know that it’s passed me by, but it’s taken its toll and I still want to be able to do the best shows that I can, and I don’t know that if in years 26 or 27 I have the stamina to do it again.”

    About his new role, Anderson said in a release from the school, “Why wouldn’t you want to go play for the Yankees? That’s what Mizzou is. If you’re going to go play, why not go play for the team with all the world titles? I could not have thought of a better post-ESPN landing spot.”

    Anderson said he comes from a long line of educators. “My grandparents were teachers, and my mother, being raised by those people, had respect for teachers. Two of my uncles taught math. That sort of trickled down to me,” he said.

    “John has kept fans and aspiring sports journalists in the know for more than two decades, and I’m so excited that he has chosen to bring that experience back to his alma mater for the benefit of new generations of students,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism said in a release.

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    ‘Foul Territory’ to Air Live on Bally Sports RSNs as Part of New Partnership

    “We are thrilled to partner with Bally Sports to bring Foul Territory to an even wider audience.”

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    Foul Territory Logo
    Courtesy: Make Plays Media

    The Foul Territory program has agreed to a new linear and streaming partnership with the Bally Sports regional networks (RSNs) that will launch on Monday, June 24. Make Plays Media, which is the parent company of Foul Territory and several other shows within the network of shows, will air its digital program from 1 to 3 p.m. EST on the Bally Sports RSNs and the company app. The program will also work with Bally Sports to present exclusive guests, unique content and more, which will accompany the live game broadcasts across the Bally Sports portfolio of networks.

    “We are thrilled to partner with Bally Sports to bring Foul Territory to an even wider audience,” Marc Weiner, chief executive officer of Make Plays Media, said in a statement. “Bally Sports has the largest daily baseball audience in the country and we can’t wait to work with our new partners to bring FT’s real baseball talk to their passionate fan base live every day.”

    The Foul Territory program launched last March and features a roster of former players that provide their insights and opinions to the show, including A.J. Pierzynski, Todd Frazier and Erik Kratz. Scott Braun hosts the show, which frequently features guest appearances by MLB players, managers and general managers. While Foul Territory will now be live every day on the Bally Sports RSNs, the show will still be available across social and audio platforms.

    Over the last several months, the Foul Territory Network of programs has expanded with new offerings dedicated to the Los Angeles Dodgers (Dodgers Territory), Atlanta Braves (Hammer Territory) and Chicago Cubs (North Side Territory). Ken Rosenthal, baseball reporter and insider, also hosts his own program, Fair Territory, that covers news and issues around the sport each week. Rosenthal also contributes to the Foul Territory program as well in addition to working with FOX Sports and The Athletic.

    The Bally Sports regional networks, which are owned by Diamond Sports Group, has the linear broadcasting rights to 12 Major League Baseball teams. Diamond Sports Group has been in Ch. 11 bankruptcy proceedings for over a year and is approaching a confirmation hearing in late-July. The company was unable to reach a renewed distribution agreement with Comcast Corporation, resulting in the channels not being on the service for more than a month.

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