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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Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Candace Parker, Draymond Green Joining NBA All-Star Game Broadcast
The 36-year-old Parker will make history as the first woman to work as an analyst for the event.
WNBA superstar Candace Parker and Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green will join the NBA All-Star Game broadcast crew later this month.
Parker will team with play-by-play man Brian Anderson and Reggie Miller for the broadcast on TNT. Dennis Scott will work as the sideline reporter for the broadcast.
The 36-year-old Parker will make history as the first woman to work as an analyst for the event. Parker currently serves as a game and studio analyst for the NBA on TNT but will be announcing her first NBA All-Star Game.
The event is also the first for Anderson, who joins an illustrious group of play-by-players like Bob Costas, Marv Albert, and Kevin Harlan as voices of the NBA All-Star Game.
Green will be joined by the Inside the NBA studio crew — Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, and Charles Barkley — for the alternate broadcast on TBS.
A four-time All-Star in his own right, Green is a contributor to TNT throughout the NBA season.
The 2023 NBA All-Star Game takes place on Sunday, February 19th in Salt Lake City.
Kevin Harvick Only Spoke to FOX About Broadcasting Opportunities
“They’re very similar to the things I like to do — being a little bit edgy and doing things their own way.”
NASCAR legend Kevin Harvick is joining the NASCAR on FOX booth for the 2024 season. The former series champion said the network was the only one he discussed broadcasting opportunities with.
Harvick told Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern that FOX was the only outlet he would have considered joining, claiming “they’re very similar to the things I like to do — being a little bit edgy and doing things their own way.”
The 60-race winner will join longtime play-by-play announcer Mike Joy and former teammate Clint Bowyer in the NASCAR on FOX booth after completing his final season of competition in 2023.
Harvick added he is looking forward to getting to know more people behind the scenes at the network.
“One of the most intriguing things to me is being more involved in the whole process and getting to know the production people and producers.”
FOX had been seeking a replacement for another NASCAR legend — Jeff Gordon — after he departed the booth to join Hendrick Motorsports as its Vice Chairman after the 2021 season. Meanwhile, the NASCAR on NBC analysts roles are currently held by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton, both somewhat recently retired drivers in their own right.
The addition of Harvick to its broadcast team could be considered a signal that FOX Sports is serious about continuing a relationship with NASCAR. The motorsports entity is reportedly planning to take its television rights to the open market as its contracts with FOX Sports and NBC Sports end after the 2024 season.
Chris Berman Says NBC Offered To Triple His Salary In 1989 to Leave ESPN
“(NBC) put an offer out there that was times three or four, which — ok — that took a while to get resolved.”
Chris Berman has always felt like ESPN was home for him.
There have been a couple of instances throughout his more than four-decade career at The Worldwide Leader where Berman was entertaining offers to leave. But Berman told Jimmy Traina on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast he always knew ESPN was where he needed to be.
One instance came in 1989 when ESPN was still somewhat a single fledgling sports channel. Berman at the time was weighing leaving Bristol for NBC.
“ESPN was a different place,” Berman said. “We were only one channel then, remember.”
“(NBC) put an offer out there that was times three or four,” he added. “Which — ok — that took a while to get resolved.”
Berman said in terms of his career, deciding to remain at ESPN turned out to be the right choice.
“My God it’s the greatest move I never made,” he said. “At the time I was gonna be the number two guy behind Bob Costas doing football.
“Just job-wise, forget money and this – I’m not in it for that anyway,” Berman added. “I started at 16 thousand bucks.”
Chris talked about the coverage the potential move received. He said the decision was about something bigger than money. He loved getting to cover sports every day.
“That was not the point,” he said. “I wasn’t leveraging anything, and again thank God I’ve been here 43 years.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.