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Bryant Gumbel: HBO Only Network That Can Do Show Like Real Sports

Jordan Bondurant

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Bryant Gumbel
Courtesy: HBO

Real Sports on HBO aired its series finale on Tuesday night, and longtime host Bryant Gumbel sees the end of something that will likely never be replicated in the sports media space.

Gumbel was featured in a recent interview with The Washington Post, and Bryant didn’t want to try and define the show’s legacy. He felt like legacies were reserved for politicians and world leaders.

Still, Gumbel feels like when people think of Real Sports, they’ll think of hard-hitting enterprise journalism.

“I think the show is going to be remembered as a show that tried to do sports journalism the right way and tried to treat fans, athletes, and sports with a degree of respect,” he said.

As the news cycle and the consumption habits of viewers has evolved, Gumbel recognized that the long-form storytelling format of the show just doesn’t resonate with audiences like it used to. Bryant said there likely won’t be another iteration of Real Sports.

“You never say never, but I don’t foresee it,” he said. “First, it was a very expensive show to do. Second, most outlets have some kind of a contractual relationship with a sports league that would prevent them from doing an honest kind of show. I also think the public appetite has changed.”

Gumbel even said the way athletes want their stories told has changed over time. He said it used to be if an athlete got in trouble or wanted their name in headlines, they would sit down for an interview with Gumbel and other journalists who would treat it with the seriousness the story deserved. It’s not like that anymore.

“There are so many more outlets available to the modern athlete to get his story out, free of clarification, free of justification,” Gumbel said. “He can go to the Players’ Tribune; he can go to his own social media.”

As for the idea of Real Sports carrying on without Bryant Gumbel as host, the 75-year-old said Warner Bros. Discovery executives he’s met with never would entertain it.

“None of them wanted to answer,” he said. “I don’t know. I suspect they didn’t view that as a viable option.”

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The Sports Media Industry Remembers ESPN NFL Insider Chris Mortensen

“Upon learning of Mortensen’s passing, members of the sports media industry flocked to social media to remember the ESPN legend.”

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ESPN has lost a legend. Longtime NFL insider Chris Mortensen passed away Sunday morning at the age of 72. Mortensen spent more than three decades working for the worldwide leader in sports. The news of his passing was first made public by ESPN PR.

Affectionally referred to by his colleagues as ‘Mort’, Chris Mortensen contributed to ESPN’s NFL programs, SportsCenter and was the network’s top news breaker for years. He earned the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick McCann Award in 2016, receiving his honor at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony in August of that same year. It was also the same year when Mortensen broke the news of Peyton Manning retiring from the NFL.

Unfortunately, 2016 was also the year when it was revealed that Mortensen was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer.

“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “He covered the NFL with extraordinary skill and passion, and was at the top of his field for decades. He will truly be missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved ones.”

In 2023, Mortensen stepped away from his role at ESPN to focus on his health, family and faith. Prior to joining ESPN he wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covering the Falcons, Braves and the NFL He was also a columnist for The Sporting News and a consultant with CBS Sports’ ‘NFL Today’.

Chris Mortensen is survived by his wife, Micki, and son, Alex. Upon learning of his passing, members of the sports media industry flocked to social media to remember the ESPN legend.

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Struggles Continue for ‘Undisputed’ On FS1

According to Sports Media Watch, the Feb. 27 edition of the program had 50,000 viewers, the lowest in the show’s history.

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Skip Bayless
Courtesy: @SkipBayless on Instagram

It’s been raining and pouring for Undisputed over the last few months — and February saw an all-time low for the long-running Skip Bayless vehicle. According to Sports Media Watch, the Feb. 27 edition of the program had 50,000 viewers, the lowest in the show’s history.

Among the shows that defeated Undisputed head-to-head were a re-air of Get Up on ESPN2 and first-round Dubai Open tennis on The Tennis Channel, according to Sports Media Watch.

Undisputed has been in dire straits for months. According to figures provided by USTVDB, the show passed 200,000 viewers just twice since August — the Monday, Sep. 4 edition that featured new co-hosts Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson, and Richard Sherman and took place after the University of Colorado’s win over TCU, and the Monday, Jan. 15 edition following another Dallas Cowboys playoff loss, this time a blowout at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Its viewers were likely there to revel in Bayless’ misery as a vocal Cowboys fan. For perspective, First Take enjoyed its most-watched episode ever on Jan. 15 with an average of 1.5 million viewers.

The show routinely averaged near or over 200,000 viewers but saw a sudden decline once co-host Shannon Sharpe left the show following last year’s NBA Finals. Sharpe then joined First Take, which saw its most-watched year ever in 2023, averaging almost 500,000 viewers per episode, and hasn’t slowed down at all.

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Minnesota Twins Add Former Outfielder Denard Span to Rotating Group of Analysts

Span played 11 years in the major leagues, started his career with the Twins, and will now join the Bally Sports North rotation of analysts for Twins games.

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Former Twins outfield Denard Span making a catch
Courtesy: Getty Images

Minnesota Twins broadcaster Bally Sports North is adding another baseball alumnus to its airwaves. According to The Athletic’s Twins beat reporter Aaron Gleeman, Denard Span will join the Bally Sports North rotation of analysts for the 2024 MLB season.

Span played 11 years in the major leagues and started his career with the Twins. After five years in Minnesota, he left for the Nationals, where he had perhaps his best statistical season in 2014. He went on to play for the Giants, Rays, and Mariners before retiring after the 2018 season.

Bally Sports North’s analysis desk includes Hall of Famer Justin Morneau, former World Series champ Roy Smalley, along with former Twins LaTroy Hawkins, Glen Perkins, and Trevor Plouffe. The analysts will call games alongside play-by-play man Cory Provus, who will move from radio to television full-time this season. The guys will be joined by Audra Martin and Katie Storm, who will provide on-field reporting.

According to KTTC, Provus is a three-time winner of Minnesota Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association and before joining the Twins, spent three seasons in Milwaukee where he did play-by-play with Hall of Famer Bob Uecker.

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