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Mark Messier Signs Multiyear Extension with ESPN

“Mark Messier brings such depth and insight to our hockey coverage, and truly embodies what it means to be the ultimate team player.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Mark Messier
Courtesy: Scott Clarke, ESPN Images

Six-time Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Hall of Fame member Mark Messier has signed a multiyear contract extension to continue his broadcast work at ESPN. Messier, who has served as a studio analyst since the return of the NHL on ESPN during the 2021-22 season, has provided consumers with insight and analysis surrounding live game broadcasts on the network. Throughout the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers, he will be part of the studio team with host Steve Levy and analyst P.K. Subban. The trio will be on site covering the games from Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Fla. and Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.

“Mark Messier brings such depth and insight to our hockey coverage, and truly embodies what it means to be the ultimate team player,” Mark Gross, senior vice president, production and remote events at ESPN, said in a statement. “As a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer with six Stanley Cups, he’s been a tremendous addition to our studio coverage, and we’re thrilled to reach a contract extension with a true NHL legend.”

Messier won five Stanley Cup championships as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, including the organization’s last championship in the 1989-90 season. The former team captain played the fourth-most games in franchise history (851) and has the third-most points for the organization (1034) over its 45-year history in the NHL. Throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, ESPN has recorded gains in viewership, including the Eastern Conference Final between the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. The series averaged 2.3 million viewers and 852,000 viewers within the Persons 18-49 demographic, up 42% year-over-year from last year’s Western Conference Final on ESPN.

The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) is currently within the third season of a seven-year media rights deal with the National Hockey League. The company will present its second Stanley Cup Final broadcast under the new deal featuring play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough, analyst Ray Ferraro, reporter Emily Kaplan and rules analyst Dave Jackson on the call. Coverage of the Stanley Cup Final on ABC and ESPN+ commences on Saturday at 8 p.m. EST with Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.

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Jake Peavy Feels the Connection to Baseball and Willie Mays at Rickwood Field

“Rickwood Field is going to bring the best out in us if we let it, but for me, it’s not really scripting too much of the night.”

Derek Futterman

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Jake Peavy
Courtesy: MLB Network

When Jake Peavy was dealt to the San Francisco Giants just ahead of the trading deadline during the 2014 Major League Baseball season, he was welcomed to the organization with open arms. Throughout his preceding years in the major leagues, largely spent with the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox, he established himself as a premier pitcher with an ability to lead his team to victory.

Peavy ended up being a pivotal piece for the Giants down the stretch run as the team positioned itself to secure its third World Series championship in the span of six seasons. While in the clubhouse, he had the chance to converse with Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays and developed a friendship with him that continued after his career ended two years later.

Peavy regarded it an honor to speak with Mays and longtime Giants clubhouse attendant Mike Murphy about the game of baseball and life in general. Peavy is from Mobile, Ala. while Mays grew up in nearby Westfield, Ala., a short distance away from historic Rickwood Field. Mays had played at the ballpark as a teenager, suiting up as an outfielder for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League. His talent was palpable and left an indelible mark on the game of baseball, accompanied by an aura and sense of humility that continued throughout the rest of his major-league career spanning over two decades.

“I had a great relationship with the two of them and sat in that office many days, and we talked about being from Alabama,” Peavy said. “I talked about [his] Rickwood Field days and Willie starting being in high school and not being able to go on the road and Willie’s father.”

Mays passed away peacefully among loved ones on Tuesday afternoon at the age of 93, a devastating loss of a sports icon synonymous with the game of baseball. On Thursday night, Rickwood Field, the ballpark in which Mays began his professional career, will host a Major League Baseball game for the first time when the San Francisco Giants face the St. Louis Cardinals. Earlier in the week, Mays released a statement divulging that he could not attend the game this year and emphasized that his heart would be with everyone honoring the Negro League ballplayers, hoping that it would be a source of enjoyment and inspiration for children.

The league will honor Mays’ life and legacy this week at Rickwood Field, with the inaugural event serving as a landmark to recognize the impact he made on the game and society at large. Peavy will be on set for MLB Tonight alongside host Greg Amsinger and analysts Chris Young and Adam Wainwright to break down the action on the field and also bring viewpoints and knowledge pertaining to the setting and its relevance in the history of the sport.

“I think the initiative is to spread the message of paying homage,” Peavy said. “I think that so often in today’s fast-moving society, we lose sight of learning from our ancestors and people who came before us and really respecting them.”

As an analyst with MLB Network, Peavy feels a gravity and responsibility to contribute to the growth of the game by being part of the conversation and using his platform to benefit the next generation.

“The fact that this game is direct homage at the history of Rickwood Field [and] the history of the Negro Leagues, which now needs to be more prevalent and that story needs to be told – it hasn’t accurately been told and [put] out there,” Peavy said. “You’re talking about Josh Gibson now, the new Babe Ruth, the most famous and the best statistical player that we’ve ever seen, and we’ve got to talk and tell that story to the new-age kids.”

Throughout his major-league career, Peavy gained respect for the media and became more cognizant about how sports teams and events are covered. Rick Sutcliffe was his first pitching coach with the San Diego Padres and later transitioned into a media career. Former Padres Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn became a color commentator after playing as well. A few years after Peavy retired, he became part of the MLB Network team and began appearing across programming. On the shows, he articulated his esoteric knowledge and thoughts on the game while maintaining relationships around the sport.

“Your uniqueness and the perspective… is what’s going to draw people to you – the authenticity of that – that’s where I’m at,” Peavy said. “I don’t want people to think that I’m lying to them on television [because] what I say, I’ve done some research behind and then I believe it. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s my opinion and here it comes, and there’s some thought that’s been [somewhat] behind it.”

Over his two years on the airwaves, Peavy has grown to learn the nuance of television operations and perceives the baseball elements of the role as second nature. Being cognizant of the synchronicity across programs and how to compendiously articulate a message to the audience has been part of the learning curve and facets of the role in which he feels he has improved. Peavy will seek to blend his discernment of working in sports media with his experience visiting and playing at Rickwood Field to serve as an asset on the seminal broadcast.

“I love the game of baseball and I’m passionate about it and I want to grow it, so I’m really looking to take another step forward,” Peavy said. “I’ve done this at a high level at something else, baseball, and was able to win a Cy Young [Award] and to be a part of a World Series championship, so I want to put that same effort and focus into being a media member and really just give my best effort.”

Mobile, Ala. is the hometown of five members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith and Billy Williams encompass this pantheon, and there are numerous other athletes and fans that have had the privilege to step foot into Rickwood Field. While Thursday night’s game is critical in the tight National League playoff race, the contest is also a fundamental reflection on the past, honoring those who paved the way for posterity to prosper and cultivate a love of the game.

“Rickwood Field is going to bring the best out in us if we let it, but for me, it’s not really scripting too much of the night,” Peavy explained. “Letting it be about what it is and feeding off that emotion in a nice way for it to manifest there in front of us kind of will be the biggest challenge.”

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Stanley Cup Final Game 5 Draws 8.5 Million Viewers Across North America

The number represents a 61% increase from Game 5 last year when it was the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers.

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Logo for the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Edmonton Oilers and the Florida Panthers, which saw the Oilers win their second straight game of the series, drew 8.5 million viewers across North America. The series as a whole is now averaging 7.2 million viewers across North America, which is up 64% over the 2023 Stanley Cup Final.

The 8.5 million viewers for Game 5 was the total across ABC, ESPN Platforms, CBC, SN and TVA Sports. The number represents a 61% increase from Game 5 last year when it was the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers.

Game 1 and Game 4 of the series drew just over 7 million viewers while Game 2 drew 6.8 million and Game 3 had a North American audience of 6.5 million viewers.

Florida had a 3-0 lead in the best of seven series before Edmonton came storming back in Game 4 with an 8-1 victory. A more competitive Game 5 saw Edmonton score 5 goals and take a 5-3 win.

Game 6 of the series will be played Friday night at 8 p.m. ET and if a Game 7 is necessary, it would be played Monday June 24. All games will be on ABC and on ESPN+.

Sean McDonough is calling the games on ABC along with Ray Ferraro and Emily Kaplan. Steve Levy, Mark Messier and PK Subban provide analysis before the game and in between periods.

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NBA Finals Game 5 Averages 12.2 Million Viewers on ABC

‘Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals averaged 12.2 million viewers on ABC while also attaining the largest share of audience among People 18-34.”

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Graphic for the NBA Finals
Courtesy: National Basketball Association

The Boston Celtics secured their 18th NBA Championship with a win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. Boston now has the most championships in the history of the NBA. Game 5 was especially a hit on ABC television as the game broadcast averaged 12.22 million viewers. That represented the most-watched game of the NBA Finals. Viewership of the matchup peaked at 13.28 million viewers on the night and also set a record for the largest share of audience within the People 18-34 demographic ever.

Total viewership of the NBA Finals on ABC averaged 11.315 million viewers across the five-game series, according to Anthony Crupi of Sportico in a post on X. The NBA Finals matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat also went five games last year and averaged 13.08 million viewers. The NBA Countdown program, which featured host Malika Andrews and analysts Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon and Bob Myers, along with guest analysts Josh Hart (games 1-2), Paul George (games 3-4) and Julius Randle (Game 5) averaged 4.02 million viewers through the series.

The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC) is entering its final season within its existing media rights agreement with the National Basketball Association. The league is reportedly formalizing new media rights contracts with Disney, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video with a collective value of $76 billion over the term of the deal.

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