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Shannon Sharpe Inks Multiyear Extension with ESPN, to Expand Role on ‘First Take’

“I look forward to expanding my role and showing more of the world what I have to offer.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Courtesy: Richard Shotwell, Invision, The Associated Press

Today is nearly one year to the day Shannon Sharpe departed FS1 after he had worked on the morning debate show Undisputed for seven years across from Skip Bayless. Over the summer, he weighed his options and ended up signing a content partnership with The Volume that included bringing his popular Club Shay Shay podcast to the platform and eventually led to the launch of Nightcap with Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson. Additionally, Sharpe signed with ESPN to appear on episodes of First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim on Monday and Tuesday throughout the NFL season.

Within his new endeavors, he has generated significant engagement across multiple platforms and provided consumers with compelling and entertaining content. Sharpe has now inked a multiyear contract extension with ESPN that will result in expanding his role on First Take and continuing to contribute to the show’s unprecedented growth trajectory.

Sharpe officially joined First Take last August and has been a part of several special editions of the show, including live broadcasts from NRG Stadium for the National Championship Game, the University of Colorado Boulder during the college football season and Savannah State University, his alma mater, as a part of the show’s HBCU Homecoming. Smith, who serves as a featured commentator and executive producer of First Take, advocated for Sharpe to join ESPN last year and has implemented him within the rotation of analysts that debate him on the show.

“Shannon Sharpe has been an incredible addition to the First Take team, enhancing the show’s dynamic with his engaging presence and insightful commentary,” David Roberts, head of event and studio production at ESPN, said in a statement. “Shannon’s chemistry with Stephen A. Smith has elevated our debates and been another key reason First Take is the premier destination for morning sports discussion.”

Last month, First Take attained its most-viewed May in the history of the show and a concurrent 22nd straight month of year-over-year growth. As part of his new contract with ESPN, Sharpe will have an expanded role across other ESPN programming that will be announced at a later time.

“Being a part of this family has been a blessing,” Sharpe said in a statement. “Everything about this relationship with ESPN, Stephen A., and First Take, has been tremendous. I look forward to expanding my role and showing more of the world what I have to offer. The show goes on!”

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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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