Even though NFL Sunday Ticket will now reside with YouTube TV, there will be no changes to the NFL Red Zone channel. However, Mike Francesa believes he would make a great host of the program.
During the mailbag portion of The Mike Francesa Podcast, the former WFAN host said he would handle “the witching hour” like a master.
“The NFL Sunday Ticket, and what they have put in your house — you’ve heard me say it many times, going back to the Fan — it’s the greatest invention since fire or the wheel. Then people got all caught up on the Red Zone channel,” Francesa said. “That’s a fantasy deal. I don’t mind the Red Zone channel. I’ve told you before, I would love to host the Red Zone channel, because I would do a great job at handling that in the fourth quarter. Or in the witching hour.
“I’m sure they don’t even know what the witching hour is. The witching hour is from 3 o’clock until the final moments of the 1 o’clock games. That’s the witching hour. I’ve told people through the years at 3 o’clock, take a pad and write down the scores of all the games, and then write down the final scores, and see how much things change from 3:00 to 4:15. That’s why, many years ago, I called that the witching hour.”
In the past, Francesa had shared that Brent Musburger coined the term while hosting The NFL Today on CBS Sports. However, current NFL Red Zone host Scott Hanson has continually used the term during his tenure hosting on the channel.
Sports Media Reacts to Passing of Jim Caple
“We all love Jim Caple so much and he loved you.”
Longtime ESPN baseball writer Jim Caple passed away on Sunday, his wife announced in a statement on social media. The 17-year ESPN veteran covered 20 World Series for the network, in addition to other sports media endeavors with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
He most recently wrote for The Athletic on topics including baseball, tennis, and the WNBA. Caple had been fighting both ALS and dementia and passed away at the age of 61, surprising and devastating those across the sports media world.
“My person, best friend, and husband died on Sunday afternoon,” his wife wrote on Facebook. “We all love Jim Caple so much and he loved you. Many great times, laughs, and adventures with all of us with Jim. Go in peace, my love.”
Kevin Jackson, a former vice president at ESPN and Caple’s editor, issued a statement on the passing of his venerated colleague. The duo worked closely on many stories for ESPN platforms, including on Page 2 where he was able to transform a story into a book deriding the New York Yankees titled, “The Devil Wears Pinstripes.”
“Jim was an amazing and prolific writer who always found the joy in sports,” Jackson said. “Whether he was writing about baseball, the Olympics, the NCAA Tournament or his beloved Tour de France, Jim cared deeply about the games we play, but he never took them too seriously.”
Those within the sports media industry reacted to the unfortunate news, sharing their memories of Caple and expressing their condolences.
Former CNN Exec Jeff Zucker Purchases Stake in Front Office Sports
“The team at Front Office Sports has built an impressive platform for sports business journalism, and I’m excited to help it grow in the years ahead.”
Upon his departure from CNN one year ago, former network president Jeff Zucker launched RedBird IMI, a venture looking to invest in properties throughout the media and finance industries. The entity is composed of private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners and International Media Investments, and it has approximately $1 billion in capital backing from key figures within both entities. Zucker is now set to make his first acquisition and third investment with the reported purchase of a minority stake in Front Office Sports, a multiplatform media brand covering all aspects of sports business.
The company was launched by Chief Executive Officer Adam White and President Russell Wilde while they were in college, and the property rapidly flourished over the last several years. While most of the content from the publisher is free, it did begin selling paid subscriptions in 2021 and was able to raise $5 million from Crain Communications last year at an overall valuation of $25 million. According to Axios, which first reported news of negotiations and, ultimately, the closed deal, Front Office Sports will be part of EverWonder Studio – a new, non-fiction content outlet – being led by former Time, Inc. president Ian Orefice.
Orefice was recently involved in a deal between the studio and Meadowlark Media pertaining to a feature documentary about a feature documentary between tennis stars Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. With Zucker’s purchase, the company now has a valuation of $40 million, and it also installs him as co-chairman of the board alongside Jason Stein, an investor within SC Holdings.
“The team at Front Office Sports has built an impressive platform for sports business journalism, and I’m excited to help it grow in the years ahead,” Zucker said in a statement. “Audiences are more interested than ever in the business of sports, and this investment will allow Front Office Sports to create even more compelling news content that draws people in.”
The minority investment encompasses the 20% previously owned by Crain Communications, and also includes additional shares from SC Holdings. Both RedBird IMI and SC Holdings will have equal minority stakes, while the rest are owned by employees.
“The business of sports has become ubiquitous in recent years, permeating across all corners of culture. It now commands mainstream attention and is part of even the most casual fan’s daily content consumption,” White said in a statement. “The foundation of our company was built on a deep understanding and connection to this shift, and has long informed our editorial strategy and product development. As we enter this next stage of expansion, we are incredibly excited to partner with Jeff Zucker, one of the media industry’s greatest minds.”
“Front Office Sports has become a clear leader and important voice in the growing sports media landscape,” Stein added in a statement. “We were an early believer in their approach to covering sports in a way that would influence business leaders and inform fans. This credibility with highly coveted audiences will continue to separate them as they expand the business.”
Front Office Sports has a twice-daily newsletter with more than 800,000 subscribers and reports on news targeted towards both mainstream consumers and industry professionals. In recent news, the outlet was one of the first to report on Taylor Swift being in attendance for the Sunday Night Football matchup between the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. The company currently employs more than 40 reporters to contribute to its content, ensuring that it remains a timely and credible source of information.
Sports Media Reacts to NFL Toy Story Broadcast
Sports media was ablaze with reaction to the unique broadcast.
The NFL held the first London game of the season on Sunday as the Jacksonville Jaguars took on the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to being the first ESPN+ exclusive game of the season, the game also featured a kid-focused, Toy Story-themed simulcast.
Similarly to how the NFL did their SpongeBob SquarePants simulcasts, trackers on all the players allowed for the game to be transformed into the world of the beloved Pixar film series.
ESPN had a similar simulcast earlier this year in its NHL coverage, having a game transformed into the Disney show Big City Greens.
Several across sports media had positive reactions to Sunday’s Toy Story Football.
While the majority of the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, there were some who didn’t care for the simulcast and how it was presented. Barstool’s Kevin Clancy was in that group.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.