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Skipper’s Exit Led to ESPN’s UFC Deal

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John Ourand from Sports Business Daily has a new piece up today about how new TV deals for the UFC and the WWE came together at ESPN and Fox respectively. In the piece Ourand details just how valuable the UFC believed its product to be. According to the article, the UFC initially wanted between $400 and $450 million for its TV rights. That figure narrowed the field of potential suitors and the eventual price tag came in at only 50% of that.

But what is really interesting is that ESPN never would have made a deal with the UFC if the World Wide Leader in Sports hadn’t undergone a change in leadership. Ourand writes that the abrupt departure of John Skipper meant  Mark Shapiro (former Executive Vice President, Programming and Production at ESPN and current co-president at WME-IMG, which owns the UFC) wouldn’t be negotiating with someone that wasn’t a fan of his product.

During Skipper’s reign as president, ESPN showed little interest in a UFC deal. Skipper wasn’t a fan of the sport and didn’t believe it fit into ESPN’s schedule.

Watching Pitaro’s reactions that morning, Shapiro — for the first time — truly believed that a deal with ESPN could be possible.

In the end, new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro agreed to a $150 million TV rights deal with Shapiro. Shapiro then struck another $150 million deal with Disney. The second deal will allow ESPN+ to stream coverage of 15 UFC cards. Disney’s head of international and direct-to-consumer products, Kevin Mayer oversaw the second deal from the company’s headquarters in Burbank. That is an interesting tidbit according to Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz.

And the Mayer material here is notable, especially for its discussion of how certain key ESPN areas like ESPN+ and ad sales now report to him rather than to Pitaro. Given that Pitaro also came to ESPN from a senior role at Disney (he was previously chairman of consumer products and interactive media), there’s a case to be made that corporate parent Disney is now much more involved in the regular runnings of ESPN on several levels than they were during Skipper’s tenure.

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Pat McAfee: Deals With Amazon/ESPN Fell Short Because The Show Comes First

“Energy, time, anything away from this show… we got a lot going on. This is my number one focus and it should remain as such…”

Jordan Bondurant

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Last week, it was announced that Pat McAfee would be hosting his own version of the popular Manning Cast only for college football games.

McAfee, co-host AJ Hawk, and the rest of his cast and crew from The Pat McAfee Show will host an alternate feed for six college football games this season.

McAfee was rumored to be in talks with Amazon about potentially hosting an alternate broadcast for its Thursday NFL games, and the former Colts punter had also reportedly talking with ESPN about potentially being featured on College GameDay.

McAfee said to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post that ultimately the Amazon and GameDay deals didn’t come to fruition because it just didn’t make sense.

“I’ve had great conversations with both companies, we just weren’t able to get to a point where ‘the ask’ and ‘the business’ were where it needed to be to get a deal done on both fronts,” McAfee said.

McAfee on his show on Monday elaborated a bit further, trying to put to bed that he was being courted for Thursday Night Football.

“I’m not 100 percent sure if that’s what we were talking about, by the way,” he said. “I was never really approached for anything for Thursday Night Football. That was never really anything.”

Pat read from the full response to Marchand’s questions, posted under the Post story which appeared on the paper’s site Monday. He reiterated that his daily show and the small business he built around his show, take precedent over anything else.

“Energy, time, anything away from this show, this operation, this crew; we got families being built, we got houses being bought, we got 12 employees, we got a lot going on,” he said. “So this is my number one focus and it should remain as such because I have a brain, and also I care a lot about this operation. I love it, actually.”

Still, McAfee made it clear that just because no deal was signed with ESPN and Amazon for 2022 means the ship has sailed permanently. He’s keeping his doors open.

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ESPN Reportedly To Lose Big Ten Media Rights For the First Time in 40 Years

The idea is that FOX would have its marquee game kick off at noon, with CBS airing a game at 3:30. NBC reportedly will air games in primetime.

Jordan Bondurant

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BIG TEN, CBS, NBC, FOX SPORTS

After several months, it appears the Big Ten is nearing the finish line on a new media rights deal. And despite still reportedly being in negotiations with the conference, ESPN is looking set to lose out on media rights.

According to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, CBS and NBC are the frontrunners to join with FOX.

The idea is that FOX would have its marquee game kick off at noon, with CBS airing a game at 3:30. NBC reportedly will air games in primetime.

Ourand reported his sources told him ESPN’s deal to keep the Big Ten was not as strong as the one offered by the other two networks.

It would mark the first time in four decades that ESPN didn’t have some involvement in Big Ten sports. But Ourand indicates the worldwide leader could pivot into bundling Big 12 and Pac-12 rights as an alternative. Additionally the network would then pursue keeping its deals with NCAA for championship coverage as well as being the home for the College Football Playoff.

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Fox Officially Unveils NFL Broadcast Teams

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In what has been considered a formality for some time, Fox today officially unveiled Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, and Tom Rinaldi as their number one NFL broadcast team Monday. Burkhardt and Olsen were elevated to Fox’s top booth after the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN’s Monday Night Football earlier this year.

There were some reports that Drew Brees could have been a possibility to join the network, but those discussions fell apart.

The network’s other teams include several familiar faces to football fans:

#2 team: Joe Davis, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Pam Oliver
#3 team: Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth, Kristina Pink
#4 team: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake
#5 team: Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin
#6 team: Chris Myers, Robert Smith, Jen Hale

Olsen’s jump to the number one team with Burkhardt is a formality until the retirement of Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl winner will ascend to Fox’s number one booth upon his retirement, whenever that may be.

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