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Less of Musberger Is Not a Good Thing

Jason Barrett

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Spoke to Brent Musburger the other day, after realizing I hadn’t heard his voice all season. ESPN, in one of its oddest decisions, has relegated him to Southeastern Conference games, which is why we seldom see him anymore.

“You’ll just have to subscribe to the SEC Network,” he says.

That’s Musburger, all right: Still crazy after all these years.

The SEC remains a plum assignment, though sentencing Musburger to what essentially is a regional telecast is like booking Placido Domingo to sing in Marriott lounges. It’s good for Marriott, but not for opera overall.

I can’t help but note that sports’ signature voices are disappearing faster than white rhinos. Keith Jackson has retired. Next up Vin Scully and Dick Enberg. With every retirement toast, sports journalism gets a little more earnest and fresh-faced. And about as soulful and satisfying as a cup of microwave soup.

“You are looking live at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California,” Musburger would crow, and you’d know in an instant you were in for a feast.

When Jackson retired, Musburger became the voice of the Rose Bowl, not the smallest of footsteps in which to follow. He did what all the legendary announcers do, wove a storyline, introduced you to the cast — what the player’s daddy did, how until junior year in high school some fleet safety had focused more on the trombone than on football. It was homespun, a tad corny. And, in the end, as rich and autumnal as a Robert Frost poem.

For all its flaws, football remains the Great American Romance — we can’t get enough. We seem to want to make something mythic of this sport, when it’s far more than that. For most of us, the sport ranks somewhere between a fetish and a religion.

It’s as if football were brought here on the Mayflower, or placed as an addendum to the Declaration of Independence. The coaches all used to look like Teddy Roosevelt. Now most of them resemble your dentist. But the game … oh, what a rich and resonant game.

“One word: television,” Musburger says. “Football and television were made for each other.”

Yet, for vast technical achievements and amazing camera work, I’m struck by how dry and unmoving most of today’s announcers are.

“The biz and the industry have changed,” explains Musburger, now 76. Because of the conference TV deals, he says, telecasts are playing to more of a niche audience that has a lot of background to begin with.

“And a lot of the [great] storytellers were baseball guys — Scully and Jack Buck,” he says. “They came up through the game, and had to learn to keep things entertaining. But football works at a different pace, especially these days. You don’t have the time.”

I complain to him about Fox’s World Series announcers, who focused on pitch counts and slugging percentages while ignoring the grace and spirit of the sport. He agreed, saying, “I thought there was a lot of clutter.”

“I’m a people guy, that’s my background,” he says of his preference for more biography and less statistical goo.

Read the rest of this article in the LA Times where it was originally published

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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