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Pablo Torre: ESPN Was Very Diplomatic About Me Joining Meadowlark Media

“As long as it became clear to me that they still wanted me to do that stuff and they had this evolving perspective…Diplomacy is really the answer.”

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Last month, it was announced that Pablo Torre was going to stop hosting ESPN Daily and make the move to join Dan Le Batard at Meadowlark Media. While he will continue to be a part of Around The Horn and PTI, it marks an end of an era of hosting over 700 episodes of the ESPN Daily podcast.

Torre was a guest on the Jenkins and Jonez podcast this week and he said ESPN was very diplomatic for allowing him to still be a part of the family of Around The Horn and PTI.

“I realized that Around The Horn and PTI, these shows I have done, I’m functionally family with them. As long as it became clear to me that they still wanted me to do that stuff and they had this evolving perspective of ‘There’s this other thing you could be doing with your other time. We love you on ESPN Daily, but you have this offer that’s out there and you feel strong about it’. Diplomacy is really the answer.”

During the interview, Torre brought up what always got him interested in sports and how he enjoys the fact that he is not limited in terms of what he can talk about in sports.

“Sports is the toy department in the classic imagining of a newspaper. To me, it’s also every section of the newspaper. There’s real shit out there. For me, it’s always been the widest aperture of society and life…I was always passionate about sports as a fan and a writer, but my concern was never that it would be too limiting. Where I came up in sports, it was through magazines (Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine), shows like Dan’s and Around The Horn and PTI, there are ways to talk about so much more. I have never felt limited by it.”

When hosting ESPN Daily, Torre mentioned that he enjoyed the challenge of doing high-production audio storytelling and digging into stories that he was curious about, even if he didn’t have a hot take right away.

“I always prided myself in curiosity. Stuff I don’t have takes on from the jump is the stuff that is often most fascinating. As long as I figured out an angle on it that I found engaging, I knew we could do something with it. So much of it is reliant on these guests that we pull from.

“I had not worked in high-production audio storytelling until ESPN Daily. I was essentially the managing editor of the staff. I got to weigh in on every topic. We also had to manage ‘ESPN has this awesome piece/investigation/documentary/feature. Can you guys do something with it?’ I know this is not The Pablo Torre Show. The challenge was ‘Here’s a topic I don’t know about. Maybe I wasn’t responsible for the piece that we are about to discuss, but what’s the way that we can do it that’s substantive and can push it to another level?’”

From June 2018 until March 2020, Torre hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones on ESPN. While he feels no regrets about any part of the show, he does feel some nostalgia looking back and wonders what would have happened to the show if it debuted in a different format.

“I am so nostalgic for the mission that we had and the big ‘What if’ that you think about now in retrospect is was that more of an internet prospect than a linear television property? What if that was a video podcast show? What would have been different about that? I think the trick of what High Noon was it was trying to subvert a medium.

“What we were trying to do was figure out a way to be ourselves and build chemistry and do the stuff in the daily sports news cycle while also balancing the mandate of we are coming on after First Take…It was an experiment. Then, we went to a half hour in the afternoon, which I wasn’t bothered by, but it ends up changing the very premise and it’s harder to build chemistry in that format.

“I have no regrets about that, but I do have mostly nostalgia for the fact that we tried to have discussions that went to levels that sports television in the linear cable  television model just never really had time for in the talk media daily setting.”

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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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