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Stephen A. Would Welcome Shannon Sharpe to First Take

“If that included him wanting to come on First Take, the bosses at ESPN know that is something I would support. Not every day, but one of those days every week.”

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Stephen A. Smith & Shannon Sharpe

Following a report of Shannon Sharpe leaving FOX Sports 1’s Undisputed at the conclusion of the NBA Finals, there may be a new landing spot for him in the future at ESPN on First Take. On Friday’s edition of The Stephen A. Smith Show, a digital podcast live streaming on YouTube, show host and executive producer Stephen A. Smith extended an open invitation to Sharpe to join him at ESPN.

“I don’t know what his plans are. I don’t know what he’s trying to pursue. I don’t know what he’s after, but if Shannon Sharpe needs me, I’m happy to be here for him. And if that included him wanting to come on First Take, the bosses at ESPN know that is something I would support. Not every day, but one of those days every week.”

The decision to publicly voice his support for Sharpe comes a day after incoming ESPN midday host Pat McAfee stated that he hopes Sharpe joins the network, as he feels he has a voice that can contribute to coverage. Sharpe has been working with Skip Bayless on Undisputed since 2016, but reports of tension between the two co-hosts presumably led to his purported exit. Front Office Sports reported that Bayless will have the final say on who replaces Sharpe and sits opposite him each morning.

“I’ve gotten to know Shannon Sharpe a little bit over the last few years,” Smith said. “I genuinely like him and respect him. He is a three-time Super Bowl champion; he is a Hall of Famer; he is one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the National Football League, and I personally think he’s done a hell of a job on television and with his podcast Club Shay Shay.”

Smith implored those listening that he will not speak against Skip Bayless, despite having contrary points of view on most topics. The duo previously worked together at ESPN on First Take for four years and elevated the morning show to new heights, attaining record ratings in sports television. When it was disseminated by the New York Post that Sharpe is leaving FS1, Smith recognized how big of a loss it would be for the network, but is content with the show’s current setup of having different panelists on the show throughout the week. Smith and co-host Molly Qerim are the only constants on the program at the moment on a day-to-day basis.

“I get to handpick who’s on First Take once they’re in-house for ESPN,” Smith said. “I don’t get to bring them from the outside in without the bosses’ okay. We have to be honest – I’m not the boss. That’s Dave Roberts; that’s Jimmy Pitaro; that’s Burke Magnus; that’s those dudes. I answer to them – it’s not the other way around when it comes to all matters pertaining to ESPN, but they know where I stand.”

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Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque: WWE-Netflix Deal is a ‘Game-Changing Moment’

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal.”

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Paul "Triple H" Levesque
Courtesy: World Wrestling Entertainment

World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) is bringing Raw to Netflix beginning in January 2025 in a deal that is reportedly worth $5 billion over 10 years. Netflix reportedly has the option to opt out of the agreement after the first five years and extend the deal for an additional 10 years. As a result, Raw will be moving away from NBCUniversal platforms and cable television as a whole for the first time in 31 years, presenting an opportunity for WWE to continue innovating its presentation in a new way. NBCUniversal-owned USA Network, however, will begin broadcasting SmackDown beginning this October. Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the chief content officer of WWE, was asked by Ty Schmit of The Pat McAfee Show if the company is thinking about what will change with the new presentation of Raw on Netflix.

Levesque appeared on the program following the announcement that WWE had agreed to a deal with Indiana Sports Corp. that will bring WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Royal Rumble to Indianapolis. Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, will host all three premium live events that will begin with Royal Rumble on Feb. 1, 2025. Other WWE properties, including Raw, SmackDown, NXT and WWE Live Events will take place from arenas across the state of Indiana, including Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville, during the partnership. As Raw prepares to move to Netflix next year, Levesque revealed that the company is projecting the capabilities that the new partnership will allow.

“When we’re not thinking about business at hand now, we’re thinking about those moments, so in the fall as the shows shift around and once we get to Netflix – Netflix is a completely different animal,” Levesque said. “It’s a streaming service. How are commercials going to work? How are breaks going to work? What’s the length of time? What are the restrictions [and] what are not restrictions?”

Levesque mentioned how there are times when FOX has had to cut the audio and/or video when instances occur that could violate FCC broadcasting rules and regulations. McAfee believed that he was referencing when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had the crowd engage in a call-and-response chant calling Austin Theory an “a**hole.”

“The Rock comes in and you sort of kind of can’t tell The Rock what to do – what are we going to tell him – so he does what he does, but we won’t have those issues [on] Netflix,” Levesque said. “The ability to be live globally; the ability to have everything seen all at once everywhere, it’s a game-changing moment, and I think in many ways – not to disparage other partners because we want to be everywhere, but that’s sort of where the world is heading, right, is streaming services.”

Prognosticating towards the future of the Raw presentation, Levesque believes sports entities are going to be watching how the WWE and Netflix agreement materializes. As it pertains to the business logistics of the deal, he expects to have leagues watching what they will be doing, acknowledging that the NFL also reached an agreement with Netflix to broadcast Christmas Day games.

“Everybody from live content is very thankful you guys did a deal with Netflix for a weekly live show,” McAfee said. “Just want to let you know that.”

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John Anderson to Join University of Missouri Faculty After Leaving SportsCenter

“Why wouldn’t you want to go play for the Yankees? That’s what Mizzou is.”

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Photo of John Anderson of ESPN from the Missouri School of Journalism
Photo Courtesy: Missouri School of Journalism

John Anderson, who announced in March that he would leave ESPN’s SportsCenter when his contract runs out at the end of the month, has found his landing spot. He will be joining the faculty at his alma mater, the University of Missouri. The Missouri School of Journalism said Anderson will be the school’s Endowed Chair in Radio and Television Journalism and will begin with the spring semester in January 2025.

Anderson, who joined ESPN in 1999 does plan to continue covering certain events, but after 25 years he thought it was time to stop doing ESPN’s flagship show. His final SportsCenter is scheduled for Friday, June 28.

    “My contract runs out at ESPN at the end of June,” Anderson said on his podcast back in March. “I have decided that that will be the end. I’m going to leave the company. I’m going to sort of retire from ‘SportsCenter.’ I’m going to get to do a few track-and-field things, I’m going to get to continue to do the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon – which I love – and some NCAA track meets and some SEC stuff.

    “I am incredibly excited about that. It’s been a good run…I feel like it’s been a good run. The operation has changed. I don’t know that it’s passed me by, but it’s taken its toll and I still want to be able to do the best shows that I can, and I don’t know that if in years 26 or 27 I have the stamina to do it again.”

    About his new role, Anderson said in a release from the school, “Why wouldn’t you want to go play for the Yankees? That’s what Mizzou is. If you’re going to go play, why not go play for the team with all the world titles? I could not have thought of a better post-ESPN landing spot.”

    Anderson said he comes from a long line of educators. “My grandparents were teachers, and my mother, being raised by those people, had respect for teachers. Two of my uncles taught math. That sort of trickled down to me,” he said.

    “John has kept fans and aspiring sports journalists in the know for more than two decades, and I’m so excited that he has chosen to bring that experience back to his alma mater for the benefit of new generations of students,” said David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism said in a release.

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    ‘Foul Territory’ to Air Live on Bally Sports RSNs as Part of New Partnership

    “We are thrilled to partner with Bally Sports to bring Foul Territory to an even wider audience.”

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    Foul Territory Logo
    Courtesy: Make Plays Media

    The Foul Territory program has agreed to a new linear and streaming partnership with the Bally Sports regional networks (RSNs) that will launch on Monday, June 24. Make Plays Media, which is the parent company of Foul Territory and several other shows within the network of shows, will air its digital program from 1 to 3 p.m. EST on the Bally Sports RSNs and the company app. The program will also work with Bally Sports to present exclusive guests, unique content and more, which will accompany the live game broadcasts across the Bally Sports portfolio of networks.

    “We are thrilled to partner with Bally Sports to bring Foul Territory to an even wider audience,” Marc Weiner, chief executive officer of Make Plays Media, said in a statement. “Bally Sports has the largest daily baseball audience in the country and we can’t wait to work with our new partners to bring FT’s real baseball talk to their passionate fan base live every day.”

    The Foul Territory program launched last March and features a roster of former players that provide their insights and opinions to the show, including A.J. Pierzynski, Todd Frazier and Erik Kratz. Scott Braun hosts the show, which frequently features guest appearances by MLB players, managers and general managers. While Foul Territory will now be live every day on the Bally Sports RSNs, the show will still be available across social and audio platforms.

    Over the last several months, the Foul Territory Network of programs has expanded with new offerings dedicated to the Los Angeles Dodgers (Dodgers Territory), Atlanta Braves (Hammer Territory) and Chicago Cubs (North Side Territory). Ken Rosenthal, baseball reporter and insider, also hosts his own program, Fair Territory, that covers news and issues around the sport each week. Rosenthal also contributes to the Foul Territory program as well in addition to working with FOX Sports and The Athletic.

    The Bally Sports regional networks, which are owned by Diamond Sports Group, has the linear broadcasting rights to 12 Major League Baseball teams. Diamond Sports Group has been in Ch. 11 bankruptcy proceedings for over a year and is approaching a confirmation hearing in late-July. The company was unable to reach a renewed distribution agreement with Comcast Corporation, resulting in the channels not being on the service for more than a month.

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