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ESPN Expands Mack Brown’s Role

Jason Barrett

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Set to begin his second season in the television game Mack Brown already appears to be in the fast lane.

This year, he’ll add booth analyzing Friday night college football around the country for ESPN to studio analyzing Saturday afternoons in Bristol for ABC.

At 64, maybe he’s secretly auditioning to play an avuncular role in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Sequel.

Opening week appears a slam-dunk for Brown, whom you may remember as the coach at the University of Texas where he was afforded the luxury of private jet and charter travel.

After working Baylor at SMU this Friday, he’ll be on a commercial jet headed out of Dallas-Fort Worth at 6:30 a.m. for a 3½-hour flight to Hartford, Conn. Then comes a 40-minute drive to ESPN headquarters, a quick shower, a trip to wardrobe, makeup and voila, Brown will be making studio magic with John Saunders and Mark May by early afternoon.

It may get a little more complicated the next week when Brown is down to work Utah State-Utah, catch a midnight redeye from Salt Lake City to Hartford and hopefully be at ESPN by 1 p.m.

“I hope,” Brown said via telephone the other day with the optimism of a man accustomed to private travel, “the planes are on time.”

Things get a little more complicated when ESPN adds 11 a.m. kickoffs to its Saturday schedule of games on ABC. Take the Texas-Oklahoma game on Oct. 10, which is likely to fill the time slot. Brown and his play-by-play partner, Dave Flemming, are down to work the North Carolina State-Virginia Tech game the night before. Maybe Brown can make it from Blacksburg to Hartford in plenty of time for the Texas-OU studio duty. Maybe ESPN will change its mind and allow Brown a Friday night off.

When the schedule hits full stride, ABC will offer games at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Brown along with studio mates John Saunders and Mark May will be on call all day for halftime and post-game duty. ESPN is willing for Brown to miss some early games, but not Texas-OU.

Danny Kanell did similar Friday night/Saturday duty last season, Some weeks he skipped game duty. Others he was late to the studio.

Brown didn’t have to embrace his new schedule. But when ESPN offered, he didn’t hesitate.

“I can tell you that Mack is not concerned,” said Bill Graff, who oversees production for ESPN’s college studios. “He’s excited.”

Graff mentored Brown through what the ex-coach refers to as his “rookie season.”

They watched plenty of tape together every week to review Brown’s performance. Graff graded. Brown learned.

“By the third or fourth week we were fine tuning,” Graff said. “Mack got it.”

By season’s end, Graff suggested Brown try working a game. Brown was in the booth for University of Louisiana-Nevada Reno in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20.

Brown’s work off-Broadway earned him a shot at higher profile games on Friday nights.

Brown said he has enjoyed the transition from the sideline in Austin to broadcasting.

“I spent 42 years in coaching, 30 as a head coach, and I still get to talk to coaches, watch video, prep for games,” Brown said.

But he misses the control he had. As coach, he dictated schedules, and had the luxury of others making his hotel reservations as well as travel plans. Then there was matter of police escorts to get him to games on time.

“Not being the boss is different,” Brown said. “Now someone tells me what to do and when to do it.”

Perhaps hardest of all was condensing his thoughts into 12 to 15-second sound bytes that television demands, he said.

“Instead of talking about two or three things I saw, I had to learn to talk about one thing,” Brown said. “All I’m trying to do in the studio and at games is to put some sense into football.”

To read the rest of this article visit the Dallas News where it was originally published

Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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Sports TV News

Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’

“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Greg Olsen

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are on tap to call Super Bowl LVII in February, and Olsen told Front Office Sports he has the confidence to announce the game with no hesitations.

“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”

Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.

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