Scott Van Pelt has been hosting his nightly SportsCenter with Stanford Steve for each of the last eight years on ESPN. Even though he has done it for a long time, he still feels like it is not hard work for him because of the joy that sports can bring.
Van Pelt was a guest on the Get A Grip With Shane Bacon podcast this week and he said that watching sports daily is still interesting to him because you never know what can happen on any given night.
“It’s still interesting to me on a daily basis. Basically every night, the show I have done by myself with Stanford Steve, this is our 8th year and it’s a lot of being sort of a one-man band out there blowing on the kazoo and banging on the drum, but it doesn’t feel like a chore to do it. It doesn’t feel like hard work to do it because there’s some event, some result, some individual accomplishment on a daily basis that feels worthy of elevation, of celebration. That’s the only thing I think that keeps me not going, but at some point, you start thinking ‘Where are we on the back 9 here?’…I just want the sun to stay up and I just want to keep playing. I still enjoy that.”
While it is still interesting to Van Pelt, he does need days where he can unwind, which usually happens after the NBA Finals ends when he signs off from doing the nightly SportsCenter until around when college football starts.
“We get to the point on the back end of the NBA Finals where it’s sort of like being a teacher, you kind of have that summer schedule where after the NBA Finals, we sort of give everybody a wave and say ‘We’ll see you for football’ and I’m gone. It’s necessary just because I’m not a laborer, I don’t work hard like others work hard so I’m not asking anyone to pity me. But, there’s only so much mental energy you have and at some point, you just need to unplug from producing an hour or more of a show every day…By the time the drums and fight songs and college football gears up in August, you’re like ‘Giddy up, let’s go’.”
Outside of The Masters coverage, Van Pelt and ESPN only get to broadcast one other event during the year (The PGA Championship). During that broadcast, Van Pelt and the ESPN team try to have as much fun as they can because they enjoy the company they get to keep during that week:
“We do one event a year. That’s the thing that blows my mind about all of it. You look up and Bob Wischusen’s been doing hockey after doing college basketball. Sean McDonough has been all over being a great broadcaster in anything that he does. Dave Flemming is doing basketball, then doing the Giants. David Duval, I see once a year, then Andy North, and Curtis Strange. You go on down the line. There’s no ego. Everyone just kind of gets along. We get a kick out of what we do.
“We get a lot of praise for not showing a lot of ads. We are on ESPN+, we can just kind of let it rip, man, and we do. We do our level best to show as much as we can.
“It’s a TV show. You are trying to make it fun, but it’s not like we have some bullet points ‘Make sure you do this’. We just get along, everyone knows the assignment, and we are genuinely enjoying the company of people we are with.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at [email protected].
Kevin Burkhardt: ‘We Couldn’t Do Enough’ Taylor Swift Coverage
“He scored the touchdown, but that’s all I wanted to do was Taylor Swift.”
When FOX Sports revealed that Taylor Swift was attending the Kansas City Chiefs game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon, it sent the world of sports and pop culture into a frenzy. There had been rumors over the preceding weeks that Smith had been conversing with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, possibly dating him after he tried to give her a friendship bracelet with his phone number on it at one of the shows on her “Eras Tour.”
While no public confirmation has been made regarding whether or not the duo is officially a couple, many fans are assuming that their getaway in a convertible and hosting a private party at a Kansas City restaurant are signs pointing in that direction.
Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews and Tom Rinaldi were on the call for the “America’s Game of the Week” matchup on FOX Sports and received word a few hours before the game that she would be present. There was little to no discussion about it, however, instead focusing on the game at hand. Once the game turned into a blowout – which Kansas City led 41-0 at one point – producer Richie Zyontz and associate director Rich Russo guided the broadcast and chose to broadcast Swift’s reaction from the suite level.
“I think we played it out naturally,” Burkhardt said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated. “Obviously, we set it up early and showed it and showed him coming on the field and she was there and her reaction, and I think we went to it maybe one other time. And then in the second half, we couldn’t do it enough. He scored the touchdown, but that’s all I wanted to do was Taylor Swift.”
Burkhardt does not feel that the broadcast overdid its coverage of Swift, working it into the broadcast flow of the game. FOX Sports revealed that the game was the most-watched telecast among any network with an average viewership of 24.3 million viewers. The broadcast also ranked first among all key female demographics and led Kelce to gain 300,000 social media followers and counting and see a 400% increase in merchandise sales. Kelce and his brother host a weekly podcast, New Heights, through Wave Sports + Entertainment and release new episodes on Wednesdays, a moment when they could discuss what happened on Sunday.
After the game, Erin Andrews asked Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes if he felt any added pressure to get Kelce a touchdown. In response, Mahomes revealed that he knew that she was there and indeed felt some pressure to get a pass to the two-time Super Bowl champion tight end.
“We talked about it and then he scored,” Burkhardt said. “It was just so awesome, so that part was evident, but with the fans it was hard because that place is always rocking and crazy.”
Burkhardt shared that one of his favorite Taylor Swift songs is “22,” which comes from the “Red” album. While he does not know when it is the next time the FOX Sports lead announcing team will call a Chiefs game, he hopes to be behind the microphone for a game from GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium sometime again this season. The Chiefs will be featured on this week’s edition of Sunday Night Football on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 8:20 p.m. EST/5:20 p.m. PST against the New York Jets.
“I think my line on Sunday was like, ‘The romance America needs,’ and it’s funny because we all love it,” Burkhardt said. “We all love Kelce; he’s the greatest dude ever. It’s fun. Also, I think, like, ‘Okay, Taylor Swift is here,’ but if she was there and you saw her on camera and she was hard to see… but she was jumping up and down watching the game going crazy. It was awesome. That was the best part about it – it wasn’t just that she was there; it was her reactions.”
CBS Sports’ Sean McManus Retiring in April 2024, David Berson Named Successor
“The timing just feels right to me.”
Sean McManus will be retiring as the chairman of CBS Sports early next year, and will be succeeded by David Berson in leading the entity. McManus has been leading the company since 1996 and helped reacquire rights to the National Football League in 1998, keeping a relationship with the league ever since. News of the decision was first reported by Andrew Marchand of the New York Post and later confirmed by CBS Sports.
“Leading CBS Sports has been an honor and I have been so fortunate to work with the most talented team in sports media, along with our incredible partners, for nearly three decades. It has been a fantastic run and the thrill of a lifetime,” McManus said in a statement. “I am pleased to leave CBS Sports in an even stronger place than when I arrived, knowing that all of our marquee properties are locked up through this decade and beyond.”
McManus negotiated media deals with the National Football League several times throughout his tenure with the company, including a recent 11-year multi-platform rights agreement that sheds conference affiliations. In the end, the agreement sees CBS Sports pay a reported $2.1 billion a year for rights to games and has top-tier commentators Jim Nantz, Ian Eagle and Kevin Harlan on the call. The NFL on CBS recently reported a record-setting September, with its best viewership in the month over the last 13 years with an average of 18.7 million households. McManus will remain in his position through Super Bowl LVIII and the 2024 Masters Tournament, the latter of which concludes on Sunday, April 14.
“Sean is a first-ballot, hall of fame executive who has masterfully managed all aspects of CBS Sports for 27 years and helped guide us through a transformative era in sports television,” George Cheeks, president and chief executive officer of CBS and chief content officer of news and sports at Paramount+, said in a statement. “His achievements here and the culture of excellence he established for CBS Sports – on screen and off – will benefit CBS and Paramount Global long into the future.”
The network is also in the midst of its first season with rights to the Big Ten Conference, televising a 3:30 p.m. national game for seven Saturdays throughout the season. This is the final season the network has rights to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) before The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN) takes on the full package in 2024, worth a reported $710 million annually.
“The timing just feels right to me,” McManus said. “I’m proud of the fact that George [Cheeks] and Bob Bakish are in complete agreement that this timing is perfect, so I feel really good about it, and I have total and complete faith in David.”
David Berson is set to become the next leader of CBS Sports. (Michele Crowe/CBS)
David Berson will assume the role of “Chief Executive Officer” in addition to his title as President of CBS Sports in April 2024. The move will make him the seventh person to lead CBS Sports in the history of the business division.
“The future at CBS Sports is in the extremely capable hands of David Berson, who will seamlessly succeed me, as we planned,” McManus said. “He is an outstanding leader and strategist, with knowledge and experience across all facets of the business, and has established excellent relationships with our partners and across our team.”
Diamond Sports Group Prepares for Creditor Hearing, Comcast Negotiation
Diamond Sports Group has until this Saturday to negotiate a restructuring plan with its creditors that would result in the end to its Ch. 11 bankruptcy it claimed in March. The company has been rejecting media rights contracts throughout the Major League Baseball regular season, resulting in the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks to have their games produced and locally distributed by the league’s local media department. The company is also embroiled in litigation against its parent entity, Sinclair, Inc., which it is suing over a claim that it received more than $1.5 billion because of misconduct. In response, Sinclair, which had an 8% year-over-year (YoY) decline in revenue, believes the subsidiary will not emerge from bankruptcy.
Ahead of the start of regular seasons for both the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League – and the local broadcasts of 27 teams – the company is working to catalyze its efforts to reach a resolution. The original deadline was set for this Saturday, Sept. 30, but did not prevent the company from paying two teams that were due rights payments on Sept. 1 – the Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans. Additionally, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been paid and will begin the season on Bally Sports Ohio, although that could change depending on ensuing circumstances. If the mediation were to fall through, however, the company could request teams return the payments.
Diamond Sports Group originally pushed for a Nov. 9 deadline with its creditors to finalize a restructuring plan but was coerced by a bankruptcy court to meet its demands. Earlier in August, the NHL expressed to a bankruptcy court that it may look for emergency relief in order to exit the contracts if a plan is not completed. The league also viewed it as being “critical” that it knew the direction of the company by the start of its preseason.
Before the start of play, the Los Angeles Kings and Diamond Sports Group came to terms on a new, multiyear broadcast agreement; however, it is unknown as to how that could be affected should an outcome fail to be reached. The team enters the 2023-24 regular season with longtime play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson after Alex Faust was let go when the team opted to combine its radio and television broadcasts.
“This partnership furthers our commitment to the Bally Sports West distribution markets and to providing LA Kings fans with in-depth coverage of their favorite team on multiple platforms,” Diamond Sports Chief Executive Officer David Preschlack said in a statement. “Additionally, we are encouraged by the progress we are making in our restructuring process and are hopeful that this agreement can serve as a model for future discussions with our team and league partners.”
The NBA stands ready to produce regional broadcasts itself that would be available to stream through the NBA app, and the league would negotiate linear distribution and sell advertising. Teams receive significant amounts of funding through local and national media rights contracts, the latter of which expires with The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery after the 2024-25 season. Other regional sports networks, such as Monumental Sports Network and MSG Networks, have recently released new direct-to-consumer streaming services to pair with their linear television products, giving viewers new ways to watch their favorite teams.
The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury terminated its agreement with Diamond Sports Group during the offseason, opting to televise their games on traditional, over-the-air television through Arizona’s Family networks. The team recently gave away free antennas to fans to ensure they would be able to watch the games this season. Owner Mat Ishbia called the local television deal a “no-brainer” and divulged that over 2.8 million households in the state will have access to watch the teams for free. Bally Sports Arizona continues to hold the rights for the Arizona Coyotes; however, that has the potential to be upended depending on the resolution of hearings in bankruptcy court.
Diamond Sports Group is also in the midst of negotiating a carriage extension with Comcast ahead of the expiration of the contract at the end of the week. For those involved, these negotiating sessions represent a perception of the viability of the business and could have an impact on payments for the NBA broadcast deals. If no deal is reached, there is a chance that creditors would opt not to authorize upcoming payments that could halt payments for 15 NBA teams.