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Tom Phillips Builds WWE Broadcasting Career

Jason Barrett

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Millions of television viewers across the world see Tom Phillips at work each week.

He’s polished and prepared — a true professional. He’s seen on a variety of programs on WWE Network, including “WWE Main Event,” and previously served as the youngest announcer in “SmackDown!” history (at age 25, in August 2014).

In his roles, Phillips describes action on the shows and related storylines for viewers, whom he unfailingly refers to as members of the “WWE Universe.” Additionally, he makes a striking impression with dark, well-trimmed hair and designer suits.

Most impressive, while at work in front of thousands of fans in often-raucous arenas, with action playing out before him and behind-the-scenes producers providing direction and information through his earpiece, he nimbly balances all the distractions and keeps broadcasts on track.

In his role, Phillips travels about five days a week, all over the world with the multimillion-dollar WWE troupe. He provides content for a variety of WWE programing and special events, and previously served as on-air host for a successful weekly social media series. When he’s not in front of the camera or preparing for assignments, he’s still at work. True days off seem rare.

“It may sound cliché, but I watch the WWE Network constantly. It could be matches from 1991, 1970 or as recently as 2010. I just like to listen to the ways commentary has changed through the years,” he said. “On commentary, we try to really bring what’s happening to life. So you have to know the product, the superstars and history. It’s not always easy.

“At first it was like trying to learn Chinese and having no knowledge of how to speak Chinese. The difficult thing was finding my own voice, and it feels like I’m competing with myself every week to get better.”

In good company:

He’s figured that out pretty well, though. With his WWE position, Phillips — the stage name for Tom Hannifan, 26, who earned his Penn State journalism degree in 2011 — ranks as one of the more accomplished and visible young alumni from the College of Communications.

Earning an opportunity, and praise, as a WWE commentator puts Hannifan in good company. Many talented sports broadcasters and producers have collaborated or worked with WWE at some point during their careers. That includes on-air talent like Jonathan Coachman and Todd Grisham, both now at ESPN, and John Filippelli, president of the YES Network, who previously worked for ABC Sports, Fox Broadcasting and, briefly, WWE.

In addition, WWE broadcasts rely on state-of-the-art mobile production facilities built by companies such as Pittsburgh-based NEP Broadcasting, which has included a strong contingent of Penn State alumni through the years.

“What he’s doing is extremely challenging. I would say if you can broadcast sports entertainment efficiently that you could transfer those skills into virtually any other televised entity,” said Jim “JR” Ross, a pro wrestling/sports entertainment commentator for 40 years who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007. His ongoing relationship with WWE includes work with the organization’s talent development efforts. That’s where he first met Hannifan in 2012.

“He’s a low-maintenance, hard-working kid,” Ross said. “He came with a good work ethic and an obvious desire to be good. I think that’s a testament to his upbringing and his education at Penn State. He’s got a great look, works hard, and his voice cuts through the clutter. He’s well on his way to establishing an excellent body of work in that genre, and only time will tell how far that will take him.”

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Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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