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ESPN VP Seth Markman: ‘The NFL Draft is Our Event’

“It’s one of the few events that I would say is in the DNA of ESPN.”

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The NFL Draft may be on three different networks this year, but only ESPN can claim to have a history with the event that turned it into what it is today.

“We don’t usually like to brag about things,” ESPN Vice President of Production Seth Markman told The Athletic. “But this is one event that we feel like we created, we’ve innovated along the way, and we’ve been in lockstep with the NFL every year on how to make this bigger and better.”

This will be the fifth year that ABC and NFL Network will have their own presentations of the Draft. Markman didn’t say how his unit feels about the competition for eyeballs, but he did say that in the past, ESPN employees have been territorial about the event.

“It’s one of the few events that I would say is in the DNA of ESPN. A few years back, FOX was involved as well, and I’ll be honest with you, it pissed people off here. It was one of the few things that we were like, ‘No, no, no, no, we do the NFL Drafts. That’s our event.’”

As a week of programming, the NFL Draft delivers for ESPN in a way that few other sporting events do. Markman notes that while the Super Bowl itself is huge, it does not tend to generate the kind of viewership for the week leading up to the game that the Draft does.

Everyone has a theory about why that is. Markman says it is about hope. Mel Kiper Jr. says it is about anticipation. Phil Simms of CBS told Front Office Sports that it is actually about Kiper.

“I want to hear Mel Kiper. I’m not going there to hear eight other guys,” he said. “I want to hear Mel Kiper’s take — because this is what he does year-round.”

He added that the other theories do hold water. There is also the fantasy GM angle of second-guessing what each team should do, but Simms’s praise of Kiper is evidence that ESPN is truly engrained in the NFL Draft. The event isn’t just in the network’s DNA. ESPN is in the DNA of the NFL Draft, too.

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Sports Media Reacts to Charles Barkley Retirement Announcement

“We’re looking forward to another fantastic NBA on TNT season and further discussion of our future plans with him.”

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Screengrab from Charles Barkley on Club Shay Shay
Screengrab: Club Shay Shay on YouTube

Charles Barkley said on NBA TV after Game 4 of the NBA Finals that he will retire from television after next season, no matter what happens with TNT and the league. Near the conclusion of the NBA TV postgame show, Barkley said:

“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.”

Barkley went on to say that he wants to turn the baton over to someone like Jamal Crawford or Vince Carter should Inside the NBA continue with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal.

TNT put out a statement that said, “Charles is a Hall of Famer and broadcasting icon who is and will always be a beloved member of the TNT Sports family. We’re looking forward to another fantastic NBA on TNT season and further discussion of our future plans with him.”

Several in sports media took to social media to post about their thoughts on Barkley’s career with TNT or wondering if Barkley’s ‘retirement’ is real:

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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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The United Football League logo

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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