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Big 12 Discussing Broadcast Innovations, More Access With Media Partners

“The efforts to revamp the broadcast are reportedly the first phase of commissioner Brett Yormark’s multi-tiered effort to modernize the league.”

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As the Pac-12 struggles to find a partner to broadcast its games, the Big 12 is making the most of its new six-year media rights extension with FOX and ESPN by pondering new ways to innovate its coverage. According to Sports Illustrated, the conference is discussing a plan to implement in-game interviews with players, record real-time audio from coaches and grant cameras more access to the locker rooms. This aligns with an approach taken by various other sports leagues and networks in an effort to bring fans closer to the game and keep them engaged.

The efforts to revamp the broadcast are reportedly the first phase of commissioner Brett Yormark’s multi-tiered effort to modernize the league. However, the full details of the plan are relatively unknown.

The Big 12 plans to operate as a 14-team conference next season with the additions of BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston, but will be a 12-team league beginning in the 2024 football season, after Oklahoma and Texas move to the SEC. Moreover, the league plans to abolish divisions in football, but each team will continue to participate in nine conference games with all schools playing one another at least once biannually.

While information on the development is still limited, an industry source told Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle that the idea could be expanded to include other conferences. It is not yet known if the plan will be able to be successfully included in coverage at the start of the 2023 football season.

“Just being a fan of golf; being a fan of other sports – basketball – when I see that there, that engages me,” Baylor Bears football coach Dave Aranda said regarding in-game interviews. “Not knowing all the details of this particular matchup or the importance of this game – when you are brought into the inside like that, it connects those dots.”

Duarte points out that many coaches were averse to cameras and an overabundance of media coverage about their team. In today’s era of mass consumption, however, team personnel have reached a point where they tolerate and sometimes facilitate the media being prominent around a program.

The University of Houston football program was constantly being filmed for an all-access documentary in the process of being pitched to streaming services. Similarly, most of the players and personnel have smartphones, and often capture a moment at virtually any time and disseminate it en masse.

Outside of changes in the broadcast, the Big 12 is introducing an array of new marketing activations and fan engagement activities – including hosting coaching clinics at the famed Rucker Park in New York City and a conference pro day in Frisco, Texas. In addition, the conference aims to play football and basketball games in Mexico sometime in the near future.

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Report: No New NBA Media Rights Deal Expected Within Exclusive Negotiating Window

“Starting next week, the NBA will have the ability to engage in negotiations with other companies interested in the media rights package.”

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NBA Logo
Courtesy: Nic Antaya, Getty Images

The NBA is currently in the penultimate season of its existing national television media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Discovery, collectively worth a reported $24 billion over the eight-year contracts. The league entered into an exclusive negotiating window with both broadcasting partners starting on Saturday, March 9, but is reportedly unlikely to reach a new deal before its expiration on Monday, according to Alex Sherman of CNBC.

Even if no deal ends up being reached by the deadline, both companies are in discussions about new media rights contracts with the NBA, as confirmed by the league. These discussions follow a 2023-24 season that garnered an average of 1.09 million viewers across ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA TV, which is up 1% over last year and represents the highest average across networks in four years, according to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch. Both networks will begin broadcasting the NBA Playoffs on Saturday, April 20.

“We continue to have productive discussions with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery on a renewal of our media deals,” an NBA spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC.

Starting next week, the NBA will have the ability to engage in negotiations with other companies interested in the media rights package. As reported by CNBC, Amazon, Apple, YouTube TV, Comcast (NBCUniversal/Peacock) and Netflix have all expressed potential interest through conversations with the league. Numerous reports have indicated that the league is looking to add a streaming element into its next deal and is looking for an increase in rights fees. The NBA could reportedly look to sell games within the In-Season Tournament to a separate media company, potentially adding a fourth partner in the deal.

Warner Bros. Discovery linear network TBS began airing NBA games in 1984, with TNT following four years later. The Walt Disney Company has presented the league since 2002 across ABC and ESPN, which includes broadcasts of the NBA Finals. Both companies are aiming to launch a new joint streaming venture with FOX Corporation in the fall that would grant subscribers access to games and networks from all three companies.

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David Roberts of ESPN: ‘The More Versatile You Are, The More Valuable You Are’

“The last thing we want is talent that’s all the same, which amounts to nothing more than elevator music.”

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David Roberts
Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is prepared to begin its coverage of the 2024 NBA Playoffs as 16 teams battle to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as league champions. Various stars from across the Association will participate in the action starting with Round 1 on Friday night, including LeBron James, Jayson Tatum and Nikola Jokić.

Additionally, NBA on ESPN playoffs coverage will mark the postseason debut of the network’s new lead broadcast team of play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, analysts Doris Burke and JJ Redick and reporter Lisa Salters. Redick was originally a member of the secondary broadcast team with Ryan Ruocco, Richard Jefferson and Cassidy Hubbarth, but the departure of Doc Rivers from the lead crew to coach the Milwaukee Bucks led to this change.

Earlier in the year, ESPN Head of Event & Studio Production David Roberts referred to the secondary broadcast team as “the potential making of a succession plan.” With the alteration to the broadcast teams in-season though, he remains optimistic that the network will present a strong playoff performance. Redick brings a different perspective to the lead broadcast crew of a player recently removed from NBA game action who has demonstrated a propensity for analytics and explaining their significance to trends within the game. Outside of his broadcasting work, he exhibits versatility in sports media, appearing on various ESPN programs such as First Take, co-hosting both The Old Man and the Three and Mind the Game podcasts and co-founding ThreeFourTwo Productions.

“Hey, it makes us all look good,” Roberts said of Redick’s versatility. “The fact is that the more versatile you are, the more valuable you are, and JJ Redick and Stephen A. Smith are prime examples of that.”

Smith is a featured commentator and executive producer on First Take, but also engages in a variety of projects outside of the morning show. During the NBA season, he appears in studio or on location for NBA Countdown, hosts his own podcast, titled The Stephen A. Smith Show, and operates his media production company, Mr. SAS Productions.

Smith’s contract with ESPN is reportedly due to expire next year, and he has spoken candidly about his worth on numerous occasions. Additionally, he has stated that he wakes up every morning thinking about how he can make his bosses more money and how to get some of it, a sentiment he elaborated on in his best-selling book, “Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes.”

“Stephen A. loves the NBA, and his commitment to covering the NBA is just simply outstanding,” Roberts said. “He’s unafraid to say what needs to be said. He could care less whether someone is ticked off in the process because he also is an outstanding journalist who will back up his opinions with facts. So when you watch Stephen A., you’re watching a multi-versatile individual who can handle just about anything in broadcasting; in fact, I’ll say he can handle anything in broadcasting.”

Roberts proceeded to explain that a majority of ESPN talent are not “cookie cutter” and approach things in their own way. Earlier in the media conference call, he discussed Malika Andrews, who is in her first season hosting NBA Countdown, and how she brings an “exemplary” work ethic to the program. Roberts also divulged that ratings for NBA Countdown are up 7% year-over-year.

Additionally, he spoke about how studio analyst and color commentator Bob Myers always shows up to every meeting prepared and is an innate winner and team player. As long as the talent are doing things that fit their style and the content objectives of ESPN and The Walt Disney Company, Roberts explained, they are allowed to be their authentic selves on the airwaves.

“That’s the type of versatility we’re looking for,” Roberts said, referencing JJ Redick. “The last thing we want is talent that’s all the same, which amounts to nothing more than elevator music.”

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FOX Sports and The Basketball Tournament Announce Multi-Year Agreement

“With a growing number of players I’ve crossed paths within the league committed to play, this summer will be both competitive and entertaining for TBT.”

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Picture of the trophy for The Basketball Tournament
Courtesy: FOX Sports

The Basketball Tournament (TBT), the $1 million winner-take-all summer event announced a multi-year media rights agreement with FOX Sports to carry games on FOX, FS1, and FS2. As part of the agreement, the network will carry 27 TBT games live on linear television, including three on FOX.

“We are thrilled to make FOX Sports the new home of TBT,” said TBT co-owner and Golden State Warriors guard Chris Paul. “The event has experienced tremendous growth these past few years and this agreement will take it to new heights. With a growing number of players I’ve crossed paths within the league committed to play, this summer will be both competitive and entertaining for TBT.”

“We are excited to kick off our second decade of TBT with FOX Sports,” said TBT founder and CEO Jon Mugar. “Across FOX, FS1, and FS2, we will reach more basketball fans than ever before, further cementing TBT as a mainstay on the basketball calendar. This summer will make for our most electrifying tournament yet.”

TBT is a 64-team, single-elimination tournament hosted across eight regionals. All regional events are hosted by an alumni team representing a powerhouse college basketball program.

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