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Molly Qerim: I’ve Never Really Cared About Being the Star of First Take

“Sometimes with the show it feels sort of like First Take vs. everybody in terms of clickbait and certain things that garner a lot of attention.”

Ricky Keeler

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For the last seven years, Molly Qerim has been hosting First Take on ESPN. While the show has gone through changes during that time, there is one thing that hasn’t changed and that is her desire to not be the star of the show.

Qerim was a guest on the Rise and Schein Podcast this week and she was asked by Schein how she balances being herself on the show and she said she doesn’t really care about being the star.

“I think one reason why it works is because Stephen A. is the star of the show. I’ve never really cared about that. I like being a part of a team. I think that’s why early on I kind of transitioned, there was some sideline opportunities that would have been pretty big for me and I decided to stay in studio.

“Obviously, when you are on the sidelines, you are also a part of a team. In terms of the rapport, hosting, and being on the desk, that’s my favorite part. Having fun with the guys, going back-and-forth, we all like to talk a lot of trash.”

Smith and Qerim have gone through many things together and she appreciates that the two of them share the same goal of making First Take the show that it is.

“Stephen A and I have such a great working relationship because we really respect each other. We’ve worked together for seven years, we’ve gone through a lot individually, personally, and a lot of the times sometimes with the show it feels sort of like First Take vs. everybody in terms of clickbait and certain things that garner a lot of attention. Right now, it’s just the two of us. I think there’s that mutual respect.

“Even though we will give each other so much crap at the end of the day, it’s the same team, common goal. In terms of him being the star, I’m not trying to be the star. I want to be a part of the team. I want to have fun, I want to do my job, and I hopefully want to do it well. I’m more worried about the show. That’s my focus. I think that’s why I was able to last in this role for a long time because I try not to have an ego in it.”

Qerim mentioned that it did take her a while to find her voice, but having a large family helped her be comfortable because she will act the same way on the show as she does around her family.

“Honestly, I’m just being myself. It’s the same kind of thing. I come from a big family. It’s just kind of me being me. When it’s like ‘Okay guys, reel it in’ that’s the same thing I would be saying at the dinner table. In a lot of ways, it feels very natural and it feels very organic. With that being said, it took a long time to find my voice I think to the level that I have now.”

The latest addition to First Take was having Chris “Mad Dog” Russo on Wednesdays and Qerim thought one question Russo asked her after a show was shocking.

“After the show, he was like ‘So what did you think? What could I do better?’ Wait, what just happened? That showed his humility and he really cared. He’s such great energy and it’s so much fun.

“If you ever watch him take notes during the show, it’s the strangest, weirdest things. It’s a beautiful mind. He’s been a great addition. I hope he’s here for a while.”

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Sports TV News

Booger McFarland: I’m A Rare Person in This Industry Because I Don’t Take Criticism Personally

“I think I’m one of the rare people that can give an opinion, that can take an opinion, that can give criticism and take it and it’s not personal.”

Ricky Keeler

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A photo of Booger McFarland
(Photo: Getty Images)

This year is a milestone year for Booger McFarland as it is his 10th year working at ESPN. It is a milestone for the former Super Bowl winning defensive lineman as he has now been in the sports media industry longer than he was as an actual player (9 years with the Buccaneers and Colts).

McFarland was a guest on the SI Media with Jimmy Traina podcast this week and he mentioned how he always enjoys talking to people about sports and he never takes any critique of the analysis he gives seriously because sports is supposed to be fun.

“I enjoy talking to people. I’m a people person. I always knew that this was a job I could do as far as being in a studio amongst a group of people,” Booger McFarland said. “And I enjoy conversing with people about sports because I think I’m one of the rare people that can give an opinion, that can take an opinion, that can give criticism and take it and it’s not personal.

“Sometimes as analysts, we allow things to become personal to us and it starts affecting not only you, but your relationships. I’ve never taken sports that seriously. This is entertainment. I’m trying to entertain people and have some fun. This is not life or death. I think that attitude has allowed me even when something has been given and/or taken away as far as a role or job, I’m continuing to move forward. I enjoy what I do.”

When McFarland is not analyzing college football, he is doing NFL Primetine with Chris Berman every week on ESPN+, which is something that he never thought he would do in his career. Yes, McFarland enjoys the entertainment Berman brings to the broadcast, but he is also impressed by the knowledge Berman has and the preparation that goes into the legendary highlight show.

“It is something I never thought in my wildest dreams thought I would be doing. The very first time I did it, I caught myself staring at him a couple of times as he was doing it. He’s got all of these different sayings and every time he did one, I’m naturally laughing. I’m just in awe at not only just how entertaining he makes it, but his knowledge of the game. We talk on a weekly basis in-depth.”

“He talks to a lot of coaches. He does research. People may look at that show and say well, what is he doing that for? It’s because he wants to be as knowledgeable about the product and about how he can entertain the fan. As he told me, my job is to serve the fan and entertain the fan with the show. He has welcomed me in with his arms wide open. It’s been fun, it’s nothing I enjoy doing more than Primetime with him. When that red light goes on at 7:30 on ESPN+, I know it’s going to be fun.”

Of course, many remember Booger McFarland for his time in the booth and in the “Boogermobile” on Monday Night Football. He told Traina when the idea was first pitched to him, the network was looking for him to have a role similar to Todd McShay (at the time) or Tom Luginbill as a field analyst roaming the sidelines.

“We started going through a lot of different scenarios and I flew out to Los Angeles and we started building this thing. I had no idea what to expect with that first iteration of it. Once I got up there and we started to understand what they were trying to do, I thought we could have done it without the crane/Boogermobile because what they wanted was a field analyst similar to what they had in college football with Todd McShay and Tom Luginbill.”

“The good thing with those guys is they get to roam around, they can go in the end zone, they can walk up and down the sideline, they can be close to the action. When you were on the Booger Mobile, we could only go so far on the sideline, so we were limited. If I was on foot, I could have gone a lot of different places.”

While the idea did not work to its full potential, Booger McFarland gives ESPN a lot of credit for trying something new.

“I give ESPN a lot of credit for trying to be innovative and trying to do a lot of different things. I think even the staunchest supporter of it would probably say if I had a do-over, I would probably do something different, but I give them a lot of credit for trying.”

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Sports TV News

Final SEC on CBS Broadcast Scores Highest-Rated Conference Championship Game

The broadcast of Alabama/Georgia marked the final game in a partnership that began in 1996.

Jordan Bondurant

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SEC on CBS logo

The final SEC broadcast on CBS turned out to be the most-watched game of the weekend.

The SEC Championship broadcast on CBS averaged 17.519 million viewers, making it the most-watched conference championship game on any network in five years.

Viewership of the telecast peaked at 22.35 million. The game was the second-most-watched college football game of the season so far behind Ohio State/Michigan.

The game also was the most-streamed college football game ever on Paramount+ across households, minutes, and average minute audience.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Mark Lazarus: People Have Said Sports TV Rights Bubble Would Burst for 30 Years

“For 30 years everyone said, the sports [rights] bubble is gonna burst, it’s gonna burst. You’re starting to see rights fees growth moderate.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Mark Lazarus
Courtesy: NBCUniversal, Inc.

Value is power when it comes to sports rights, and NBCUniversal CEO Mark Lazarus understands that. It’s why newly completed media rights deals across sports, and college sports in particular, command billions of dollars from networks each year now.

Next TV reported that Lazarus, in a conversational interview with TODAY host Hoda Kotb on Tuesday, said while the price for rights to properties like the NFL, NASCAR, Notre Dame, and the Big Ten are astronomical, the cost is starting to level off in some ways.

“For 30 years everyone said, the sports [rights] bubble is gonna burst, it’s gonna burst,” Lazarus told Kotb. “You’re starting to see rights fees growth moderate.”

Lazarus mentioned that there are no individual content budgets for sports, news, and entertainment at NBCUniversal. Those three divisions have a single budget executives work from. Executives are responsible for finding content audiences will consume and a platform to house it on.

“What’s the best content and where can it be successful in our portfolio?” Mark Lazarus said. “It’s a combination of art and commerce.”

“We reach massive amounts of people, we have reach and scale,” he later added, pointing out the company reaches 65-70 million homes on pay TV and another 30 million on Peacock.

“That’s great for our distribution partners and that’s great for our advertising partners and it’s really important for our audience.”

Mark touted Sunday Night Football, which is a ratings juggernaut and averages 22 million viewers. The NFL streaming on Peacock has also seen strong numbers this season, with this past week’s Chiefs/Packers game having an average minute audience of 1.86 million viewers. That’s between Peacock, NBC Sports Digital, and NFL Digital platforms. It marked the second-largest streaming audience ever for a regular-season Sunday NFL game for NBC Sports.

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