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Disney Reportedly Looking for Two ESPN Partners

The company is reportedly looking to sell approximately 10% of ESPN.

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ESPN Logo on Red
Courtesy: ESPN

The Walt Disney Company has initiated its search for an entity to purchase part of ESPN. According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, the parent company is looking to find two partners, presumably digital and mobile platforms, to take on ownership stakes to ensure broad distribution of the “Worldwide Leader.” The company is reportedly looking to sell approximately 10% of ESPN. What encompasses that could become more clear once the company divulges its own financial results for the first time.

The palpable scenario of ESPN forging a partnership with Apple could allow the application to be preinstalled on devices, such as the iPhone and iPad. Apple has started its foray into sports media through Friday night Major League Baseball game broadcasts and a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer, which reportedly includes incentives for global phenom Lionel Messi.

The technology company is reportedly expected to inquire about acquiring a share of the National Basketball Association media rights, which expire upon the conclusion of the 2024-25 season. Other platforms that could offer similar benefits include Google and Microsoft, the former of which reached a seven-year deal with the NFL for YouTube/YouTube TV to serve as the official home of NFL Sunday Ticket.

Combining a digital platform of this scope with a mobile distributor, such as Verizon or T-Mobile, presents the possibility of bundling aspects of the ESPN business with service contracts. Verizon reportedly expressed interest in a strategic partnership with ESPN this past summer. With the network engaging in “Project Flagship” to launch its own direct-to-consumer platform, an endeavor expected to be completed in the next two to three years, although the Post reports that 2025 is now most likely. The blend between digital and mobile platforms could prove advantageous in maximizing the breadth of potential dissemination, reaching consumers where they are rather than making offerings more difficult to find.

The network recently inked a multi-year, multimillion dollar contract with Pat McAfee to license 235 episodes of his digital show to its platforms. McAfee’s program produced record ratings within its first month, drawing 1.4 million people per program and 44.5 minutes of average daily viewing time. Its first four weeks across ESPN platforms garnered 242 million total views, demonstrating the power of a multiplatform, broad distribution strategy.

Moreover, Disney and PENN Entertainment are working to unveil ESPN BET, the company’s own sportsbook, within the National Football League season. The 10-year, $1.5 billion deal places ESPN branding across the user interface and contains various performance incentives that have the potential to render the deal more lucrative. Disney had reportedly been resistant to delve into the sports betting space; however, the company’s tune has changed in recent years, leading to the monumental deal. The transaction replaced the Barstool Sportsbook and transferred ownership of the titular entity back to Dave Portnoy, who purchased the company back for $1.

No timeline for a partnership has been reported, nor is it clear if a resolution will be reached ahead of the direct-to-consumer product reaching the marketplace. ESPN refined its executive leadership team under chairman Jimmy Pitaro earlier this year, instituting Burke Magnus as president of content and Rosalyn Durant as executive vice president of programming and acquisitions. Tina Thornton oversees content production and operations, and is also reportedly assuming marketing responsibilities from Laura Gentile ahead of her exit from the company at the end of the month.

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SEC Commissioner Tells Pat McAfee Someone at ESPN Leaked 2024 Schedule Without Permission

“We were trying to protect it. Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it.”

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SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey isn’t particularly thrilled that his new top broadcast partner leaked a portion of next year’s schedule a bit early.

During an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, which just so happens to be an ESPN property, Sankey mentioned his displeasure at the Worldwide Leader for leaking a portion of the 2024 SEC schedule early. According to Sankey, the league and the network agreed to release the schedule together in the near future.

“We were trying to protect it,” Sankey said. “Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it,” according to Yahoo Sports college football reporter Ross Dellenger.

While leaks in the media space are hardly a new phenomenon, especially when it comes to something as desirable as a football conference’s yearly schedule, a leak this early in the newly-formed ESPN-SEC relationship is less than ideal. Starting next season, ESPN will take over as the SEC’s primary broadcast partner, assuming the position CBS had long held for decades.

In the leaked portion of the schedule, the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide will play in the regular season for just the third time in the past 15 years. We also know the Bulldogs will play the debuting Texas Longhorns in Texas, while the Tide will play the other Oklahoma Sooners on the road.

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Jim Boeheim Making Analyst Debut on ACC Network, Joining The CW

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Jim Boeheim
Courtesy: Codie Yan, The NewsHouse

Former Syracuse Orange basketball head coach Jim Boeheim will make his debut as an analyst on Saturday, Dec. 2 on the ACC Network. Boeheim will be on the broadcast for the matchup between Florida State and North Carolina at 2 PM ET featuring play-by-play announcer Wes Durham and sideline reporter Cory Alexander.

Boeheim will make his studio debut on Tuesday, Dec. 5 during halftime of the men’s prime-time doubleheader games on the day – which consists of Central Connecticut against Boston College at 6 PM ET, followed by Cornell taking on Syracuse at 8 PM ET.

On the program, he will be joined by host Kelsey Riggs and analyst Luke Hancock, and he will also remain on the air for the 10 p.m. edition of Nothing But Net, the network’s signature basketball show.

Additionally, Jim Boeheim also joined Westwood One and is reportedly set to work on The CW coverage of ACC basketball, debuting this Saturday with pre-taped segments during halftime of two conference games. News of Boeheim working with The CW was first reported by Mike Waters of Syracuse.com.

Boeheim departed Syracuse University after 47 seasons as a coach and holding an overall win-loss record of 1,015-441. He has the second-most wins at the Division I level in the history of college basketball, only being surpassed by former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

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Dan Le Batard: I Thought Pat McAfee Would Grow College GameDay, But That Hasn’t Happened

Le Batard said McAfee is playing under a different set of rules than others at ESPN.

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Pat McAfee
(Photo: ESPN Images)

Pat McAfee has checked all the boxes Disney and ESPN leadership had when the former NFL punter brought his daily sports talk show into the fray, but one area where it seems like the waters aren’t so smooth for McAfee is in his reception as an analyst on College GameDay.

GameDay viewers have not shied away from making their feelings known that they don’t like seeing McAfee on the show, and Dan Le Batard has found the criticism quite interesting.

On The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Thursday, Le Batard said he thought having Pat McAfee on GameDay would continue taking the show to the next level, but it turns out he was wrong in some respects.

“And so they get McAfee and they give him a new set of rules,” Le Batard said. “But I thought that would result in College GameDay getting bigger and better. More popular. I underestimated the allegiance that the viewer has to David Pollack.”

“I’m reading him and everyone around him saying he’s a good teammate, they all love him, they’re all getting along with him,” Le Batard added. “He is effusive, he is such a positive person. He is effusive in his praise for the people on that sat. But now the numbers are coming back, and this is something that McAfee couldn’t have expected.”

Executive producer Mike Ruiz chimed in saying that a contributing factor in the changing conditions at GameDay is due to the mass layoffs and non-renewals of more expensive talent over the last couple years. He said there was going to be a natural need to switch things up after cutting ties with the likes of Pollack, Tom Rinaldi, and Chris “The Bear” Fallica.

“The format of the show when you take someone like that, you’re changing it,” Ruiz said. “You’re changing the emotional stories that made you cry in advance of a Purdue/Ohio State game. All that stuff starts going away. And now it’s not just going away, some of that stuff is going to FOX.”

Dan Le Batard responded saying he wasn’t trying to blame Pat McAfee for Big Noon Kickoff closing the gap on GameDay and negative fan feedback. But all of a sudden now that FOX can tout its pregame show continuing to grow and be a successful alternative to ESPN’s product, the narrative shifts.

“I always say perception is not reality, but when all you have is perception and fudged numbers, FOX is saying, ‘We’ve caught College GameDay. We’ve caught one of the most popular shows in the history of sports television,'” Le Batard said.

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